Trigger Happy Tunes

One of the things I’ve noticed about listening to digital music, whether it be on iTunes or my iPod, is that my attention span is dwindling. Lately, I’ve been running iTunes in shuffle mode while working — it’s fantastic, like my own radio station playing along all day. But I find that even if I’m listening to a great song, I’ll click to the next track before it’s finished. I know the next song is going to be even better. Sometimes it is.
Digging through open windows to find the iTunes interface can be a pain though — even using Exposé, where I have a keystroke to show all windows, click the window, then click the forward button.
If you click and hold the iTunes icon in the dock, a pop-up menu will appear with a “Next Song” option. That worked for me for awhile.
Synergy in the menubarBut then I discovered Synergy, a little app that puts the iTunes controls up in the menubar. No more wading through windows to get the next song or pause. There is also a ridiculous amount of configuration options for such a small application, including 10 or so different button styles, transparent windows that pop-up telling you what song is playing, etc.
No I can fast forward through all of my favorite tunes.


  1. Josh Sowin says:

    Funny that a related story on Slashdot was just posted the same time I read this!

  2. Josh Sowin says:

    Yikes! It puts your email right in there… I won’t make that mistake again ;)
    Seems like it would be hidden or at least encoded?

  3. Ryan says:

    Before I used Synergy, I never rated any of music. It was just too much trouble. Now with just a key combo I can rate my music, get info and change tracks.
    I use Fetch Art to grab artwork for my albums (those I ripped from CD, iTMS provides it with purchased albums), so I can see the album art everytime the song changes.

  4. Ludvig says:

    Another solution I found useful is Quicksilver ( With Quicksilver I just press Cmd-Space, some of the letters in “Next song” and press enter. It just takes a second and I doesn’t even have to stretch for the mouse (or the treckpad). And it can do a lot more, try it out and you’ll probably be stuck (lucky enough it’s free). has a logentry about it:

  5. Paul says:

    The real power behind Synergy (and Menutunes, which I found and paid for before discovering Synergy) is their Hot Keys combinations. I never use the actual menu bar to control or advance the track (although, that might be because it takes 2 clicks compared to Synergy’s 1) I always just use the key combination.
    A new song is always just an option-command-arrow key stroke away!

  6. Ryan M says:

    I’m always going to the next song on my iPod, as well. I have around 1000 songs, but only listen to about 20 of them often…

  7. Grant says:

    “If you click and hold the iTunes icon in the dock, a pop-up menu will appear with a ‘Next Song’ option.”
    If you have a 2-button mouse or use control-click, then the menu will appear immediately.
    I use Synergy and MenuTunes together because I really like MenuTunes option to see “upcoming songs” so I never have to keep hitting the Next hotkey to find something I like. I simply use the upcoming songs hotkey and hit the next hotkey the necessary amount of times to get to what I want.

  8. nick says:

    I used Synergy for a couple days until someone told me about SizzlingKeys4iTunes. Not as feature-rich, but completely transparent. All I really need is next/previous track (option + left or right arrow) and pause/play (option+space). Hasn’t interfered with anything and doesn’t require mousing. And free.

  9. Mike Mariano says:

    iTunes imprinted a similar habit on me: by default (on Windows) it displays the number of times you have played each track. iTunes only increases this number, though, when a track finishes.
    After only a few days of playing an album on iTunes, the Play Counts for each track were desperately disparate. In an obsessive and compulsive mood, I spent hours selectively playing each track (skipping some tracks and fast forwarding others) to make sure that each song on each album had the same Play Count. I now have Play Count hidden from view, but I still have the same habit.
    So as the end of each track approaches, I also skip ahead. My motivations may differ from Dan’s, but iTunes led us both to this behavior.

  10. Bryan Buchs says:

    (First time caller, long time listener)
    I’ve had my 5GB model since the beginning, and my attention span has completely disappeared. My morning commute is about 7 minutes, and I’ll listen to 6 different songs while I’m in the car.
    It’s a blessing and a curse.

  11. sandor says:

    I have an OCD thing going on much like Mike’s: I have this bizarre need to have all my play counts at 1 or more, so I have a smart playlist that only shows unplayed tunes. I listen to that playlist exclusively, and get a little thrill as I see the “total time” go down. Right now I have about 16 days of listening left before I’ve listened to everything.
    On the miniapp front, I enjoy using Butler, which has menubar funcationality for iTunes if you want, but I like using it to map my f-keys to go back and forth and shift-option-# to rate my songs. Butler is useful is so many other ways (like quick-launching apps) and to top it off, it’s donationware. Highly recommended.

  12. Mike Cohen says:

    I find that iTunes’ shuffle isn’t always random. I almost always play a ‘random 25′ playlist and I often find songs related by title, like “Grey Street” by DMB followed by “Mercy Street” by Peter Gabriel, or different songs titled “How Come” by Wycleff Jean & The Pogues.

  13. Stu says:

    If you’re talking about the iTunes for Windows, Mike, (and I think that it’s the same for Mac), the shuffle isn’t random. It only changes when you edit the playlist. But I think that it’s just coincidence that these random songs are appearing together.

  14. Morning commute : 25 min. MiniDisc tracks listened on commuting : between 7 and 15. Conclusion : what a tune-zapper I am.
    Same applies to home : I let the tracks play completely only when I’m not in front of the computer. When I am, I just go next, go previous, go next, go next, etc. all day.

  15. Chris says:

    IIIIIII like it! Thanks.
    This is a nice compliment to my Sailing Clicker, so now I can have instant song gratification of iTunes songs whether in front of the computer or in the other room.

  16. My solution to this was somewhat simpler: put iTunes in mini window mode and move it to the bottom left corner of the screen. Assuming your dock is not hidden and does not take all your screen width, you have volume control, forward, play and previous buttons at a place other windows rarely goes over.
    The other corner is used to drag things on the desktop when windows are covering all the screen.

  17. Rick Yribe says:

    I just have my media player of choice (Windows: foobar2000; Linux: xmms) visible at all times so that all I have to do to skip to the next song is move my mouse.

  18. Wow. You’re really innovative and against-stream-like. :)

  19. Jason says:

    Yes I find that I will listen to a radio station for hours on end and never flick around but as soon as I am on my 10gb iPod or powerbook then I must play as many songs in an hour as possible :) I get halfway thru a song and then I flick thru to another one and so on.
    I am glad I am not the only one…perhaps a set of iPod handcuffs would fix the problem :)

  20. Hard to read font on Synergy but I guess other than that its all good? :)

  21. Tom says:

    Anyone know of anything like this for Winamp?

  22. Tom says:

    Nevermind, I found one here called Winamp Deskband. It’s great.
    Here it is:

  23. Krioni says:

    You can get the playcount to update by clicking to the last few seconds of a song. Here’s a short AppleScript that will do that for you on whatever song is currently playing:
    tell application “iTunes” to set player position to -2
    That puts it at the last 2 seconds, so the playcount goes up. I use this when I want to skip to a new track, but mark the song as “listened-to.” I don’t think there’s any way to script this on Windows, if you’re unfortunate enough to be using Windows. Well, at least you’ve got iTunes… :-)

  24. Chris says:

    I use a similar app called X-tunes.
    Description: X-Tunes is a free utility to to control iTunes without bringing iTunes to the foreground, or having the iTunes window on screen.
    Contrary to iTunes or other controllers, X-Tunes does not display a window permanently on screen, but only when you press a given key combination (Apple+Space by default). This window appears in front of all applications so you can click on its buttons while remaining in the current application. As soon as you release the key combination, the window disappears smoothly.

  25. rich says:

    fantastic…. though i’ve just cleared out all the little icons and widgets from my menu bar … guess i’m gonna have to get used to having it look kinda full again cos Synergy looks to good to miss :-)

  26. brett says:

    it’s a shame it only works on mac platform… i have windows, but also have itunes. is there a windows version that i can download somewhere?

  27. chris says:

    yeah, i’m interested in a windows version, too. i’ve been searching for a hot keys program to control iTunes for Windows, but i can’t seem to find any.
    i had one for winamp (called hotamp), so i’d like to get one for iTunes before i fully switch over.

  28. M-Beat by The Little App Factory is another solution that I’ve been using for some time now. M-Beat.
    Here’s an old copy (that I believe to be free):

  29. Fabrice says:

    Just try Butler (ex another launcher) it as all the above functions… and lots more

  30. Luca Bigon says:

    Have you never try SizzlingKeys4iTunes?
    I think this is the most beautiful application for control iTunes.

  31. Trev says:

    I am having a very strange problem importing my CD’s into iTunes. I put the CD in the drive, and iTunes recognizes the CD. It then pulls up the track list from the Internet database, and it looks like it is ripping each of the tracks from the CD onto the hard drive. But the process goes much too fast, and then when I go to look at the tracks on the hard drive (through iTunes), all of the tracks are listed, but with a track time of 0:00. Of course, when I go to look at the actual file that was copied onto the hard disk it is way too small (all of the files are 51KB). I have tried everything I can think of, but I can’t fix this problem. (I know that the CD drive is fine, because when I try to rip the CD using another software program—like Windows Media Player—it rips just fine.) Does anyone have a solution to this problem?

  32. fang says:

    yeah, i am a confessed itunes addict… but, the problem that I made when I got my G5 is that itunes imports ripped cd’s in AAC as standard. (duh) I was in too much of a hurry to get my CD collection on that I left it like that. Months down the track, i’m suddenly on a LAN with about 20 other PC users primarily running XP. They want me to ‘share’ my music over the network to them (we cant do it over the internet or even P2P as were now on a proxy server), but AAC is useless to them…
    I them ran ‘Jhymn’ to convert all my Aac’s to mp3 (12000 tracks to mp3 = 3/4 days nonstop) so if anyone has experienced the pain like me, use Jhymn i guess…
    On another note, does anyone know of a good free forum style website dedicated to apple support from other apple users? I don’t feel like forking out the fee for Apple protection plan over minor trivial issues I would like to ask. cheers (i dont mind you shooting an email to me about the site you know, or posting it here?)

  33. danbee says:

    fang – Nothing wrong with AAC, it’s a better codec than MP3. And PC users can play them fine, iTunes for Windows is the obvious choice, but Winamp will play them, as will foobar2000.
    Certainly it’s far better to leave them as AAC than to transcode to MP3 (ick).