Workaround: iTunes Video and Dual Screens

42 Comments

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 (s aapl) 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.

42 Comments

Paul Nicholson

iTunes has deleted three years of archived diary entries, and all my saved information from both my iPhone and iPod, including original music. If I could sue Apple, I would expect at least ten million dollars compensation. It is the most evil program in the history of computers.

Does your script work with IBM compatibles?

Geoff

Great write up, I did what you said but everytime i click on something in the other screen the fullscreen will go back to a window view. Is there something i did wrong or is there another issue?

Let me know

Thanks

hari

perfect workaround. it works like a charm.
one small issue.
i itunes you can play a playlist — but with the script, since it is involving an external application, it just stops after playing one song.
one has to select the next song and then apply the shortcut for the script.
hope this can be added to the script as well, similar to the way itunes plays the songs in the list.
(sorry i am not aware of writing the script or else would have tried it.)

anyway thanks the author of the original script.

Isaac Smith

Great script, thank you.

Hey Khurt, contemporize man, I’ve been running dual-monitor for 10+ years and as soon as my shiny new vid card arrives I’ll be running 3 monitors and a 42 inch plasma.
How sweet it is.

Shalin

Yeah, I’d like to know how to do this for a MS Windows XP environment too…

It’s driving me nuts…

–S

Ken

Any idea how do this using Quicktime for windows? It doesn’t have the show on all displays checkbox in the preferences.

mike vasiljevs

Well it works nicely for library films, but not for RENTED films! As i run the script – it says item 1 is not found or similar.

Adam O

Is there away to make it so you can expand iTunes to two monitors? It stops at the max resolution of just one monitor. I would really like to see all the info about a song without using the horizontal scroll bar or shift+wheel mouse.

Dan Neesley

Where are QuickTime Preferences in Snow Leopard?

No System Pref and none seem to be available in QTPlayer.

Brian B

Quicktime X in snow Leopard does not have a Preference Pane (or the same options, blarg Apple!) but QuickTime Player 7 is also installed under the Utilities folder and still has the full screen prefs available within the application. So if you open this script in AppleScript editor and change the line:
“tell application “QuickTime Player”
to
“tell application “QuickTime Player 7”
it will launch QT 7.x and display full screen on the second monitor automagically.

Brian B

By the way, if you are using Spaces, make sure the QuickTime Player 7 app is set for “all spaces” (in the Expose & Spaces Pref pane) so that if you switch spaces it doesn’t keep disappearing from the second monitor if you switch spaces on your primary while in full screen mode on the secondary. (In Spaces, both monitors share each “space”.)

Patrick

Bryan, nice article! Although I still wait for the day when Apple fixes this in iTunes in the same exact way they fixed this in Quicktime Player. Yes, I say “fixes” because this is a problem. I probably won’t use your workaround because I will still not be able to use the iTunes window to do any real time manipulation. Plus, I think if Apple see’s that we are content to live with a workaround, they may not try to make a fix for this in future updates. In the meantime, I think everyone who wants full screen iTunes video playback in a separate window while not blanking out the primary window (or vice versa) needs to submit a feature request to Apple. This needs to be done by everyone who wants this feature, otherwise Apple is not going to know about it or care to do anything about it.

Harry, I am working on a similar project for local closed circuit tv to play company training videos and other “propaganda” in a looping video playlist. Nothing for public broadcast, of course. So far, tests are working out very well. Let me know if you run into any “interlacing issues”, as I can offer up some swell advice from lessons learned. The system would be absolutely perfect if I had dual display functionality in iTunes, which as we both know, we do not. I feel your pain. Did Bryan’s work around help at all?

Another thing that bothers me about iTunes video playback in full screen is that any interruption to iTunes causes full screen mode to quit. Say for instance you are watching a video in iTunes in full screen mode. Now, lets say that your wireless mouse batteries are very low and it causes a warning dialog to pop up to alert you that your mouse’s batteries are about to die. That is nice, and I appreciate that alert, but that just caused iTunes to drop out of full screen mode. QuickTime Player 7 has a preference to “Remain in full screen when player is inactive” which works wonders when watching video full screen in Quicktime. It stays in full screen mode no matter what else is going on, aside from a complete shut down of your mac. This is another feature request that everyone should be making as well. I can’t believe these preferences are absent from iTunes. I wish there was an iTunes PRO. I would cough up the dough to get these features, rather than not have them at all in a free program. I just don’t understand Apple’s logic sometimes.

Lisa

Thanks for sharing that info. It’s particularly useful now that with iTunes 9 I can’t just drag my iTunes window to the 2nd display and make it full screen, because now the movie/show still plays on the primary display, not the secondary display. Very frustrating! Wish I hadn’t upgraded and kept iTunes 8.

However I was wondering if the script can be altered so that it tells Quicktime to automatically open the file on the 2nd display, not the primary display? I don’t know much about writing scripts, so I’m asking the expert!

Thanks again for sharing the info.
Lisa

Harry

I am trying to automate a TV cable channel using iTunes. It would be great if I could use this script to run an entire playlist that is set to loop in the full screen mode and still be able to modify the playlist while “on the air”

Harry

Dave

Harry, Did you figure it out yet because I am doing the same thing for a school district cable TV station and would love to modify on the fly while live. Perhaps we can put our heads together to improve what we’ve done.

–Dave

Kevin

I downloaded the script but there wasn’t a “Scripts” folder in Library/iTunes….so I created one and placed the file I downloaded into this folder. I opened iTunes, selected a movie I wanted to play, pressed the shortcut key that i had created, but nothing happened.

What am I doing wrong? What are some common mistakes?

Please help.

Thanx.

Kevin

Devin

Took me a couple of mistakes, but I got it! Thank you!

I have seen this question posted all over the internet, with no one explaining how to get it to work. This page needs to get popularized.

Mister

tbh, I’m really surprised to see people suffering thru iTunes video. VLC and XBMC are so much better suited for the task. And you won’t have to deal with the black screen or workarounds. But that’s just me.

jonbrodheim

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.

Bryan Schuetz

@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.

Harry

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

Khürt Williams

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?

Khürt Williams

“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.

Kevin

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.

Andre Rieu

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

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