My latest cool software find is a little utility called Synergy; it's a small application which runs in the menu bar, and allows you to control iTunes without first switching to it or using the Dock menu. You might be thinking, "Pfft. Is that all? Loads of applications do that--what's the big deal?" Well, the big deal is in the level of customization possible and the quality of the implementation.

All of the commands (play, pause, change volume, set a star rating and so on) can all have keyboard commands assigned, so that you never even need to venture near the menu bar with the mouse. You can also choose a number of different styles for the control buttons on the menu bar, and even set their spacing. But that's not all; when the track changes, a transparent 'floater' appears showing the title, artist, and album, along with the star rating you've assigned, and--this is the corker in my view--the album cover art, which it downloads automatically if you're connected to the network. It even appears with a kind of 'sliding-out' animation and then fades out, which is very slick and professional. All of this is also customizable, including what goes on the floater, where it appears, and how long for. Transparent floaters (like the built in volume and screen brightness ones) appear when you operate any of the controls to give you visual feedback.

I find it extremely convenient to have the new track information hover in the corner while I'm working, and to be able to just hit a system-wide key to control iTunes. I've mapped the main transport commands to the function keys plus command, which is very quick and easy. My MacNTouch even has markings on F8-F11 for play, stop, track forward and back (which will be functional in some future version of the firmware), so I have a visual reminder of which key does what.

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