I’ve been looking for a way to control audio playback to a background application for a while, so that I can transcribe without a bunch of wrist-burning mouseclicks, and found the following method, which unfortunately depends on iTunes.

Why is that unfortunate? Well, iTunes insists on copying the 650mb-plus audio-capture files to the music library before it will play them back. A small hassle, I guess, but an advantage for QT player.

So, forthwith:

1. Download and install iKey, formerly YoupiKey. Do not set it to be activated by default at boot.

2. Make three Applescripts. They are the simplest scripts ever, and here they are:


tell application ‘iTunes’
end tell


tell application ‘iTunes’
end tell


tell application ‘iTunes’
fast forward
end tell

I saved these files in a folder I created: ~/Library/Applescripts/iTunes

3. in iKey, select the ‘Universal’ set, and from the menubar select Shortcuts > Script > Run script from file. Name the shortcut as the scripts are named (i.e., ‘playpause’). Now click the tab labeled ‘Script,’ and ckick the pull-down menu with the bold question mark. ‘Select…’ will appear.

4. Navigate to the location of the appropriate script and select it from within the dialog that opens when you click ‘Select…’. The script name will then appear in the pulldown.

5. Click the tab labeled ‘General.’ Click the checkbox labeled ‘Keyboard’. The ‘Key combo’ text box will highlight. Press the key combination you wish to control the script. I used ‘Command-space’ for playpause.scr and command-arrows as appropriate for FF and RW.

6. Repeat until you’re happy with the results.

Now, I can directly control the audio playback of iTunes without having to swap to iTunes and have to click out of Word while I’m typing, which is just a huge benefit. Of course I need to make sure that the audio file is opened and ready to play within iTunes, but since I don’t really want the files added to the iTunes library on a permanent basis, that’s fine with me.

I do not want iKey activated by default at boot because Command-Left Arrow and Command-Right Arrow are the default forward and back controls in many interfaces, from the Finder’s filebrowser windows to Safari and IE. You may not care, but it was driving me crazy for a bit this afternoon as I looked up a spelling in the middle of my transcription session.

I didn’t see a way to exclude a given app from the ‘universal’ set in iKey.

One thought on “iKey / background control of playback in iTunes

  1. There’s a preference in iTunes, Advanced -> Copy Files to iTunes music folder when adding to library.

    If it’s not checked, itunes will just add the item to the metadata library, leaving it where ever it lives, appleshare volume, removable, local drive, whatever.

Comments are now closed.