The Complete List of iTunes Controllers

iTunes IconIf you’re using Apple’s latest keyboard, released in August, or if you’re fortunate enough to have a MacBook Air, you’re already enjoying the benefits of dedicated iTunes keyboard buttons.

However, not everyone is so lucky, which is probably why iTunes controller applications are so popular and plentiful.

An iTunes controller is a companion to Apple’s jukebox that allows you to play, pause, skip between tracks and adjust volume using either keyboard shortcuts or buttons in the menu bar. As more people listen to music while surfing the web, with a recent survey by Olswang finding about one in five computer users listen to music on their computers daily, there’s a big market for these apps.

Application launchers like QuickSilver (free), Butler (free), LaunchBar ($19.95) and ClawMenu ($19.95) offer basic iTunes controls via customizable keyboard shortcuts. Firefox users also have the option of installing the FoxyTunes extension, which places a bar along the bottom of the browser with buttons to control iTunes.

There are a ton of options in the realm of dedicated iTunes controllers. I’ll start by breaking down the freeware options (because everybody loves free). But for a small price tag, you can find some really solid apps that can be worth the purchase if you use iTunes as often as I do. More advanced features can include support for system-wide Growl notifications, album art fetching and syncing with, so if you can’t live without these extras, you might want to skip to the end of the list.

Free Controllers

iTunes ControllerBytecontroller – This is a fairly no-frills menu bar controller. When opened, it places a set of three small buttons for advancing the track, select the previous track and play/pause, with a list of decent skins to choose from. It also supports keyboard shortcuts and Growl notifications, but it’s a basic controller that does what it sets out to do.

iTunes Controller GimmeSomeTune – With hotkeys, album art and lyric fetching, remote control support and syncing, GimmeSomeTune has more features than most of its peers. If it weren’t for the optional, hideous menu bar buttons and the lack of Growl support (it uses an oversized, cluttered bezel notification window instead), this would really stand out as one of the best controllers out there.

iTunes ControlleriController – The controller is very simple and optionally scrolls information about the currently playing song in the menu bar. It’s got hotkeys and its own notification system, which automatically switches to Growl if you have it installed. Sure, iController hasn’t been updated in more than a year, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

iTunes ControlleriMote – Hotkeys, Growl notifications and a menu bar with iTunes controls make this a useful app. And for those of you who still haven’t installed Growl, it has its own floater  no additional software necessary. iMote also has a feature called StepBack, which lets you specify an amount of time for the app to rewind when playing a song that was paused. It doesn’t seem very useful for music listening, but for podcasts, I can see it really coming in handy.

iTunes ControllerMaestro – Especially handy if you use a lot of playlists, Maestro is a compact app featuring controller buttons and a small list with available playlists and the songs within those lists. But it doesn’t provide much advantage over iTunes’ own mini controller, so unless you switch between playlists a lot, it’s hard to recommend Maestro.

iTunes ControllerMenuet – Standing as one of the strongest free options, Menuet places a small image of the currently playing song’s album art in the menu bar. You can click on it to get a larger version of the artwork as well as next, previous and play/pause buttons. It’s got scrobbling, Growl notifications, keyboard shortcuts, controller skins and a sleep timer for stopping iTunes after a period of time. It even comes packaged with Art Collector, a nifty app for retrieving album artwork. Previously freeware, Menuet has since become charityware, meaning if you use and like the app, the developer encourages you to donate to a charity.

iTunes ControllerPlay MiTunes – It has a nice little controller window interface, but it’s main attraction is the “type-and-play” feature, where you can type the first few letters of a song and play it. Unfortunately you need to specify whether your search applies to artist or song, so it makes the search feature somewhat less useful than opening iTunes.

iTunes ControllerQuickTunes – It’s certainly not the most attractive app, but it’s got some useful features. It can do hotkeys and places the name of the currently playing song in the menu bar, with additional controls when clicking in the menu bar. Some great options it offers is to play another song by the currently playing artist, play another from the same CD or play another from the same genre. Of course the pastel controller is hideous, but if you don’t care about aesthetics (but you probably do if you’re a Mac user) give this one a shot.

iTunes ControllerRadion – According to its developer, Radion was the best of its kind when it released. With a skinnable control window, artwork downloading and hotkeys, it has plenty of nice features. But the app hasn’t been updated in quite a while, although developer Ninja Kitten promises version 2 is in the works. In order to use the app, you’ll need to punch in the following details into the registration: Name – Ninja kitten / Email: / Serial: RADION-XkUmXF-WeDEE-hFCwY-kwEHz-wazc

iTunes ControllerSizzling Keys ($5 for Pro version) – If you’re all about the keyboard, Sizzling Keys is a great option. It doesn’t offer a menu bar or window controller  it’s all done via customizable hotkeys in System Preferences. It even lets you add shortcuts for some actions unrelated to iTunes, like accessing the login screen. It also has a bezel notification feature and a search and play popup. My only complaint is that I keep running into a bug with the search, where I have to restart the app for it to recognize my keystrokes.

iTunes ControllerYou Control: iTunes – You Control places the control and rating buttons right in the menu bar, with access to recent tracks and a ton of other information right within the contextual menu. It also has hotkeys and a notification bezel. I found You Control eating up quite a bit of memory in my use, but you might want to give it a shot to see how it runs on your system. You’ll need to register for free at the You Software web site to get a license.

Not Free Controllers

iTunes ControllerBarquee ($10) – Elegant and customizable are what defines Barquee. With a combination menu bar controller/song info marquee, which can be command-clicked to access the song’s progress bar, Barquee is a nice option whether you plan to use the menu bar controls or hotkeys. It’s also skinnable.

iTunes Screenshot

iTunes ControllerCoverSutra (14.95⚬) - As the most expensive app on the list, it’s ironic that CoverSutra happens to be one of the best. Complete with sexy pop-up alerts, Growl and support, and a really nifty menu bar music search feature, this one is really hard to resist. One unique feature is a CD case that can be dragged around the desktop, showing the currently playing song in iTunes. With all the other options, it’s hard to justify the price tag, which works out to about $22 at the current exchange rate, but it really is a full package.

iTunes ControllerSynergy Classic (5⚬) – Synergy has long been one of the most popular iTunes companions. Recently the app has been completely rewritten for the Leopard version, which brought with it a number of random bugs. It offers all the basic features you would expect from a shareware controller, hotkeys, floaters and menu bar controls, but not really much “wow.” Fortunately Synergy is one of the less expensive shareware options.

iTunes ControllerTuneBar ($12) – This is probably the most attractive controller on the list. Sure, it has Growl support, hotkeys and playlist access, but it’s the interface that makes it truly shine. Everything is skinnable, from the floating controller to the incredibly well executed library search popup. TuneBar borrows one excellent feature from WinAmp  a thin controller, called SlimBar, that sits just below the menu bar, providing all the basic iTunes controls including a track timeline and search.

iTunes Screenshot

iTunes ControllerTuneHound ($9.95) – Put simply, TuneHound is bad. With an ugly controller window, lack of full hotkey support and an unintuitive rating system, TuneHound is a worse option than most of the freeware apps on the list. The only thing it really has going for it is the ability to edit track information from within the small TuneHound interface.


41 Responses to “The Complete List of iTunes Controllers”

  1. TMac on February 26th, 2008 8:54 am

    There are at least 2 apps missing.
    1. TotalTunes Control (freeware)

    2. CoverStream (shareware)

    Both applications are very nice.
    By the way, it would be nice to have a comparison or some thoughts (pros and cons) about those apps.

  2. Dhruv on February 26th, 2008 9:05 am

    not to nitpick, but for one, theres nothing ironic about the most expensive app being the best. I think you have it mixed up with unsuprising.

    Also I didn’t see quicksilver mentioned anywhere. You can set it up to be an itunes controller

  3. hunter on February 26th, 2008 12:13 pm

    Quicksilver can do almost what I want, but I’m a fan of using Spark- it’s a general automation/keyboard shortcut app- but works well with iTunes. Sits in the background and just works.
    Here is the info on it:

  4. Nathan on February 26th, 2008 12:19 pm

    I use Synergy and it works great. I continue to use an older version, but it works great. The most used app I have ever bought.

  5. Matt J on February 26th, 2008 12:57 pm

    Menuet is not free. It is Charityware. They require you donate what you can to a charity, or do some volunteer work in lue of that. Also, it’s not ironic that the most expensive is the best!

  6. Dan on February 26th, 2008 2:57 pm

    Not to toot my own horn, but there is also Artwork which is free.

  7. Austen Saltz on February 26th, 2008 7:31 pm

    Nice comparison.
    I’m using coversutra and LOVE it. However, $22 is a bit much (although I got it for free from MH)

    I might check out tunebar, it looks pretty good.

  8. hubartt on February 26th, 2008 7:57 pm

    Gimmesometune menubar is very ugly. I modded mine because it is still a very useful app for lyrics and iChat integration. Here are my mods for the menubar…

  9. hubartt on February 26th, 2008 8:05 pm

    Also, I do think Gimmesometune is a great app and worth using once the menubar looks better. Also a big fan of coversutra. those two side by side is just about everything I need.

  10. James Joseph on February 26th, 2008 8:22 pm

    check out artwork. it’s nice.

  11. andrew on February 26th, 2008 11:23 pm


    i agree, i also like gimmesometune but dislike the menubar controllers. but yours look great!

    could you share your .PNG replacements?

  12. hubartt on February 26th, 2008 11:35 pm


    I’d be happy to share them. I’m working on a website currently that will have some things like this available. For the time being though, I’d be happy to email them to you.

  13. Walter Mitty on February 27th, 2008 1:37 am

    @Austen: CoverSutra wasn’t free, it was paid for as part of the MacHeist II bundle – slight difference. It was one of the better apps on the list, though.

    Being a Tiger holdout, I find it unfortunate that the developer’s only working on a Leopard-compatible version now.

    Personally, I’ve used GimmeSomeTune, Menuet, QuickSilver and (now) CoverSutra.

    Menuet is no longer being developed, by the by; the last version was released in June 2006. It’s also pretty unstable and crashes a lot, with alarming regularity; seeing as the developers are no longer working on it, a solution doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. :( Pity, I actually liked it a lot, except for the instability.

    I dropped GimmeSomeTune because of the lack of Growl integration. QuickSilver was fine, but it didn’t do everything I wanted (I like having Last.FM integration). CoverSutra covers it nicely, and it seems to be rather more stable than Menuet.

  14. Karen on February 27th, 2008 8:06 am

    I like HotTunes, which is old-fashioned shareware (payment requested, but no limits in the software):

    It has a very attractive notification window and lets you specify your own keyboard shortcuts.

  15. Alex on February 27th, 2008 9:56 am

    Also very nice one is missing: MenuTunes

  16. Chris Thomson on February 27th, 2008 1:20 pm

    Coversutra FTW

  17. Lista (casi) completa de controladores para iTunes on February 27th, 2008 5:08 pm

    [...] que te permita hacer más o, también hay que decirlo, que tenga mejor aspecto que el mismo, en MacApper han publicado un extenso artículo comentando un montón de controladores para dicho [...]

  18. andrew on February 27th, 2008 5:21 pm


    thanks! please e-mail me at limsilas at hotmail dot com.

  19. Mas controladores de iTunes. « TrauMac on February 27th, 2008 8:43 pm

    [...] y unos de cobro, yo estoy muy contento con  You Control: Tunes, pero si quieres probar mas, he aqui la lista para que cheques unos cuantos hasta encontrar el de tu [...]

  20. links for 2008-02-28 «  Mac² on February 28th, 2008 12:34 pm

    [...] The Complete List of iTunes Controllers | MacApper Das borlas às mais caras. Eu uso o CoverSutra… demasiado caro na minha opinião, mas incluído no MacHeist. (tags: iTunes apps) [...]

  21. The Complete List of iTunes Controllers-Download Music on March 3rd, 2008 7:28 pm

    [...] Mark wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAs more people listen to music while surfing the web, with a recent survey by Olswang finding about one in five computer users listen to music on their computers daily, there'sa big market for these apps. … [...]

  22. mac-mc on March 12th, 2008 6:40 am

    TotalTunesControl ist total CoverSutra RipOff, that’s why i don’t like the app and his developer >:(

  23. iTunes Controller vs. Quicksilver - apfelquak on March 20th, 2008 11:23 am

    [...] hatte ja vor ein paar Tagen auf die “Complete List of iTunes Controllers” auf MacApper aufmerksam gemacht und ich war ziemlich überracht über die Fülle [...]

  24. JoJo on April 2nd, 2008 11:48 am

    You forgot another very nice Application, that Displays iTunes Information, like Title, Artist, Album, etc. in a Ticker-Display within the Menubar.


    Every info ist provided with smooth scrolling an transition effects.

    And of course: You can Remote-Control iTunes with it.

  25. PlayWatch: A New Take On iTunes Controllers | MacApper on July 8th, 2008 6:00 am

    [...] world of iTunes controllers is a crowded one, and any new application that comes out has a lot to go up against. There are a variety of free [...]

  26. links for 2008-07-09 « copula’s weblog on July 9th, 2008 5:37 am

    [...] The Complete List of iTunes Controllers | MacApper (tags: 2008 itunes utilities lists) [...]

  27. Ruben on May 26th, 2009 6:40 pm

    SmashTunes is yet another one. Does the job of displaying the current song without all those notifications of (a lot of) other’s. Somewhat bare-bones, but I don’t need that many feautures.

  28. too//damn//ninja on August 6th, 2009 1:44 pm

    dont forget BowTie too!
    optional menu bar icon, skinnable, modifiable behaviours (skip, rate, etc)
    i like it anyway. ^_^

  29. taro on October 24th, 2009 5:57 pm

    the main factor for my decision would be if the app require itunes to run in the background or not.
    i totally love the concept of MENU CALENDER CLOCK that gives me complete control over ical without the need to have it running in the background!

  30. Bit Per Second on February 27th, 2010 2:00 pm
    Try iTunes Controller, its cool.

  31. Kaye on March 11th, 2010 5:22 am

    Nice comparison…. :)

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