One of my favorite parts of my Macbook is the set of media keys across the top of the keyboard. For a music, movie, TV and general media junkie like myself, these keys make things quick and easy. What I do hate though, is when I switch to an external keyboard and mouse, which I generally do pretty often with the way my home office is set up, I lose that functionality. When this happens, the only option you’re left with is going all the way in to iTunes, or at least up to the menu bar, to change tracks, volume, etc. This wrecks your workflow. Another problem with them is that they take up useful function keys. These keys are used for different things in different scenarios on different machines, but on a Mac, they’re useless as anything besides media keys. I know a lot of professionals in the computer industry that rely heavily on the function keys on their keyboard, and I can see where they’re coming from when they say they hate a Mac’s dedicated row at the top. SizzlingKeys is a free application for your Mac that can help solve all of these problems.
SizzlingKeys installs as a preference pane, meaning you launch the installer, double click the icon, and rather than getting an application added to your Applications folder, you get this:
When you click the SizzlingKeys preferences pane for the first time, you are greeted with this window:
A quick look around makes SizzlingKeys usefulness blatantly apparent. It actually gives you a few advantages that you didn’t have prior to installation. First, you can assign iTunes hot-keys to whatever keys you want, meaning you can make the keys in the home row on your keyboard, or at least close to it, making it much easier to stay in your workflow and change a song than it would be to head all the way to the top of the keyboard to do it. Additionally though, you can now use an external keyboard to control iTunes, and it will be exactly the same as when you’re using your laptop’s keyboard! This is great because it doesn’t make you learn more than one way to do the same thing. Last, it allows you to have the functionality of your function keys back for all applications!
Feel free to assign some keys and have fun! Not much changes when you click “Start,” but for reference, it should say SizzlingKeys is running, in green, like below:
One more thing that is absolutely worth mentioning is SizzlingKeys’ Extras tab. These are just some fun little capabilities that are baked in to the app, but they are so frequently used amongst many Mac owners I know that a lot of people have apps that enable these things separately. My favorite’s are the “Put computer to sleep” and “Lock computer” hot-keys, which frankly, I probably use more than the iTunes ones! Pretty great deal for a free app!
The last step you probably want to take to completely utilize SizzlingKeys best traits is to disable those media keys, turning them back into standard function keys. To do this, just head in to System Preference and click Keyboard. Then, make sure you’re in the keyboard tab, and check the box labeled “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys“. The window should appear as it does below, until you check the box.
And that’s that! Now you’ve got a new, quick, and easy way to change iTunes tracks, volume, and way more, and you’ve coaxed a little more functionality and flexibility from your standard keyboard!
Have another way to get similar results, or a question or comment? Tell us below!