Album artwork is a big part of iTunes! For a lot of people, it helps make content easier to locate by adding an image to each artist and album. It’s also a half-developed feature, however. Apple could do a lot more with the album artwork from the iTunes Store. The developer of Bowtie had the same thoughts, so he introduced an app that put artwork on your desktop where you’ll see it often. Now you don’t have to open iTunes to see what’s playing; do a quick show-the-desktop gesture on your trackpad instead.
The Bowtie utility isn’t everything, though. Themes make it worth using: themes designed by individuals. There is a superfluity of different ways to view album artwork with Bowtie, from the pleasant default theme included with the app to minimal, yet interesting ones like Pixld. Since there are 15 pages in the app’s theme downloader and even more around the ‘net, it seemed like a good idea to gather up the most fetching for Mac.AppStorm readers. Keep reading for ten of the best Bowtie themes out there.
All themes are free so there will be no mention of price in any of the entries. Also, none of them are optimized for the MacBook Pro with Retina display, so don’t expect things to look perfect.
Lastly, use the latest version of Bowtie, 1.5, with these themes. All of them have been tested and function properly with this update.
First off is a very fancy and elaborate theme from desktop modding specialist Murat Levent, aka neodesktop. Levent spent a fair amount of time designing and coding TurnTable Bowtie, one of the few themes that looks like a mini-app. It has a static turntable for a retro feel, a mute button, a playback time indicator, and controls. There’s also an option to show or hide the artwork.
TurnTable Bowtie is a 345 KB download.
Developer: Murat Levent
Australian designer Ryan Christensen brings a unique theme to the table. Instead of the usual album artwork display, Lux pulls the top five images from the artist’s Last.fm profile and shuffles them in a 400-pixel frame. (Album artwork is still displayed and you can click it to play or pause the current playing song.) This makes for a different look at what you’re listening to. If there’s a band, all the members will usually be in one picture together. For artists like Florence and the Machine, however, lead singers — in this case, Florence Welch — get the spotlight.
Lux is a 484 KB download.
Developer: Ryan Christensen
And now, a deeper look at things. Chinese designer known as RyanGe brings a new dimension to the table using an illusion. Many designers make good use of the drop shadow, a tool that makes the element selected appear as if it’s above something on the screen. Likewise, an inner shadow will give the appearance that something is embedded. These are the basics of such techniques and there is a lot more to making things appear realistic. Well, RyanGe had no problem here. Embedded Bowtie is a beautiful, simple illusion that samples your wallpaper so the theme comes across as being sunk into your desktop. It’s nifty.
Embedded Bowtie is a 254 KB download.
The concept of this theme was originally formulated by Austrian graphic designer Philipp Antoni. After his version, titled Curl, went out of date (he works for Microsoft’s Mac software division), a student who goes by the name of Sentry15 on deviantArt decided to modernize the idea for Lion. CurLion was his intent brought to life, and it works exceptionally well. It has continuous scrolling of the track name and artist, a play/pause button integrated into the artwork, and a very fancy visual effect for its main appearance.
CurLion is a 364 KB download.
This unique theme comes from deviantART member and artist CTF0. It’s not recommended to use it with a red background, but blue is perfect. The theme simply displays the song title, artist, and album artwork. There are no toggles or fancy features, just a diamond design that looks nice with a simple wallpaper. It does come in two variations, one of which is titled Blood Diamond Scroll, a special edition that scrolls the artist name and song title.
Blood Diamond is a 502 KB download.
Only the anonymous Creeze could design such a theme as this. That’s not a joke, either, because nobody really knows what his name is — there’s no proper link between him and the only other search result on the Internet. So, for the sake of proper facts, I’ve left a URL off his name. The them, however, is fantastic. It’s skeumorphic and is supposed to look like crumpled paper. There’s a playback time indicator in the form of a yellow bar and the usual album artwork. The theme looks best when used with a minimal wallpaper.
PaperRift is a, well, unknown download size since there’s no deviantART page for it.
From student and designer Taylor Cohron comes a minimal view of what’s playing in your favorite music app. It’s a pixelated view of things, and while the text may be a bit hard to read for some, minimalism is always free of distractions and helpful to folk who don’t enjoy cluttering up their desktop.
Pixld is a 415 KB download and includes the PSDs if downloaded from the author’s deviantART page, just in case you felt like having fun tweaking Cohron’s work to your liking.
Developer: Taylor Cohron
Welcome back designer Taylor Cohron, this time to a larger stage. His Massive Vinyl theme is worthy of much praise with its nice vintage retro appearance. To understand the origin of the inclusion of “massive”, one must look at Laurent Baumann’s third default theme for Bowtie: Vinyl Nano 2.0. It’s tiny and can often get misplaced, so why not make it bigger? That’s what Cohron thought, though his version might be controversial — it’s gigantic at 340 by 300 pixels. In any case, there are playback controls that pop up when the artwork is clicked and the theme does look quite nice.
Massive Vinyl is a 2.1 MB download and includes an Ecoute modification when downloaded from deviantART.
Developer: Taylor Cohron
Quite a few themes have miniature artwork, but Fair has the smallest of them all. Developed by one Countryvibe, this theme only offers album artwork, scrolling text, and white playback buttons. The funny thing is the buttons aren’t labeled. Instead, the designer thought it better for you to use logic in order to discover the functionality. Have fun.
Fair is a 309 KB download.
Our final theme for this roundup is BTState by one Marique. It’s an extremely simple play-pause theme that uses the Walkway UltraCondensed font. This is probably the most complicated installation of them all since most people don’t have that custom font on their computers, but it’s worth it for the theme. BTState is limited to a play/pause button and song and album titles, so don’t expect an advanced theme.
BTState is a 243 KB download.
Now that I’ve provided you with the ten best Bowtie themes I could find, you’re probably set. However, if you happen to stumble upon something else while browsing the app’s built-in themes section, let us know in the comments. We’d also love to know what you’re using in Bowtie right now and why you decided to choose it.