Ever since Google Music launched in the UK – something that I had been waiting for for what seemed like a very long time, I have been after some way of controlling playback without having to visit the page on which the music was being streamed. This is because I listen to music at work, and I want an easy way of being able to pause a track when someone wants a quick word.
It would be great if the media keys on my Mac would be able to control playback (which they do with both iTunes and Spotify – although if both iTunes and Spotify are running, iTunes will fight Spotify for control), but sadly this is not the case. I figured the best way to control audio playback would be by using a Chrome extension for Google Music – perhaps I would even find one which would offer playback control with the media keys. Having tried a few alternatives, I thought I would provide a little review with my experiences.
The first extension I used (which was first in the list following a search in Chrome) was ‘Music Plus for Google Play Music‘. I used this extension for a decent amount of time, finding the UI very nice and clean. The problem was that every-so-often, for no reason which I was able to track down, the extension would lose its connection to Google Music. This resulted in not being able to control the playback as well as a new Google Music tab opening up on my browser at every track change. Eventually, this proved enough of a nuisance to cause me to remove the extension and search elsewhere.
A subsequent search revealed an extension claiming to allow control of playback using the keyboard media keys – exactly what I was looking for. I installed ‘Media Buttons for Google Music‘. Sadly this extension did not work at all – pressing the ‘play/pause’ button during music playback just had the effect of launching iTunes. This extension did not last long.
The second extension in the list of search results is ‘Better Music for Google Play Music‘. After my unsuccessful trial of Media Buttons, I thought I would give another extension a go. The extension was able to control music playback in a similar fashion to Music Plus but suffered similar issues of losing connection to the Play Music page that was open and playing music. There were further UI issues with this extension too, where the pop-up window randomly grew increasingly wider in size when open.
Finally I tried ‘Google Music Applet‘. This has proven to be the best option I have tried so far. It does not offer control from the keyboard, but I have never lost connection to a playing Music window and the UI has not exhibited any such problems. This is the extension of choice for me – the ONLY one which actually works.
Update: Having had Prime Player suggested in a couple of the comments below, I switched to using it, and have been very impressed. It has now become my default tool for controlling music playback in the browser.