Workaround: iTunes Video and Dual Screens


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.


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.


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.