exTray: iTunes plugin displays album art on your desktop

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ExTray is a free iTunes plugin that brings pop-up album art, track information, and iTunes controls to the tray menu.

It also optionally provides iTunes and volume controls via keyboard hotkeys, and provides a function whereby you could export your track ratings, playcounts, and last play dates and import them into another machine.

I really like to see album art popups on screen (preferably in the system tray area) that show at-a-glance the track that’s currently playing .

I find this feature to be a curious omission in iTunes. Regardless, exTray provides this and does a very good job! Here are more notes on this software:

  • Desktop popups: you can get album artwork popups, track info popups, or both, and can make any or both of these “sticky” or fade them away a few seconds after showing up. Additionally, ExTray also provides a “Float Art” option; this one floats an album art image on screen (in it’s original size) that the user can move around or manually close (I didn’t care much for that one, to be honest).
  • exTray in the system tray: aside from controlling the desktop popup behavior, the system tray icon is similar to the iTunes icon in that it can launch iTunes, toggle next/back/shuffle, can access your playlists (see below) and can be used to assign ratings to tracks. Note: you might want to remove iTunes’ icon from the system tray to save space, since exTray most of the things that iTunes’ system tray icon can do anyway.
  • Keyboard hotkeys: you can use exTray to assign keyboard shortcuts to do the following: play, pause, next, back, rating up, rating down, and album art popup. Works well, although I personally wish that (a) you could enable a subset of these hotkeys at will rather than all or nothing, and (b) that a combination of special keys could be used to activate (e.g. CTRL+Shift) rather than just one (currently gives you the choice to activate using CTRL, Shift, and Alt).
  • Customizability: exTray is highly customizable, from the background used for the popup messages to the position on screen, height, width, delay, scroll delay, scroll direction and font used, etc.
  • Playlists: you have to enable this in the “advanced” tab, but once you do you can have scroll through and access your playlists from exTray’s icon in the system tray.
  • Exporting/importing iTunes data: a function which I did not test personally. If you are looking to export your track ratings, play counts, and last play dates to another machine then look no further than exTray, because it can do exactly that.
  • Memory use: approx 9 megs (very reasonable for an application like this).

The verdict: although there are a number of programs that offer the same function (including CD Art Display and MoreTunes, which also have the distinction of working with any media player), if you use iTunes then you definitely should check this program out for the following reasons (a) exTrays’ popup messages/album art look pretty cool, (b) are highly customizable, (c) the program has relatively low resource consumption, and (c) overall it is a very solid product (and free).

Version Tested: 1.0.144

Compatibility: WinAll. Requires iTunes.

The program page no longer exists, but you can download ver. 1.0.143 of the program here.