iTunes Control's pop-up track info box. (Credit: CNET Networks)

For many Windows users, Apple's iTunes is a mixed bag. It offers many of the music and video jukebox services we all want, but it's often sluggish and the polar opposite of customizable. A new freeware plug-in called iTunes Control gives us all a chance to remedy at least part of that situation.

It doesn't do a thing for system slowdowns, but iTunes Control does offer a very reasonable way to add long-missing features, such as customizable hot keys, and a customizable pop-up that shows users album art and displays song information.

Compatible with versions of iTunes as old as 4.6, iTunes Control's two most useful features are definitely the aforementioned hot keys and the On-Screen Display pop-up. The OSD can be customized to an amazing extent. Users can choose to have album art displayed, and can choose which information about the currently playing track gets shown. Users can also choose the screen position, the size of the album art, the background color, the font, the font color, the border thickness and color, and more about the aesthetics of the OSD box.

The album art doesn't have to be shown at all, and although the default setting is to show the track rating, that's easily removed. Under the Layout tab, users can cut-and-paste tags to change the display. I got rid of the track rating (see screencapture) because I don't use them, and added the song length, the track number, and the total number of tracks.

Note: Opting for the Outline mode will override any background color or border previously chosen.

iTunes Control's Options panel lives up to the program's name. (Credit: CNET Networks, Inc.)

The ability to change the hot keys is much appreciated, too. Users can set up to 30 different hot keys, not only new keys to control jumping forward to the next track or back to the previous one, but also track ratings, repeat mode,and hide and show iTunes.

Users can also set the title information displayed for iTunes itself, and the start up and shutdown behavior for iTunes and the plug-in. Two useful options tie the plug-ins behavior to iTunes, so that when the plug-in is started and stopped, iTunes will also open and shutdown.

The program is still in beta, and so users shouldn't be surprised by some stability wonkiness. Specifically, even though there's an Apply button to enact changes immediately, users may have to hit the Okay button to see them take effect.

This is a pretty neat plug-in for those addicted to iTunes. It goes a reasonable distance to making the ubiquitous jukebox more tolerable on a PC.