From The Tips Box: iTunes Hotkeys, Unboxing Videos, Foaming Soap

Readers offer their best tips for controlling iTunes when out of focus, uses for gadget unboxing videos, and making your own foaming soap.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons — maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in — the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Use AutoHotkey to Control Out-of-Focus iTunes Windows

Berky93 passes on an AutoHotkey script for controlling iTunes:

A little while back, you ran an article about a program called HKTunes. The purpose of the program is to control iTunes without having the iTunes window set as the active window, or even visible. However, I noticed that the program has some flaws. for instance when I set it to run at start up it does not function, and I have to re-start the program to get it working. So I found a better way to do it, using one of the greatest script-making languages ever, AutoHotkey. The script is simple. It detects the input and then sends the command to iTunes. By default, I have the program set to do 3 things: Next, Previous, and Play/Pause. They are activated by the media keys on the keyboard. However, it is easy to change both the hotkeys and the function they activate. All you need to know is the shortcut keys within iTunes. Here's a rundown of the process to add a new key:

Each section of the script looks like this:


DetectHiddenWindows , On

ControlSend , ahk_parent, ^{right}, iTunes ahk_class iTunes

DetectHiddenWindows , Off


The first line determines what hotkey will perform the given action. In this case, pressing the media_next button on the keyboard will send the command, located in the third line. The command is whatever is within the {} brackets. In this case, the right arrow key will be pressed. This means that pressing media_next will send iTunes the command right, which will select the next song. To change either the hotkey or the action it will perform, change either the top or third lines. For the top line, you will need to know the library of autohotkey's keys, to know how to tell the program what key to press. This can be found here:

For the third line, you will need to know the iTunes shortcuts. A list can be found here: (I am unsure how accurate this list is, but it appears to check out.)

Creating a new key is also simple. Simply copy the above code and paste it in a new line in the script. Remember to leave at least one line between it and the code above it. I dont think this is necessary for the script to function, but it really helps keep your script organized and makes it easier to change keys, especially if you have a lot of keys. now that the code is copied, simply change the hotkey and command to something new. And viola! A new hotkey for you.

This technique should work for any program, you just need to change the iTunes ahk_class iTunes to something else.

Check Gadget Unboxing Videos to Ensure Condition

Photo by Declan Jewell.

teael tells us how to make sure you're getting your gadgets in good condition:

I found a great use for the thousands of "unboxing videos" on Youtube. love them or hate them they can be helpful if you're an eBay junkie, or buying anything "new" not directly from the original company. You can watch the unboxing videos to compare what you've got to ensure that it's "new-in-box" as the seller advertised.

Dilute Liquid Soap for Foamy, Money-Saving Germ Killing

Photo by Michael David Pederson.

Matt shows us how he saves money on his favourite type of soap:

Like most germophobes I get more satisfaction out of foaming handsoap but I hated buying the refills and they are harder to find. All the dispensers conveniently say "Use foaming refills only". Well after having a ton of standard soap laying around I thought I'd try making my own. After some self experimenting and some googling, it appears like a 1:5 soap to water ratio is what the manufactures use. So I gave it a shot and it appears that the higher the soap to water ratio, the denser the foam. So the benefit is 2 fold, you get refills cheap and you can buy your favourite soap and only use 1/5 the normal amount.

Use Pebbles to Keep Track of Laps

Photo by sburke2478.

somedumbguy shares with us how he keeps track of his laps when running:

Carry pebbles – one for each lap you want to run – and toss one aside every time you complete a lap. That's it. Easy and effective. When you toss that last pebble, you're entering your last lap.

One real advantage of this approach, to me at least, is that it keeps you in touch (literally!) with your progress and can thus help to keep you motivated. After all, who wants to throw in the towel when they've got just one pebble left?

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