Five Slick Menu Bar Apps For Controlling iTunes

So you want to control iTunes from your menu bar? It’s a simple enough task, but which app is right for you? Are there any free options? Can you also control other apps like Spotify and Rdio?

There are a million of these apps on the market but we’ll save the research and present five of the best options around for controlling your music from the menu bar.

Skip Tunes

Price: $0.99 | Developer: Greg Dougherty

Skip Tunes is the new kid on the block, only recently hitting the Mac App store. It’s effect was instant though as it quickly jumped near the top of the list of the most downloaded apps in the store. In fact, as I write this it sits at the number one slot for paid music apps.

So what makes this app so great? The answer may not be what you think. Some menu bar apps allow you to control nearly every facet of iTunes: volume, star rating, song meta info, etc. This isn’t one of those apps. In fact, it doesn’t have any of these features.

Instead of piling on fifty things that you’ll never use, Skip Tunes goes the simple and super attractive route. The menu bar item holds only a music note icon, and two buttons: play/pause and skip. Clicking on the music note will give you a gorgeous drop down menu with the information for the currently playing song and a few more contol options.


Skip Tunes

Skip Tunes does have one impressive trick up its sleeve. It’s not merely an iTunes controller, it functions perfectly with Rdio and Spotify as well. I use all three of those apps regularly so I really appreciate this flexibility.


Control iTunes, Spotify and Rdio


Price: $4.99 | Developer: Sophiestication Software

CoverSutra has been around for a while and offers a serious punch of functionality. It offers music search right from your menu bar, global shortcuts for controlling your music, floating bezels for additional control and beautiful jewel case artwork that sits on your desktop.



In addition to all of these great features, CoverSutra offers Last.FM integration with Scrobbling. At $4.99, it’s not as cheap as the previous option but it is competively priced for its feature set.


Album artwork on your desktop

If you’re looking for a menu bar app that goes above and beyond the duty of playing and pausing, CoverSutra is a solid option that won’t disappoint. If you’re into other apps though like Rdio and Spotify, you’re out of luck with this one.


Price: $4.99 | Developer: Conceited Software

Tracks is very similar to CoverSutra, the price point is the same and there’s plenty of functionality overlap. You can search through your iTunes library, Scrobble to Last.FM, define global shortcuts and receive Growl alerts for the currently playing song.



Tracks has a few tricks of its own as well. For instance, you can extend your search beyond your own library into the iTunes Music Store. You can even listen to track previews and buy songs!


Impressive search functionality

Music Control for iTunes, Rdio and Spotify

Price: $4.99 | Developer: Americo Trading

If you’re looking for another option that takes control of not just iTunes, but Spotify and Rdio as well, this is a good option to consider. It has a cool and unique interface and offers a lot of great features.


Music Control for iTunes, Rdio and Spotify

When you click the menu bar item a little drop down menu appears with a dock that lets you choose which player you’d like to control in addition to the standard music player controls. You can also browse through albums and see the info for the currently playing track.

Another great feature of this app is the ability to not just control the machine that you’re currently on but any others on the network.


Control other Macs on the network

This app’s amazing feature set makes it quite enticing. However, one look at the reviews on the App Store and you can see that it’s still a little rough around the edges. There are some bugs and lagging functionality that need to be smoothed over. The developers seem to be fairly active though so hopefully any issues you run into will quickly be addressed.

You Control Tunes

Price: Free | Developer: You Software

As you can see, $4.99 is a pretty standard price point for apps in this category, making Skip Tunes above quite the deal. So what can you get for free?

The first thing that probably comes to mind is Bowtie, which is indeed a fantastic app (I’m a huge Bowtie fan). However, from a strictly menu bar perspective, there’s not too much functionality there (most of the functions are on the desktop widget).

One of the most thorough free apps that I was able to find that lives primarily in your menu bar is You Control Tunes, which is a free subset of a larger paid app called You Control.


You Control Tunes

You Control has a super impressive feature set given that it’s free. The menu bar appearance is fully customizable: scroll text and/or show one of several available sets of buttons. Then when you click on the app a huge menu opens up with all kinds of functionality.

Along with the information and album art for the current track, there’s some impressive browsing functionality. You can browse by any criteria you like: albums, artists, playlists, etc. You can also control the iTunes volume, activate on a Growl-like overlay and even assign start ratings.


Seriously in-depth options for control freaks

As you can see in the image above, there are a ton of customizable preferences to tweak to your own liking. It seems like every little piece of the app’s functionality can be changed. If you’re a control freak, you’ll love this app.


These five menu bar apps all offer a great way to control iTunes from your menu bar. Skip Tunes keeps it simple and attractive while offering the bonus of controlling three different apps, CoverSutra adds some awesome search functionality and augments the menu item with some really nice desktop display options, Tracks goes a little further and even allows you to search the iTunes store and listen to previews, Music Control is another option that works with three different apps and can even take control of other computers on your network, and You Control Tunes is an amazingly fully featured free app that allows you all the control you could want and more.

Now that you’ve read through our five favorite options for controlling iTunes from your menu bar, it’s time for you to chime in. Have you tried any of the apps above? Which is your favorite? Are there any others that you think are even better?


Add Yours
  • I’m using YouControl on daily basis and it’s really a great free app. It knows everything what i need

  • Thanks for including Skip Tunes! We’re also giving away 10 Rdio gift cards in our contest. Feel free to enter: here. It ends 2/15/12 :)

  • I’d like to ad one to the list. It’s called “smashTunes”.
    All it does is to display the song title, album and artist in the menu bar and that’s about it.

    I love it.

    • Well if that’s all it does, it’s not a “controller” – so it doesn’t belong on the list.

      • uhhh yeah, SmashTunes is a “controller” app. I switched to it from GimmeSomeTunes because I now use Spotify, and it’s great. Look it up.

  • Byte Controller.

    I don’t understand why people would devote system resources to reformatting iTunes. Byte controller is just a tiny controller (both the GUI and the code). It puts buttons in the menu bar and gives you global hotkeys. No playlists, album art, or any other content recycled from iTunes at the expense of system resources. If iTunes already provides it, why double-up on the function? Byte Controller just fills in the gap, and beautifully.

    • Dude,

      You Control Tunes. Like 2% proc usage on avg. Maybe I’m missing your point.

    • iynque,

      I completely agree with you, bytecontroller uses applescript to control itunes. Which is great because you modify the applescripts and it also works with spotify ;-). Thats a big + for me. Now I can control iTunes and Spotify seperate with 1 tool, byte controller.

  • Using You Control Tunes for years now, and it works like a charm.

  • Which one among these is fastest ?
    Search something similar to alfred.
    I have tried cover sutra, its takes a sec to display the result.
    Any suggestions ?

    • We think Skip Tunes is pretty fast. We haven’t had any complaints about speed :)

      • I agree with the developer. As an app developer myself, I find impressive that these guys were able to release a 1.0 app with almost no bugs (if not none).

        Keep it ip!

      • Keep it up! (That is what I meant)

        Sorry about the typo…

      • Thanks for the compliments Paul :)

  • I’m using iTunesMenu for years. It shows the running song title (and/or the componist).
    You can click “next”, “previous”, “rate to”.
    Only a few functions but I don’t need more than the running title in my menu bar :)

  • Great article, but you really missed out TunesArt.

    It’s simply the best of them all.

    Please check it out at
    It’s available in the MacAppStore.

    • Another vote for TunesArt. Does all of the above plus lyrics, keyboard shortcuts for control, ratings, and / Twitter.

      • You can install the app on Spotify now too. It’s pretty good :)

  • Do any of the included apps, include a queuing function? It’s something that I really wish for in the standard iTunes application.

  • GimmeSomeTune… haven’t used it in a while, but its good for a simple menu bar control. Added feature of fetching lyrics and cover photos for songs that don’t have them. Quite handy. Last I remember it worked in Leopard so should be compatible with Lion.

  • Tune•Instructor pretty much bests them all (with possible exception of Skip Tunes).

    • Kind words, thanks so much :)

    • I used Tune•Inspector for Lyrics. I have 1000 songs in my library and it was not able to find even 1 lyric.

      • I meant Tune•Instructor sorry even forget the name so bad it was.

  • You Control Tunes is so great, like it…also is free…