The first words that jump into my mind when I think about the iTunes controller market are “over saturated.” That said, many of them skimp on the features, and lack a little design polish. Only a handful of them do their job well, and only a few of those do it with style.
CoverSutra by Sophiestication software is my personal favorite iTunes controller. I’m going to detail why I chose it over the other controllers out there, and highlight a few of the features that make it particularly unique.
CoverSutra has three key features:
- Menubar Search
- Global Shortcuts
- Album Art on the desktop
CoverSutra works in a similar fashion to Spotlight. It automatically, and at regular intervals, creates a complete index of your music library.
A quick stroke of your set hot-key will reveal a search field under the menubar. By default, it searches everything; artists, albums, and songs. I like to scroll down the list using my arrow keys, and then hit return to play the song. You can select a specific type of item to search to drill down on accuracy. You can even search for playlists. The results returned are sorted by album. Each album has an attractive mini-version of the cover art, and the feature works very fast. Almost within an instant, your results are returned.
CoverSutra helps to eliminate almost all interaction with the iTunes app from your day. Each keystroke is fully customisable, and the shortcuts that are available include:
- Full control over playback (pause, forward and reverse, volume)
- The music search bar (you can also adjust what you are searching for, i.e. artist,
album, song, playlist)
- Song rating (you can clear the rating, or assign a new one to the current track)
CoverSutra displays feedback, information and notifications through a bezel window that appears in the middle of the screen, and the app lets you disable shortcuts easily from the menubar. This comes in handy when one of it’s shortcuts is overriding another that you need to use.
CoverSutra gives you the option to put the current song’s cover art as a permanent feature on your desktop. Along with it is the band’s name and album name, if you want. Clicking on the album art reveals a bezel control panel. Here you can adjust playback, tweak ratings, enable shuffle and looping, and navigate throughout the song. CoverSutra comes with three album styles to choose from.
The app also has the option to sit in your dock. Unlike most dock icons, it offers little bit of magic. It takes the album artwork of the song playing, and displays it as a tiny icon. Right clicking on it will reveal a list of all the songs it the album.
The Little Things
The best software developers pay attention to the details. It’s those little things that “just work” that make applications a joy to use. CoverSutra is packed with these little features.
For example, when CoverSutra launches, iTunes will automatically launch if it already isn’t open. When you are in the middle of a super productive work session, you don’t need iTunes popping up right in front of you. CoverSutra automatically hides the iTunes window at launch.
Last.fm is a free service that keeps track of the music you, and millions of other people listen to. By comparing different habits and tastes, they recommend music for you and create customized streaming radio stations. Again, CoverSutra just works. Simply enter your details into the preference pane and you’re done.CoverSutra will then automatically scrobble (send what’s playing) to Last.fm.
When the song that is playing finishes, CoverSutra displays a gorgeous notification bubble right under its icon in the menubar. It details the new song’s basic information, name, album, artist. Of course, there are various configurations options on offer. You can enable the bubble just for album change, or disable it entirely. You can even elect to use Growl notifications instead.
Finally, the control panel can be condensed into a miniature playback control. Setting this to appear via a hotkey can eliminate the need for any other playback shortcut.
Customizing your iTunes controller seems to be all the rage these days. Although the customization of CoverSutra is not nearly as easy as say, Bowtie, there are several good CoverSutra album cases out there.
CoverSutra is a good example of software done right. The interface is beautiful and the learning curve is almost non-existent. Although it isn’t as customizable as some of the other controllers out there, I don’t think it needs to be. The point is to reduce time thinking about how you are going to use it. It gets out of your way, and appears only when needed.