OS X Lion: Using iTunes Screen Saver as a Jukebox

You’ve all probably been familiar with the iTunes Artwork screen saver since, oh, the dawn of time. But in Lion, Apple has added a way to control your music playback directly from it, which I think is pretty great. Some might even say it’s the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, the—aardvark’s ascot? In any case, I’ll tell you all about it in this tip, and knowing me, I might even tell you more than you wanted to know.

To set it up, open System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver, then click on the “Screen Saver” tab at the top. When you do, you’ll see categories on the left, and what we’re looking for is the “iTunes Artwork” option under the Apple category.

After you’ve selected that, you can click on the Options button to decide how many rows of album artwork you’d like to show at once and to set the delay on how often the artwork flips to reveal new stuff. You can also choose the Test button to view your choices before you close the System Preferences window. 

Now that you’ve got everything set up, your screen saver will function as a control for your iTunes library. Hover over an album cover, and you’ll see a play button that you can click. Hover over something that’s playing, and you can pause it. 


Do not make fun of my music. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.


I like this feature a lot, but there are a couple of things that I find to be less than ideal. (You see? You see how diplomatic I am?) I’m not fond of only being able to choose by album and not by song.

Another biggie is the fact that you can’t use the familiar iTunes keyboard shortcuts to move to the next or previous song (they’re Command-Right Arrow and Command-Left Arrow for those of you playing at home). Pressing pretty much anything on your keyboard except for the volume keys makes your Mac quit out of the screen saver. Bummer.

You can, however, use the music controls on your function keys (F7, F8, and F9 on the newer Apple keyboards) to advance through songs, but only if you have a password set on your screen saver. Weird, huh? If you don’t have a password set, pressing any of those keys will eject you out of the screen saver rather rudely. If you do have one, though, and you’ve reached the time limit you set for the password to be required, using those keys will bring up the “enter password” dialog box. You can completely ignore that and continue to advance through songs on the selected album. When you’ve found the music you want, either just wait a few seconds for the password box to vanish or hit Cancel to dismiss it immediately. Sneaky, sneaky us.


Ha ha ha, Apple. I thwart thee. Fix this in an update, I beg of you.


And by the way, if you’d like to set your screen saver to require a password to unlock it, just go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and toggle on the “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins” box. Set an appropriate time delay there, too. Trust me, there are many reasons to do so that have nothing to do with making your iTunes music easy to access.