That problem’s solved by an app from the IconFactory called Take Five, which is available in the Mac App Store. Take Five adds another icon to your menu bar. When you click it, you can see details about the currently playing or paused song in iTunes, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s check out its preferences by clicking the tiny gear icon
As it turns out, Take Five can control music from a variety of music apps, but let’s focus on iTunes. Take Five lets you choose just how many minutes your music will remain paused before it automatically starts playing again. I like the default of five minutes.
You can also set a keyboard shortcut to start and stop the Pause timer. I use Command-Control-Spacebar, but this is obviously a personal decision. I add the Option key to a second shortcut that tells Take Five to pause iTunes without setting the five-minute timer.
Once Take Five’s configured, I can start and stop iTunes from the keyboard, regardless of what else I’m doing on my Mac.
If I need to pause my music, I type my keyboard shortcut again. Now, Take Five immediately displays the five-minute countdown below the menu bar. If I want to add more time, I simply drag the slider. I can hurry things, up, too.
To pause again, I go back to my keyboard shortcut. I can un-pause from the keyboard too, if I don’t want to wait the five minutes. When I use my Command-Control-Option-Spacebar shortcut, the music pauses without setting the un-pause timer.
Take Five is great, but it lacks one feature I like for controlling iTunes from the keyboard–the ability to skip tracks. Enter SizzlingKeys. It’s free software, with a US$5 Pro edition. SizzlingKeys installs as a System Preference.
It also lets you set Play and Pause keyboard shortcuts, but since I want to take advantage of Take Five’s ability to automatically un-pause when I forget to, I leave SizzlingKeys’s Pause option turned off.
Instead, I simply set a pair of shortcuts for Previous and Next tracks. I like Command-Control-Left and Right Arrow, but again, it’s your call. Now, when I’m reading something on the Web, I type my Command-Control-Spacebar shortcut to start iTunes via Take Five, and then Command-Control-Right Arrow to skip via SizzlingKeys.
And when I pause again, Take Five starts the countdown. Using those two apps in tandem gives me full iTunes playback control from my keyboard.