I Love Stars 3.0

I try to rate all my iTunes music, mainly because ratings are useful for creating Smart Playlists. But it can be a hassle to rate tracks if I'm doing other things while listening. A few great iTunes add-ons--for example, CoverSutra and Synergy--let me rate tracks using keyboard shortcuts or pop-up displays, but I find that even these solutions aren't visible enough to remind me to rate each track.

In the past, I recommended Rating Bar, a convenient utility that puts iTunes' five-star scale right in the menu bar, displaying the current track's rating, if it exists, and letting you set or change that rating. Unfortunately, Rating Bar didn't work with Tiger (OS X 10.4), which led me to the Tiger-compatible iTunesRating...which, as luck would have it, didn't work with Leopard. The good news is that the Leopard-compatible solution I found, I Love Stars, outshines both Rating Bar and iTunesRating and occupies a permanent spot in my menu bar.

Like those two utilities, I Love Stars puts iTunes' rating scale in menu bar, letting you view or, by clicking on a star, set the rating of the current song. But what makes I Love Stars so appealing is that the developer has focused on a number of little details that make the program especially useful. Some examples:

  • The rating scale automatically hides, freeing up menu-bar space, when iTunes isn't playing; you can also set it to hide when listening to podcasts, streaming audio, or particular iTunes genres that you don't care to rate. (A cute touch: when hiding or unhiding, any visible rating stars "roll" off the menu bar.)
  • Instead of clicking directly on a star to rate, you can move your mouse cursor over the scale and then use your mouse's scroll wheel (or scroll using a laptop trackpad) to choose the rating.
  • After an unrated has played roughly two-thirds of the way through, I Love Stars plays an audible alert and flashes the rating scale to remind you to rate the track. This may be my favorite feature, as I often forget to rate tracks while they're playing.
  • You can assign half-ratings--a hidden iTunes feature--by clicking twice on the next-highest star. For example, to rate a track as 3.5, you click on the fourth star once to assign a 4-star rating, then click on it again to reduce it to 3.5.
  • A right-click on the rating scale displays the artist and track name (but not the album name) of the currently playing track.

As with CoverSutra and Synergy, you can also assign keyboard shortcuts to rate tracks; I use command+option+5 to assign a rating of 5, command+option+4 for a rating of 4, and so on. I Love Stars also supports iTunes' album ratings; if you've rated an album, the album rating is displayed for each track in the album that doesn't have an individual track rating. (Unfortunately, you can't assign album ratings via I Love Stars.)

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