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Summary:

Like a lot of folks out there, I run dual monitors on my Mac. In my home office where there’s no TV, it’s nice to occasionally dedicate one of the screens to playing movies while I continue working away on the other. There’s an inherent problem […]

ItunesVideo_icon

Like a lot of folks out there, I run dual monitors on my Mac. In my home office where there’s no TV, it’s nice to occasionally dedicate one of the screens to playing movies while I continue working away on the other.

There’s an inherent problem in running iTunes in this kind of setup, though, that has been a thorn in my side for a long time. Specifically, the lack of advanced support for full screen playback.

The Problem

Using iTunes to watch a video in full screen on a second monitor blacks out the first monitor as well, rendering it useless. This is a problem. The primary reason people extend their desktop to a second monitor is to increase productivity by giving them more screen real estate to manage more windows and applications. Some research shows that the boost to productivity can be as much as 42 percent. Not surprisingly, that number drops to zero when you want to use iTunes to watch full screen video on one monitor while you continue to work on the other.

Quicktime addressed this problem a while ago, as did a number of other OS X video players. I’ve no idea why Apple would leave this type of functionality out of iTunes. Perhaps it’s being planned as part of some future update, perhaps they’re worried about people hooking up their HDTV and eating into the AppleTV market. Either way, while we wait for Apple to sort it all out, I threw together a little AppleScript as a workaround.

The Solution

Since Quicktime already gives us some advanced configuration options when it comes to fullscreen playback, lets take advantage of those. Open up Quicktime preferences and deselect the option to show background color on all displays, then choose the default screen you’d like to use for playback.

quicktime

Download this script and add it into your ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts folder. The script simply grabs the currently selected item in iTunes, hands it off to QuickTime, and tells it to start playing the file in fullscreen mode. Once you have the script added to iTunes, open up the Keyboard Shortcuts tab in the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane and create a new shortcut for the script. Choose iTunes as the Application and in Menu Title enter the name of the script (“dualscreen” by default), then choose a shortcut.

ItunesVideo_shortcut

Once that’s done, you’re all set. Just browse to and select the movie you want to play in iTunes, hit your shortcut key and AppleScript and Quicktime will take care of the rest. You’ll have beautiful full screen video on one display and on the other you’ll have all the space you want to ignore the work you should be doing but aren’t because you’re to busy watching the movie on the other screen.

  1. Awesome! That has bugged me, too. Thanks!

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  2. Amazing! thnx

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  3. does this work for the visualizer also?

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  4. Fantastic tip Bryan – I never thought of doing this!

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  5. Drag iTunes video window to second monitor or whatever monitor and make it full screen will do the trick too…..

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  6. is there a solution similar to this for Front Row? I can get Front Row to automatically open up on my second monitor, but it blacks out the first monitor.

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  7. “Like a lot of folks out there, I run dual monitors on my Mac” — are you kidding me?! A lot of folks?!! I sincerely doubt that.

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  8. he primary reason people extend their desktop to a second monitor is to increase productivity by giving them more screen real estate to manage more windows and applications. Some research shows that the boost to productivity can be as much as 42 percent. Not surprisingly, that number drops to zero when you want to use iTunes to watch full screen video on one monitor while you continue to work on the other.

    I don’t think I’ll be very prodcutive using a second monitor to watch movies. What’s the purpose of this article?

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  9. Bryan Schuetz Thursday, July 30, 2009

    @Mark/Kyle/David glad you guys liked it
    @Andre that’ll put the movie on that display but entering full screen mode will still black out the other display as well which is what I was trying to avoid.
    @Khurt sorry you didn’t like the article. According to recent research on the multiple display market (http://www.jonpeddie.com/special/MultDisp.shtml) Thirty-two percent of the people surveyed said they were using multiple displays now, and 55% of the non-users said they want to or plan to use multiple displays in the very near future.

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    1. Can this script be modified to play the full looping playlist in iTunes?

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  10. This is going to sound silly, but I could not get it to work. I did not realize that you had to choose the “Remain in Full Screen” option. Just putting it out there for people that did not know.

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