Apple’s iTunes application is perhaps the most popular app ever installed on the Mac. It’s also one of the least flexible, in terms of customization. There’s little you can do to “make it your own,” so to speak. However, all is not lost for habitual tweakers like myself; the iTunes Visualizer can satisfy your need to not leave well-enough alone.
If you display your iTunes window on a second monitor, or just like to look at the iTunes Visualizer full screen on your 30″ LCD, you should know that you have some really nice options available for customizing the appearance of the Visualizer.
Invoking the Visualizer by hitting Command + T (hit Command + F to make it full screen if you wish) then hitting the ? key brings up an overlay on the Visualizer screen containing a few keyboard shortcuts to control various aspects of whichever Visualizer you’re running at the time. But these customizations only go so far. To move beyond minor tweaks to Apple’s built-in Visualizers, you can install a number of truly cool third-party Visualizers which really enhance the iTunes experience.
Download More Visualizers
I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite Visualizers to get you started. This is by no means a complete list, so if you’re looking for even more, I suggest a quick Google search to quench your thirst.
All the Visualizers listed below work perfectly with OS X Leopard, iTunes 8.2, and are free to download and use. Click the preview image to go directly to the download page of each Visualizer.
Punkt is a Quartz Composer Visualizer that is much cooler than it appears in this screenshot. Colors burst to the beat of your music.
Circle places the track name, artist and album in a circular format, and floats in a 3D space.
Fountain Music is probably one of my favorite Visualizers. It reminds me of the drummers in The Blue Man Group, where water is blasting upwards from the drums, highlighted by bright neon lights as they play. Fountain Music also has a decent amount of customization options, such as particle size and color.
Dragon features a squishy, squirmy dragon dancing to your music. I almost feel like this one borders on being somewhat icky — but it’s truly awesome.
WhiteCap places dynamic wireframe mesh visuals on your screen, cycling through colors and traveling through space.
Figure places the track title, album, artist and album art on a virtual wall, swiveling around in 3D space.
Bugaboo places colorful dancing lightning bugs on screen. This is another one of those that you have to see to appreciate.
Cubism brings a Tetris-like appearance to your Visualizer, bouncing blocks to the beat of your music. A 3D cube with the album art mingles among the blocks as well.
Gaslight is a customizable frequency spectrum analyzer — kind of old-school, but still quite nice!
Snow, another offering from WowLab, displays colorful snow blowing across your screen. This one is really nice for soothing music after a rough day at the office.
LED Flow uses Apple’s Quartz technology to place a colorful level meter in 3D space.
G-Force, the original awesome third-party Visualizer for iTunes, still going strong with its fractal goodness!
Sing places a friendly little creature in your iTunes window and sings. Sort of. Well, it’s cool to look at anyway.
Jumping Steve pays homage to Steve Jobs with a cutout jumping jack that dances to the beat. Hit the P key for a special iPod commercial-like silhouette feature.
Don’t forget that different Visualizers will offer disparate customization options, the level of which (if any) varies between minor, and fairly major stuff — it just depends on the developer, and how much time they bothered to put in. Don’t forget to hit the ? key to find out what options are available to you.
If you’ve never installed a plugin or other add-on to iTunes, Visualizers are a great place to start. They’re simple, require little effort to get up and running, and typically they either work or they don’t, with no ill side-effects.