How-To: Control iTunes With QuickSilver

QuickSilver IconI love the ability to pause or skip an iTunes song on the fly without having to switch apps. Yet, short of holding your Apple Remote in your hand while web-surfing or working, iTunes provides no easy way to do so. I used to use a commercial, menu-based iTunes control (it’s been so long I’ve forgotten what it’s called), but as I fell deeper and deeper in love with Quicksilver I discovered that I could do even more in everyone’s favorite super-app.

Quicksilver, for those who don’t know is a powerful and flexible freeware application launcher and more. It’s really pretty hard to describe, so if you haven’t tried it yet definitely give it a go. In this tutorial I’d like to show you how you can configure Quicksilver on your Mac to make controlling iTunes more simple and fun with something called Triggers.

First things first, if you don’t have Quicksilver installed do so by downloading a copy from BlackTree, drag it to your Applications folder and open it up. One thing to keep in mind is that Quicksilver must be running, but not necessarily visible, for your triggers to work. Next you’ll want to ensure the “iTunes Module” plug-in is installed, bring up the Quicksilver window by double clicking on the application icon. Go to the plug-in pane by either selecting “Plug-ins” from Quicksilver’s drop-down menu or pressing Command-Shift-Apostrophe (in other words ⌘”).

Plug-ins are Quicksilver’s way of letting other pieces of software interact with Quicksilver’s seemingly omnipresent resources. Many applications have Quicksilver plug-ins and I highly recommend you look around in the plug-in pane for add-ons that interest you or connect to your favorite apps.

Now that you have opened the plug-in window ensure the “All Plug-in’s” tab is selected in the left pane. Find the “iTunes Module” and toggle it’s check box if it’s not already marked. If this is the first time you are enabling the iTunes Module it will take a moment to download and install.

QuickSilver Plug-ins

Next move to the Triggers window by pressing Command-Apostrophe ( ⌘’). You can think of triggers sort of like universal hot-keys, as you may already gathered this is how we will interact with iTunes. Luckily for our purposes the iTunes Module provides us with a number of pre-configured commands to which we only need to attach a key combination.

Personally my favorite iTunes triggers are Next Song, Previous Song, Play / Pause and Search Artists. These triggers really help you control your music without getting distracted from your current task. In the case of the Search Artists trigger you can search for a given artist on the fly – it’s pretty neat.


The only marginally difficult part of setting up these triggers is not selecting key commands that overlap with those of the apps you already use. Having such an overlap is called a collision. Quicksilver won’t let you ‘highjack’ control of a key command so if you have a collision the app you have in focus will react as normal and Quicksilver will act as if nothing has happened. This can be confusing when you’re getting started with triggers so I recommend you choose your keys wisely. I have found “option-command-something” to be fairly free of collisions on my system. The first step to take when you want to set your trigger commands is to open the “Trigger Info” slide out window by pressing the “i” button located in the lower right hand corner of the window.


Next select the trigger you would like to give a key combination to and click on the Hot Key’s “Edit” button. Now simply type in your desired key-command. For example, if I were setting the command for the Pause Song trigger, I would click the Edit button and then type the key-combination option-command-down arrow key (⌥ ⌘â ). After doing so I could pause my iTunes music from any application (which doesn’t collide) simply pressing those keys. Note that these key combination is completely arbitrary, yours can be whatever works for you.

The keys and triggers I recommend are as follows:
Play / Pause Option-Command-Up Arrow ⌥⌘⠘
Next Song Option-Command-Right Arrow ⌥⌘â 
Previous Song Option-Command-Left Arrow ⌥⌘⠐
Search Artists Option-Command-Down Arrow ⌥⌘â 

Hotkey PrefsThere are a couple of other interesting ways you can tweak the performance of your new triggers. Below the Edit Hot-key we discussed earlier you will notice a number of other options. The first four options will effect when exactly in relation to the key-stroke the trigger is activated. “On Press” and “On Release” set the trigger to activate when the key is pressed and when the key is released respectively. “Repeat Every” causes the trigger to repeat every x seconds while the key is held down, this can be very useful for adjusting iTunes’ volume. The “Delay” option effects how long after the key-stroke until the trigger is activated. Finally, the “Show Window” option does exactly what you would expect, it momentarily shows a window representing your trigger upon activation.

There is almost limitless depth to Quicksilver but I hope this tutorial has sheds some light for some people on the mysterious and powerful QS preference panes. As a continuation of what you’ve seen here I recommend that you play around with triggers on your own a bit. Quicksilver’s triggers are a very powerful and generally untapped feature which can really help you to do diverse tasks more quickly and easily.


77 Responses to “How-To: Control iTunes With QuickSilver”

  1. Miles Evans on May 9th, 2007 9:24 am

    Great stuff Tyler. I’ve been looking for some ‘intro to QS’ types of articles, and this fits the bill perfectly.

  2. Dan on May 9th, 2007 5:50 pm

    I used to use Sizzlingkeys for this same functionality – then Quicksilver happened.

    The only problem with the SK and QS functions is that, while next track is an included action, I can’t seem to find anyway to skip to the next album without going into iTunes and ALT+rightarrowing.

  3. Anil on May 9th, 2007 6:59 pm

    I use apple remote from my bed. This hint will prove great once I buy a wireless keyboard though :)

  4. Dylan on May 9th, 2007 10:21 pm

    A very good trigger setup is to use the mouse (instead of key combos):
    Next Song -> Right side of the screen
    Play/Pause -> Bottom of the screen

    No key collisions or remembering shortcuts. Can’t recommend it enough!

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    I’ve been using a combination of QS (When I’m at the computer) and Remote Buddy via Wii controller (when I’m not at the computer) to control iTunes. I’ve also set up QS to build instant playlists for me by hacking into The Filter – perfect laziness!

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  15. Luca on May 10th, 2007 10:37 pm

    Thanks Tyler!! Great tip

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    This takes laziness to new levels.

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  24. Aaron on June 24th, 2007 10:55 pm

    I have a problem with this whole thing being an OCD musician and I’m not sure it has a fix. When I open an album using quicksilver it doesn’t follow the track listing. It just goes about playing the songs in a random order. This kills me. I love using quicksilver but I need my songs in order! Any help???

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  27. Austen on November 5th, 2007 9:06 am

    This is my favorite feature of Quicksilver (except the application launching, of course!) Also, rating songs using this is incredibly useful.

    I just do ⌘1, ⌘2, ⌘3, etc.

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  29. tallfreak on June 6th, 2008 12:54 am

    Thanks so much. Now I don’t have to worry about using the mouse pad to click thru applications all the time. :)

  30. Augee on June 12th, 2008 11:15 pm

    Ok, I’ve managed to set up the triggers and they work beautifully! (Yay!)

    Now I have a question. If I trigger the “Play” function when the itunes app is not running, Quicksilver starts to play a song and opens up the itunes main window at the same time.

    I wonder if there’s any way I can keep the main window closed?

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  32. Mike on May 1st, 2009 11:24 pm

    I have configured the option search artist as you said and it just does not work. Can any one tell me what to do?

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