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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?