How-To: Control iTunes With QuickSilver

I 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 (⌥ ⌘↓). 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 ⌥⌘→
Previous Song Option-Command-Left Arrow ⌥⌘←
Search Artists Option-Command-Down Arrow ⌥⌘↓

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.