SizzlingKeys is a brilliant System Preferences plug-in from Yellow Mug that’s easy to use and allows you to control iTunes from any application without using the mouse at all. SizzlingKeys is free to use, or $5 to go Pro which gives you a few extra features. It also provides you with clean visuals of which songs you are listening to.
This how-to will show you how to set up SizzlingKeys on your Mac, and how to use it to make the most of your music without the hassle of finding your way around iTunes.
You can download SizzlingKeys from Yellow Mug’s website. Once downloaded, a volume will mount on your desktop and should open for you. Installing is as simple as double clicking on the SizzlingKeys.prefPane icon, which will launch you straight into the SizzlingKeys pane of the System Preferences.
Hit the Start button up the top to get SizzlingKeys up and running, and it’s a good idea to have ‘Launch automatically at login’ ticked, if you want to use SizzlingKeys all the time.
Assigning Hot Keys
Now to get SizzlingKeys working how you want it to… Under the Basic Controls tab you can find all of the commands you will likely use most often. For example: Play/Pause, Previous/Next Track, and Search. If you’re on a new Mac laptop, or using the new Apple keyboard, then you’ve already got the main iTunes controls at the top of your keyboard (Keys F7 to F9), so you can probably un-check the first three options. If you’re not so lucky then leave them turned on. To customise the keyboard hot keys to access these commands, click on the button next to each check box.
In the window that slides out, simply hold down the keys you want to use for that command. For example, if you are customising the Play/Pause command, and you’d like to assign the short-cut ‘Control + Space’, simply click the button, then on the keyboard hold down the control key, and then press the space bar before releasing both of them. Now just click the ‘OK’ button. From now on, hitting ‘Control + Space’ on your keyboard should immediately start iTunes playing, or pausing the music if it already is. The good thing about this, is that even if iTunes is not open, SizzlingKeys will ask if you’d like to open it.
Work through all of the other options under the Basic Controls, selecting the commands you wish to use and how you’d like to use them. The only two I use out of these are actually Show Playlists and Search, due to the fact that I have one of the new keyboards with standard iTunes controls. Show Playlists is great and allows you to quickly select a playlist from the keyboard that you’d like to listen to while on the computer without having to locate it in iTunes. I use this command all the time! Search is a really useful way of finding artists or specific songs you want to hear and play them instantly.
It should be noted that the Volume Down/Volume Up commands control only the iTunes volume, not the overall computer volume, so if you assign these, they are not the same as the volume controls on your keyboard.
In the next tab along, Rating, you can just rate your songs with a selected hot key. Quite a useful idea if you like to keep your music rated.
Under the ‘Floater’ tab, you can customise the way the ‘Floater’ looks. The Floater is the small transparent status window which lets you know what’s playing, the artist, rating, and can also display album artwork. When displayed, this can be dragged around with the mouse so that you place it exactly where you want it on the screen. I have mine positioned in the lower left corner of my screen. SizzlingKeys will remember this location.
Here, you can choose how long to display the Floater for each time, and also when to display it. I have both of these options ticked, so that it appears each time I play or pause music, or when the next track comes on I can immediately see what it is. You can also set up a hot key for manually displaying the Floater. If you enable this, it’s a good idea to have ‘Fade away automatically’ checked, so that it doesn’t just stay there.
Text size is another thing that you can change, as well as the maximum width of the Floater so that it doesn’t stretch across the whole screen if you have a piece of classical music with a huge name. For the background color, I like it set to black, but with only 60% opacity. However this of course can be changed to any number of colors, by clicking on the rectangular box under ‘Background Color’.
‘Show cover art when available’ does exactly what it’s name says. ‘Show Floater in all Spaces’ means that if you have Spaces enabled then when you switch from one space to another, SizzlingKeys will still work. It’s good to have both of these checked.
You can show your support to Yellow Mug for this excellent little plug-in by purchasing the pro version of SizzlingKeys for $5, which enables a few extra features as well as removing the advertising from windows such as the Search. These extra features can be found under the ‘Pro’ tab.
Inside the ‘Extras’ tab you’ll find a few little bonuses unrelated to iTunes, that the developers have thrown in for us. There’s the option of creating a hot key for displaying the Sizzling Keys preference pane in the System Preferences, or for activating the screen saver. The sleep hot key isn’t so useful, as Mac OS X comes with this already… Just hit ‘Command + Option + Eject’ and the computer will nod off. If you are still using Mac OS X 10.4 a hot key for putting the display to sleep would be quite useful.
The item in here that I find particularly useful however is the option to lock the computer. Say you’re just leaving your computer for a few minutes, but don’t want to completely log out of everything and also don’t want to leave your computer unguarded. You can just hit in the hot key that you’ve set up, and the computer will immediately go to the login screen. The great thing about this though is that all of your work is still open on your login name. So when you log back in again, you will be immediately returned to where you were when you ‘locked’ the computer. No waiting for applications to re-open!
SizzlingKeys is a fantastic, useful plug-in for running iTunes from anywhere on the computer. It’s great for selecting songs to play, as well as providing a pleasant visual feedback of what you’re listening to. I’d struggle to use iTunes now without SizzlingKeys running quietly in the background helping me along, and when it’s standard version is free you’d be missing out by not using this brilliant piece of software.
If you have a different favorite iTunes controller, do let us know in the comments. I’m aware that a huge range of apps exist, and we’ll be doing a roundup in the near future!