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1/07/2003: Global Audio Control (GAC)
I like hotkeys. Things that I use my computer for frequently (several times a day) should require as few steps as possible. That's why I like MultiDesk compared to some other virtual-desktop software I've seen - when I want to switch screens, MultiDesk lets me do it with one keypress, instead of using my mouse to hunt for the program icon in the system tray and clicking one or more times to get the screen I want. As I mentioned in an earlier review, I have WinAmp running all the time on my work computer because most of the time I'm programming or writing technical documents and I enjoy having music playing while I work. I used to use headphones, but it was a pain to pull them off when the phone rang or someone walked in to my office or I needed to get up, so I switched to speakers. The problem with speakers is that when the phone rings or someone comes in to my office, I need to turn the music down or off. For a long time I managed this by hunting for my WinAmp icon, clicking on it to bring WinAmp to the front of whatever I was working on, then hunting for the pause or stop button to kill the music. That's not a whole lot of steps, but when your phone is ringing, it takes 2 or 3 rings to complete that process and then answer the phone. I could have got the company to spring for a "multimedia keyboard" that had a button to pause music, but some co-workers have similar keyboards and they haven't worked all that well for them. One day I finally decided that there had to be a better way, so I went looking and found Global Audio Control (GAC for short).
GAC lets you set up hotkeys (keyboard combinations, like ALT+T or CONTROL+W) for common audio and WinAmp functions, including:
What these hotkeys do for you is give you the ability to control your music with one keypress, no matter what application you're currently working in. (Full-screen games and some other software might interfere with the hotkeys, but most applications should be fine.) So now I can be working in Word, checking e-mail, writing new programs, filling out a work order, or checking a tech support Web site while grooving to my tunes, but when the phone rings or someone walks into my office, I can pause my music (or, if I didn't use WinAmp, I could mute the Windows master volume) with one keypress (I use WINDOWS+Z because it's easy to press) in a fraction of a second. Similarly I can skip to the next song with another keypress (WINDOWS+C), or change my Windows volume (WINDOWS+Q and WINDOWS+A) if the song is too quiet/loud. Here's how I've got my GAC hotkeys set up right now:
GAC lets you create hotkeys using any of the standard Windows "modifier" keys and key combinations: CONTROL, ALT (and CONTROL-SHIFT and CONTROL-ALT), and the Windows key. Windows has several Windows-key-based hotkeys built in (such as WINDOWS+E to bring up the Explorer, and WINDOWS+M to minimize all open windows), which you can't override with GAC, but CONTROL or ALT hotkeys in GAC do override their normal function (such as CONTROL+P to print a Word document) in the current application, so be careful what hotkeys you define. I prefer hotkeys that can be done with one hand, which limits me to what combos I can use, but if you're not as neurotic as I am, you'll run out of things to assign hotkeys to long before you run out of key combinations.
In conclusion, and to sum up, GAC lets you assign hotkeys to control WinAmp, change your Windows volume, and launch applications, all three of which I use several times every day. That's all it does, so if you don't need to do any of these, don't bother downloading it. But I think that most people can find some value in GAC.
Update 12/28/2003: The recently-released WinAmp 5 now has global hotkeys that make GAC basically obsolete for controlling WinAmp (though GAC works fine with WinAmp 5). However, I still use GAC because of it's application-launching and master-volume control abilities. So if you only use GAC for controlling WinAmp, you can try WinAmp 5 without also running GAC if you prefer.
|©2017 Tyler Chambers|