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Chrome has support for system-wide keyboard shortcuts. If you install an app that uses media keys — like Google Play Music for Chrome — it will hijack those media keys. Even if you have the Chrome app closed, Chrome will hold onto those keys and not let them go as long as it’s running. You’ll find yourself unable to hit Play/Pause, Forward, and Back to control music in iTunes Get The Most Out Of iTunes 11 With These 10 Tips Get The Most Out Of iTunes 11 With These 10 Tips A few of these tips are work-arounds for features Apple left out in iTunes 11, like iTunes DJ, while others point out a few new handy features you might overlook. iTunes is not a perfect... Read More , Spotify Toastify Adds Global Hotkeys & Notifications To Spotify [Windows] Toastify Adds Global Hotkeys & Notifications To Spotify [Windows] One thing that has managed to turn me away from Spotify for quite a long time is its limited support in hotkeys and media keys. Spotify works great with a select few Logitech keyboards, but... Read More , and other desktop media applications. But this can be fixed!

This doesn’t just apply to media keys — Chrome can capture other system-wide keyboard shortcuts, too.

Control Chrome’s Hotkeys

Chrome doesn’t grab any system-wide hotkeys by default. Instead, apps and extensions ask Chrome for keyboard shortcuts, and Chrome reserves them. You can view and manage these reserved keys from your Extensions page — yes, even keyboard shortcuts associated with apps must be controlled from the extensions page.

To access it, click Chrome’s menu button and select Extensions. Scroll down to the bottom of the Extensions page and click the Keyboard shortcuts link.

chrome extension keyboard shortcuts

Chrome will display the keyboard shortcuts associated with your installed extensions and apps. Note that there are two types of keyboard shortcuts — “In Chrome” shortcuts, which only function while a Chrome window is focused, and “Global” shortcuts, which function anywhere on your system as long as Chrome is running in the background.

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You can control which keyboard shortcuts are global, and which work only in Chrome. If you want your media key shortcuts to only function in Chrome, click the menu next to each shortcut and select In Chrome. If you’d like to disable them entirely, click the X button. If you’d like to associate a different key or combination of keys with an action, click a box and press the keys you want to use.

chrome extensions media keys

Chrome automatically runs as a background application in your system tray if you have background apps installed, so it may be running even if you can’t see it. You can control this by looking for the Chrome icon in your system tray, right-clicking it, and unchecking Let Google Chrome run in the background. This isn’t necessarily the best idea — offline-enabled apps like Google Drive Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Google's Chromebooks is that they are online-only machines – ergo, no Internet, no point. How true is this statement? Read More will normally sync in the background even when you’re not using Chrome, keeping your offline data up-to-date and syncing it as soon as possible when you connect to the Internet again.

let google chrome run in the background system tray

Uninstall Hotkey-Hogging Apps

Just disabling the shortcuts or making them only work in Chrome will fix your problem. However, you may want to just uninstall the  hotkey-hogging apps if you don’t actually use them.

You’ll find apps in the Chrome app launcher, or on the Apps page — click the Apps shortcut on Chrome’s new tab page to view them. Right-click the app you want to uninstall and select Remove from Chrome.

chrome uninstall play music app

If the hotkeys have been captured by an extension, head to the Extensions page and click the trash can icon to the right of an extension to uninstall it.

Note that Chrome syncs your installed apps and extensions between all the Chrome systems you sign into with your Google account. This means that, if you install the Google Play Music app on a Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Chromebooks run a slimmed-down operating system optimized for getting on the web with just the Chrome browser and Chrome apps. Can you switch to a Chromebook? Read More , it will sync to your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop and take over your hotkeys there, too. Similarly, if you uninstall the app or extension on one system it will be removed from your systems when they sync.

uninstall chrome extension

Why Chrome is Stealing Your Media Keys

Chrome’s hotkey-hogging ways can be annoying if you just want to fiddle with the Google Play Music app and keep using iTunes, Spotify, foobar2000 Play Music Like An Audiophile With Foobar2000 [Windows] Play Music Like An Audiophile With Foobar2000 [Windows] Foobar2000 is the desktop music player of choice for audiophiles, tinkerers and anyone looking for a lightweight, efficient program. We have it listed on our page of the best Windows software for a reason, although... Read More , or whatever your favorite desktop music player is. However, it’s actually a very important feature. One of the biggest problems with music-player web apps like Rdio, Spotify Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium membership after a year of uninterrupted monthly payments to the company. This decision came about when I accidentally signed up for 14-days of free Rdio Unlimited. Quite frankly, I... Read More , and Google Play Music is that they can’t capture your hotkeys. Your system’s media keys won’t allow you to pause and move between tracks. This new feature in Chrome allows web apps to capture system-wide hotkeys so they can work just as well as native desktop apps. The feature is restricted to apps and extensions you install, so websites you visit can’t just capture your media keys.

This feature is just one more way Google is closing the gap between Chrome web apps and desktop apps.

Image Credit: Iwan Gabovitch on Flickr

  1. Lars Bo Rasmussen
    November 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Thank you!
    For me it was the PLEX Media Server extension that was grabbing my keys.

  2. michaelchirico
    August 22, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I wish this were more well-known, I posted around trying to figure out this problem for almost a year!

  3. Sebastian
    February 25, 2016 at 12:50 am

    THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR! Couldn't change songs in iTunes and have Hangouts up at the same time. Thanks so much!

  4. Testerman
    February 17, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Great post thanks! Foobar2000 is responding to those keys again. Chrome still open.

  5. Richard
    January 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I have checked and none of my extensions have any hotkeys set - yet Chrome is still stealing ALL my custom global hotkeys (in most cases, these are Ctrl + Alt + number. Any other ideas as to why Chrome is stealing these.

  6. taco man
    November 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    thanks dude. good post.

    too bad google play music has to be such a hassle. i tried to like it but spotify is just a better experience

  7. Adam Smith
    July 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you so much!

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