Simplify: A Simple but Beautiful Mini Player

| In-Depth Review

Simplify, by Pixel Mates, provides a full-featured mini-player and desktop widget for iTunes, Rdio, and Spotify. The app makes it easy to control your music playback even when you have many applications filling your desktop real estate.

The Simplify desktop widget’s appearance is dictated by its “jacket.” The jacket is an HTML/CSS/JavaScript bundle that dictates how the desktop widget should look, where the controls should be and what they should look like, and whether or not the desktop widget should attempt to display the album cover art for the currently playing track. The software comes with 3 preinstalled jackets, and Pixelmates provides a free template download for creating your own jacket.

SimplifyThe Default Jacket for Simplify

If you click the Play button in Simplify, it will begin playback in the last music program you were using. If you haven’t been playing any music, you have to start playing music in one of the sources Simplify supports first.

Installation and System Requirements

Simplify is available from the Mac App Store, making installation a breeze. It’s a small app, weighing in at only 1.3 MB and runs on OS X 10.6 or later.

The Good

The desktop widget is definitely a nice addition to your Mac. While iTunes and Rdio do have mini-players to save screen real estate, I’m always losing them when running many apps at once. The desktop widget offered by Simplify also provides a better experience than the iTunes and Rdio mini-players. As for Spotify, it doesn’t have a mini-player at all, making Simplify a useful tool to have placed on my desktop. Since it’s pinned, the app even stays in place when I four-finger swipe up on my Magic Trackpad, so I can quickly and easily get back to the player to click Pause, Previous, or Next.

Since it’s much smaller than the iTunes, Spotify, and Rdio apps, I find it much easier to reserve a space on my desktop for Simplify. If you want more information about the track you’re listening to or more control over playback, you can launch the controller (called the mini player in the Control-click contextual menu). The controller also provides a pin button to keep the controller always visible on the desktop, an icon to copy any URL information for the currently playing track, and a button to open Simplify’s preferences pane.

SimplifySimplify’s Controller

Within Simplify’s Preferences pane, you can configure customizable keyboard shortcuts to show the app’s larger controller, begin playback, adjust the volume up or down, and go to the next or previous tracks. You can also control how the application runs. For example, you can configure whether or not the app’s desktop widget is enabled, whether or not the widget should stay visible when the mini-controller is shown, and whether to show the app in Mission Control or Expose, among other options. You can also switch between jackets and install new jackets.

SimplifySimplify’s Preferences

The Bad

Switching from one music player to another is clunky. You have to launch the player itself (iTunes, for instance), pause playback, and then launch the music player you want to start using (such as Spotify.) Once that’s done, you can use Simplify to pause, play, fast-forward, or rewind.

Future Development

According to Simplify’s developers, the next release of the software will include a number of exciting new features. The first is the Simplify Music Box. The Music Box will allow users to search their iTunes library, Spotify network, and Rdio network for music. The Simplify Music Box will aggregate all of the results in a single interface, but the developer says that since there isn’t any special API access across all the players to allow seamless playback, it won’t be possible to create a mixed playlist of tracks from more than one music source.

The Music Box will be available from the Simplify mini-player, using a keyboard shortcut, or by pulling it from the top of the screen with the mouse (similar to how the notification screen is accessed in iOS).

The next release of the app should also provide Last.fm integration.

Product: Simplify

Company: Pixel Mates, Ltd.

List Price: US$4.99

Pros:

Fully customizable desktop widget, allowing you to tailor the appearance to your own preferences. Allows your playback controls to be pinned to your desktop in a widget. Gives a common interface to iTunes, Spotify and Rdio

 

Cons:

Have to begin playback in iTunes, Spotify, or Rdio before the app becomes useful. The app provides no way to switch between music sources

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