Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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iTunes 7.3.1 & QuickTime 7.2

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This week brought us two updates for media playing from Apple. The first is the update from iTunes 7.3 to iTunes 7.3.1 which apparently fixes the rather embarrassing bug they managed to ship iTunes 7.3 with, meaning that now people should actually be able to upgrade their iTunes 7.2 libraries without problems. Congratulations for that.

The other upgrade is to QuickTime 7.2, the installer of wich seems to be a sorry example of software updater quality control negligence for some. While this seems to include a number of security and other bug-related fixes under the hood, it finally removes the braindead limitation from QuickTime Player’s UI that kept people from playing films in full screen mode if they hadn’t paid another 30$ to Apple for the privilege. Great to see that it finally dawned on Apple that this strategy is crap. Particularly as this limitation has always been easy to circumvent with a line or three of AppleScript.

This isn’t to say that QuickTime Player got fixed UI-wise, of course. It is still ridden with ugly ‘PRO’ labels in some menu items. Menu items which look inactive but still highlight when you hover about them in an Microsoft-worthy strike of UI brokenness. Similarly they didn’t make the effort to actually localise the QuickTime Player application, so we get the sophisticated prettiness of clipped and mis-positioned text in German. Which pretty much assures (but doesn’t particularly surprise) us that Apple’s quality control in this region has a staff of 0 assigned to this matter.

part of German QuickTime Player preferences with overlapping labels

part of German QuickTime Player preferences with clipped text in popup menus

And while the straightforward access to full-screen playing is a welcome addition, it doesn’t go far enough. For example when it comes to subtitles. Only recently Apple added some kind of subtitle support to QuickTime (which made me and others hope that they will include multi-lingual subtitles to their iTunes film offerings, something that hasn’t happened yet from what I have heard). And more relevantly, or at least more immediately usefully, the wonderful Perian plugin which enables QuickTime to play real world video files rather than just those from the sanitised world Apple would prefer to limit us to, now has support for external subtitle files in QuickTime.

The problem with that, however, is that you’ll always get to see the subtitles when they exist. Even if you don’t want to. And that QuickTime player refuses to show you the checkbox to toggle those subtitles unless you bend over pay that good old 30$ fee – presumably because toggling subtitles – a feature that even a 30€ crap DVD player has built in – is just the kind of thing which only ‘PRO’ users should be able to do. Ah well. But as QuickTime and its player aren’t bad in themselves but only in their UI and marketing, AppleScript is once more here to help us.

And hence, here’s a simple AppleScript – based on rather simple heuristics – that lets you toggle subtitles in a QuickTime player. Add it to your script menu and things will be good.

July 14, 2007, 11:01

Tagged as iTunes, Mac OS X.

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