Taking Control of Music with Skip Tunes

Most of my solo work time passes with music in the background. Sometimes I’m playing music from my iTunes library, and sometimes I’m streaming music from online radio stations or subscription services. Controlling it all can be a pain. Whether I’m writing a review for AppStorm or balancing Excel spreadsheets at work, I normally have to switch back to the music program to pause a song if someone walks in. If a song comes on that I’m not in the mood to listen to, then it’s even worse since I have to swap to the player to skip and then back to my work. Even this brief interruption can take me out of flow and require time to pick up where I left off.

Skip Tunes is a simple menubar app that offers a solution. It runs in your menu bar to let you control the your music from the menu bar or with keyboard shortcuts. How well does it work?

Skip Tunes: Controlling All Your Music Together

Skip Tunes is compatible with iTunes along with the Rdio and Spotify’s Mac apps. If no supported music application is running, Skip Tunes simply shows as a musical note icon in your menu tray. Once you start a supported music application, Skip Tunes automatically notices and allows you to control it. Your default player, chosen in the program’s preferences, can be started either through the menu or with a key press.

Skip Tunes Showing Current Song

Clicking the menu bar icon shows the album art for the currently playing song title. Here I also have the play/pause and skip icons in the menu bar.

By default, Skip Tunes will display controls, letting you play and pause your music with it’s menu bar icon once a supported player runs. If you do not want to display these controls, you can turn them off in the preferences menu. Using these controls is optional as you can also define keyboard shortcuts to do the same thing. I found having the controls in the menu bar was worth the small amount of space taken, but it’s good to have the option to customize the setting.

Song Controls

Hovering the mouse over the album art shows controls for the current song.

Clicking on the note in menu bar will drop down box showing the album art for the current song (or a generic musical note icon if no album art is present) along with the song name, artist, and album name. Hovering your mouse over the album art displays additional music controls with a play/pause toggle along with buttons to skip to the previous or next track. You also have a scrubbing bar where you can move to any point in the song along with a button letting you toggle shuffling tracks. The gear icon let’s you set your default music player and access the program’s preferences.

Making Your Music Listening More Productive

While this control is handy, Skip Tunes really becomes useful thanks to support for keyboard shortcuts. In preferences, you can set keyboard shortcuts to toggle play/pause the music along with skipping to the next or previous track. These allow you to pause music and skip (or replay) a track without leaving the application you’re in and breaking your flow. This one feature is worth the price of the program for me. If I’m writing and a song I don’t like or doesn’t fit my current mood comes on, a quick keystroke skips to the next song without taking me away from my work.

Skip Tunes Preferences

The preferences window for Skip Tunes.

The preference options are few to match the simplicity of the program. A check box let’s you can turn on and off the presence of the play and skip forward control in the menu bar. You can also choose optional keyboard shortcuts for play/pause track, previous track, and next track. There are also links to the Facebook and Twitter links for Skip Tunes.

A Few Complaints…

The biggest fault I found with Skip Tunes would be the relatively few supported music applications. The very popular Pandora service is not supported. Neither is Slacker. The lack of a native Mac OS app for many services admittedly makes this support difficult or impossible, but it still doesn’t help those who primarily listen to music on those services. While I use iTunes often and Spotify some, the lack of support for Slacker reduces how much use I will get from this app.

I would also like the ability to control the volume of the music app from the program with keyboard and mouse options. Users should also note that Skip Tunes 2.0 only works with Mountain Lion. Mac users still running older versions of OS X are out of luck. Less than a month into the life of the new OS seems a bit quick to me to cut support for older version.

Conclusion

Skip Tunes does a simple job well. When using the supported music players, it allows a quick and convenient way to access, pause, and skip your music without having to return to the native app. The lack of support for Mac OS before Mountain Lion presents an obstacle for many users still waiting to move to Apple’s newest OS. I wish it supported more players, but it’s earned a spot on my menu bar.


Summary

Skip Tunes provides a quick and easy way to control playback of your music from the menu bar or with keyboard shortcuts. While limited in supported players, Skip Tunes makes it easier to manage music playback while working and without switching to the app.

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  • Gaston

    I don’t get the point of this app. iTunes and Rdio can be controlled by the play, pause and skip buttons on your keyboard.

    • Jon

      I find Skip Tunes much more flexible and accessible than hardware keys, the menubar controller gives you full control and feedback.

    • http://skiptunes.com Greg

      Skip Tunes just gives you another option of viewing your music quickly. It’s not ment to be a full-featured app, but it’s meant to be there when you need it.

  • CJ Dayrit

    Using skip tunes as well! though there are some bugs to be fixed especially playing with iTunes match and some stability because album covers appear blank. Anyway this is one of the nice iTunes controller in my book.

    • http://skiptunes.com Greg

      We’re looking into the iTunes Match artwork problem and should have a fix out real soon. Glad you like Skip Tunes CJ :)

  • Jon

    Skip Tunes has been living in my menubar since version 1.0, and this update 2.0 has added some really perfect touches. Love the app.

    • http://skiptunes.com Greg

      Thanks Jon! I appreciate the kind words :)

  • http://www.danielogden.com Daniel Ogden

    I just use the Play/Pause/Rewind/Volume controls on my keyboard … the keyboard that comes with an iMac, or the one on my MacBook Pro. Works with Spotify too, but not sure about Rdio. Skip Tunes doesn’t seem to do much more that the keyboard can’t already do, other than scubbing to parts of a track, but that’s not something I do very often so don’t need a shortcut.

    You can also just secondary-click iTunes in the dock to see the currently playing tune.

    Am I missing something, or is this just for people who don’t use the standard keyboard?

    • Vadim

      From my experience, Rdio, Spotify and iTunes often conflict with each other when you use standard keyboard controls. On the other hand, Skip Tunes provides global shortcuts with expected behavior and additional trackpad controls.

    • http://skiptunes.com Greg

      You’re not missing anything Daniel, but Skip Tunes is all about simplicity. If you want to see album art or skip a song quickly, then Skip Tunes will do that for you. You can use the app however you’d like, but when you’re not using it, it stays out of the way.

  • dev

    coversutra is so much better. the shortcut for searching music = priceless

  • Jonathan

    I’d love to see some notification center support. I use bowtie now for Growl, but would love to see an app like this step up with notifications so that we could consolidate and run fewer apps.

  • http://www.tjerja.com Tjerja

    I’ve got sizzlingkeys (http://www.yellowmug.com/sk4it/) setup with keyboard shortcodes and with my bamboo pen/touch. It’s awesome. With just a click of my pen on the tablet, i can skip tracks, rate them, etc. And all these pen shortcuts are also useable with the keyboard when I’m typing. Now that’s a real productivity booster! :)

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