Bring the iOS Control Center to Mac with Controls+

Control Center, recently added to iOS 7, put a lot of often reached for settings and tools close at hand. While that’s great for iPhone users, it doesn’t do a lot for us on the Mac. There’s some great stuff in there, though, and I’d like to have all of that at my fingertips or the click of a mouse. Controls+ aims to connect Control Center and OS X by putting a lot of the best tools in the menu bar.

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Neat Tools for OS X

Controls+ is a menu bar app, which kept it out of the way until I needed it. It’s separated into a number of panels, with perhaps the most used tools on the first, but I hopped over to settings before getting started with anything else. That’s where I set Controls+ to open at login and is necessary on an app like this. That’s also where I looked to quite Controls+ if the mood ever struck me.

Control the wallpaper, display, and "flashlight."

Control the wallpaper, display, and “flashlight.”

Back on the first panel, though, were the controls I went to the most. This is the Display panel, and it controls the display’s brightness and the screensaver. I’m using a second display in addition to the display on my laptop, and Controls+ couldn’t do anything with my third-party screen, but that’s not altogether surprising. The developer does promise compatibility with Apple displays and a growing family of third-party displays.

There’s a stopwatch and timer included, both of which could be handy. While I have less use for the stopwatch, I often need a timer, and it’s good to have one so easily accessible in the menu bar. I really do wish the world clock and alarm features of the iOS 7 Control Center had been included. While those both seem as though they could exist as independent apps, Controls+ wouldn’t suffer from a few more bells and whistles.

The stopwatch and timer are pretty useful.

The stopwatch and timer are pretty useful.

Controls+ has some iTunes controls sort of tacked on, which are alright I guess. There are a lot of apps that do everything Controls+ does with iTunes and more, and they do it better. Pausing and moving back and forth among tracks is there in the iOS 7 Control Center, so I guess the developer decided Controls+ needed it, too. The reason Control Center works is because it can be a pain to move among apps in iOS and there isn’t anything else to get the job done, but with other Mac apps that can do the same job and the ease of tapping Pause on my keyboard, I’m going to need more.

Strange Additions

There are a couple of strange additions to Controls+ that I just couldn’t get fully behind. There’s a quick wallpaper changer, and it seems great in theory. Drag any image on the wallpaper box, and your Desktop looks like new, simple as that. It’s actually pretty ingenious, considering the number of steps it can take to make the change in System Preferences. Unfortunately, I couldn’t choose how my wallpaper was displayed, so unless I used an abstract wallpaper, it looked pretty jacked up, stretched this way and that. It was a neat feature to include, though, and while it didn’t work 100% in practice, I certainly like the idea.

There are just a few settings to worry about.

There are just a few settings to worry about.

On the other hand, I was flabbergasted by the flashlight. I suppose it’s meant to perform the same function as the iOS 7 flashlight and light up the room. What the Controls+ flashlight does, though, is open a window with a white background. I suppose with the display’s brightness turned up on an otherwise dark Desktop, this could make a difference, but so would opening a browser window. I just felt silly every time I used it.

Final Thoughts

It turns out that Control Center for iOS 7 doesn’t make a great crossover to Mac. There are definitely good tools here, though, and more to build on. While for most people, it might be quicker to attack their brightness from the Apple keyboard, I’m on a third-party keyboard that isn’t completely compatible, so it’s quicker for me to use my mouse and Controls+ to adjust things a bit. If my screen saver weren’t already mapped to a hot corner, it would be handy to pop it up from Controls+ in the menu bar.

The iTunes controls worked, but other apps have done it better.

The iTunes controls worked, but other apps have done it better.

I’d just really like to see a more complete timer and alarm included and more features in the iTunes panel. While Controls+ doesn’t have Last.fm scrobbling or shuffle, most comparable Mac apps do, and that’s who Controls+ is up against. While this is a neat app with potential, Controls+ needs a bit more to make me turn my head.


Summary

A neat idea to bring the iOS Control Center to Mac OS X, but it needs to tweaking before it really works.

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