A few recommended books, movies, games, and albums. If you want to look for more recommendations, feel free to look at the larger selection over at Amazon or my Amazon Store with more recommendations.

  • Cryptonomicon
    by Neal Stephenson
  • DreamCypher
    Dancing Ferret
  • Tron: Legacy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version) [+Digital Booklet]
    Tron: Legacy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version) [+Digital Booklet]
    Walt Disney Records
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
    by Robert A. Heinlein

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Custom Keyboard Shortcuts - and Making It Easier to Rate Songs in iTunes 

I recently started going back through my music library to rate and clean up a number of new songs that had been added over time, and old songs that I just never quite sorted out by category or genre. 

Changing album names, or other information on a group of songs requires using the "Get Info" panel. Changing ratings for groups of songs requires the same, or using an awkward multi-level menu.

This article is about how to make a convenient, intuitive shortcut for rating the selected song(s) in iTunes.

One little-known feature of the Mac OS is the ability to define arbitrary keyboard shortcuts, or change the existing system shortcuts. These shortcuts can be defined for everything the user does, or for just one program or "App". Since the ratings exist as a menu item, we can create a shortcut to use while we are in iTunes.

Starting Point: System Preferences

We'll be working on the "Language and Text", and "Keyboard" system preferences, located below in OSX 10.7

Step One: The Character Palette

Most menu items don't use custom characters, but the ratings menu options are a "black star" character, so we'll have to enable the input menu so we can easily access the character and keyboard viewers. Both are useful tools to play around with, and to have around.  

As shown below, go to Language & Text, select the Input Sources tab (1), and check the "Keyboard & Character Vewer" and "Show Input Menu in menu bar" (2 and 3).

Unless you really need to specify keyboard layouts for other languages, you don't need to check any of the other languages.

At this point, a new menu item should show up in your menu bar. 

Step Two: The Keyboard Preferences

Now we go to the Keyboard system preferences pane. Choose "Keyboard Shortcuts", select "Application Shortcuts", and click the "plus" symbol to add a new shortcut.

A sheet will slide down. Select iTunes as the application (1), and put the cursor in the "Menu Title" field (2). This field must exactly match the name of the menu item that you are creating a shortcut for. Capitals, spaces, and special characters like Ellipses count. 

Here's where you go back to the input menu and select "Show Character Viewer." In the window that pops up, Select "Bullets/Stars" on the left, and the "Black Star" character as shown - the name will show up on the right. Once you have the right one selected, double-click on it, and a star will be added to the Menu Title field. 

You can now close the character viewer, and return to the keyboard settings. Click inside the "Keyboard Shortcut" field, and type "Command-1" (⌘1 or Apple-1) exactly as you would type Command-P (⌘P) to print. Then, when it the panel appears as shown below, select and copy the star character (make sure you don't grab any empty space) for re-use, and click "Add".

Now, click "+" again, and paste in the star twice (again, make sure there are no spaces in between), and this time for teh shortcut select Command-2 (⌘2). Repeat for three, four, and five stars. You can also add a menu shortcut for "None" (Capitals count in menus and Menu shortcuts) - and I use Command-0 (zero) as the designated shortcut.

When done, you should be able to go under the file menu, and look under Ratings to see the following in iTunes (make sure you have a song selected)

How to use the shortcuts:

Simply have one or more selected in iTunes, and type the desired shortcut. All selected songs will now have the assigned rating. Note that the song being played is not necessarily the selected (hilighted) song, so Command-L (⌘L) will select the currently playing song, allowing you to then use these new shortcuts.