Music Commander: iTunes in Your Menu Bar

Music, I think it is fair to say, is a large part of most people’s life. Many of us listen to music whilst we’re on the computer, and, being on Mac, this will probably be through iTunes. But if you want to change the song, pause it, or anything else, you don’t want to disrupt your workflow and open up the bulky musical hub that is iTunes. You could set up a few keyboard shortcuts, but what if you want more functionality?

That’s where Music Commander comes in. Music Commander is a menu bar app, available exclusively in the Mac App Store, which allows you to control certain elements of iTunes from your menu bar, so you can get back to work instantly.

Read on to see how it fares when put to the test.

Getting Started

As previously mentioned, Music Commander is only available from the App Store, which, with the introduction of Lion, is something we will undoubtedly see more of. Priced at just $0.99, it’s a tiny price to pay.

Music Commander in the App Store

Music Commander in the App Store

If you’ve never installed an app via the App Store, it couldn’t be simpler – Purchase the app, and it will download straight away. Once it’s in your menu bar, you can quickly start controlling iTunes. There is no configuration required.

Usability & Interface

Music Controller has more functionality than most menu bar iTunes controllers, although it’s all accessed via a drop-down menu, rather than any kind of visual controls. For example, if I want to simply pause iTunes, I have to bring up the drop-down menu, rather than use a few controls that are right on the menu bar itself.

This may not be the best system, but it works. It would be nice to have the option to bring up the menu and navigate it with the keyboard.

Another issue I had with the usability of this app is that if you click on an option from the drop-down menu, the drop-down will then disappear as the action is performed. So, if I want to turn shuffle on and also turn repeat off, I have to go to the menu bar twice.

Music Commander's Interface

Music Commander's Interface

As far as the interface in concerned, there are a few control icons that are nice and simple, as well as a large album artwork preview. The only issue I have with the interface is the section that tells you what’s currently playing. This section of the app doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the clean interface. Aside from that, however, it’s a basic but effective interface.

Controlling Music

Music Controller works just as you’d expect it to – If you press the “Pause” button, iTunes pauses the music, if you change the volume, iTunes changes the volume. There’s no noticeable delay between you acting and iTunes reacting.

What I like about Music Commander is that it doesn’t just have play, pause, next and previous, you can also control a few more iTunes details. For example, if you’re somebody who enjoys rating songs, you can rate them directly from Music Commander. You can also change the playlist you are listening to, and change the shuffle and repeat settings.

Music Controls

Music Controls

I have only one suggestion when it comes to features. It would be nice to have a progress bar that shows at what point in time you are in the song you are listening to, as that is something listeners use with relative frequently.

Social Media

Music Commander doesn’t just command your music, it can also handle social media in order to add extra functionality to your iTunes library. For example, you can connect to Last.fm, the popular online radio service. Connecting is as simple as entering in your username and password. Then you can choose to scrobble a song from the menu, or turn on Auto Scrobble which will send any music you play on iTunes automatically to Last.fm. This is a feature I was very impressed with, and one which iTunes doesn’t have.

Last.fm in Music Commander

Last.fm in Music Commander

This app will also connect to Facebook. Doing so is very easy. All it requires you to do is authorize the app and you can then get straight into posting to Facebook.The link in the post links straight to the iTunes Store entry for that song, which is really handy. Altogether, this facebook feature is another nice perk that Music Commander offers.

A Facebook post from Music Commander

A Facebook post from Music Commander

The third and final social network you can connect with Music Commander to is the ever popular Twitter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect to Twitter using this app. When I would try, it would open up a window, at which point I would hit “Authorize” and then be given a string of digits to enter somewhere in Music Commander. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find anywhere to enter this number in the app, so I was not able to connect to Twitter. The fault here may very likely lie with Twitter, as this site is notorious for frequently changing how apps connect!

Conclusion

I came into this review expecting Music Commander to be another one of those apps that was developed simply because the App Store has made it easy for anyone to distribute their apps.

However, after using this app, I have been pleasantly surprised and I now stand corrected. Music Commander’s use of social media connectivity certainly serves a purpose, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to somebody. It has faults, like all apps, but does what it sets out to do quite well. And at just $0.99, what’s stopping you from snapping it up right now?


Summary

With Music Commander at your disposal, iTunes is just a click away. By simply clicking the Music Commander icon in the system menu bar, you have access to several iTunes commands.

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  • Scott

    As for me, I just double-finger-tap iTunes icon to get to many of the same things. For more, four-finger-swipe to quickly switch to iTunes is arguably quicker than mousing to a menubar icon. As for social media stuff, I just do those things via web sites, official Scrobbler app, etc. if I feel like it but I usually have more interesting things to do than recommending songs to anonymous mass on those sites.

    Verdict: Mac programming talent wasted on reinventing the wheel.

    • aldo

      not everybody uses a track pad ;)

      • Scott

        But everybody eventually will. Look at college students, the vast majority of them are content with just using trackpad. In fact many are just content with using iPhone/iPad for that matter.

    • Scott

      Well I changed my mind. Sorry about my negative comments. I tried it just to see and I must admit that it is indeed convenient to be able to have access via menubar, especially for those social media sites.

  • mcdevy

    Why use this when ecoute, bowtie, coversutra have keyboard shortcuts for all the actions mentioned above? Waste of money imo.

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