What’s my most-used application? What do a recommend to all of my friends? Hands down: SizzlingKeys from Yellow Mug software. This is perfect for a student and you don’t have to be a tech freak at all to use it. It’s easy as pie. Read on for a basic breakdown and an exclusive discount on the Pro version.

SizzlingKeys lets you control all of iTunes without switching over to iTunes. Here’s the idea: you’re writing a paper, listening to some music and… someone bursts into your dorm room with a very important beer to chug, your phone rings, the librarian taps you on the shoulder — something sudden and time-sensitive — how do you scramble to stop your music? With SizzlingKeys, you just hit a customizable hotkey from any application and you’re ready for action.

 

 

So, you can start and stop your music using SizzlingKeys, but there’s more. You can setup an “almost mute” level which will keep the music playing, but at an instantaneously lower level, so you can carry on using “inside voices,” dodging an RA making rounds for loud music. You can skip tracks, toggle shuffle on/off, rate songs and even search your entire music library without switching to iTunes. In the event that you’d need to switch to iTunes anyway, SizzlingKeys even helps you do that.

Growl is seamlessly installed/integrated so that every time a new song starts, the title, album and artist appear in the corner of your monitor as though your whole screen were a music video. That’ll make you feel special.

Visit Yellow Mug Software to download SizzlingKeys. The installation is a cinch. After it’s up and running, you’ll notice that it’s become a part of your System Preferences pane (under “Other”). This keeps it tidily out of the way. You’ll want to check the box for “Launch automatically at login” to ensure completely concealed operation in the future. (It uses up less RAM than TextEdit.)

The only trick to setting it up is hotkey management. The first thing you’ll notice is that the default settings use the “function” keys (F9, F8), which won’t do you much good if you’re using a laptop. When you change them, make sure the new hotkeys don’t interfere with the ones that currently exist on your computer. If you’re having problems, such a conflict is usually the cause. Pull up Keyboard & Mouse in the System Preferences and scan the Keyboard Shortcuts tab to make sure you aren’t doubled up.

The Show Playlists and Search functions pull up Quicksilver-esque menus that are much easier to use and iTunes-specific (though I use Quicksilver instead for those two things). I usually use the Show/Hide function to bring iTunes quickly to the front — which means hitting the hotkey twice if the program isn’t hidden. I also have the Mute, Volume Up and Down disabled since I’m too badass to ever turn my music down.

The other thing you might notice is the “Pro” tab. As you can see, SizzlingKeys is certainly fully-functional without the upgrade. Personally, I coughed up $5 for the Pro edition just because I love it so much. But the Pro functions are also handy for some other things. The Skip Backward/Forward hotkeys are an invaluable way to scan through a recording while transcribing an interview or lecture and Toggle Shuffle can be handy if you’d like to listen to a whole album after hearing a random song. Here’s some more incentive: just type in the code “HACKCOLLEGE” at checkout for a 20% discount. That’s for 20% off anything at Yellow Mug (I also recommend FileChute).

You might also ask: why not use Quicksilver? To which I pose: why use Quicksilver? Let’s face it. Quicksilver is a pain in the ass to setup for things like this. It’s a program on your dock that runs the risk of closing somehow. But most of all, the features with SizzlingKeys are all there: the Almost Mute option, the Floater, the Ratings. It’s designed for people who just need the basics, anyway.

Finally, for those who insist on using Windows, I’m told that WinAmp has global shortcuts built right in.

This post is part of the 12 HackCollege Days of Christmas feature.