EDIT: I removed and rewrote most of the post to make the question more direct and to make the post a lot shorter. You can of course view the edit history to get the previous version.

Using bspwm on Arch Linux. playerctl to control media, sxhkd to bind media keys to playerctl commands.

I'm trying to find a way to get the latest active media player so when I use the media keys to play/pause a song/movie/.. , my pc automatically controls the latest active mediaplayer.

For instance, when Spotify happens to be open in the background and I'm watching something on VLC, it knows to control VLC and not Spotify when I press media keys. Right now, if both are open, VLC always gets priority from playerctl.

What I need is a way to ask dbus which mediaplayer is currently playing a song, so I can keep it in a file.

EDIT: I found a way to ask each spotify and vlc using:

qdbus org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.vlc /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.PlaybackStatus


qdbus org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.spotify /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.PlaybackStatus

but I'd like to automatically ask all mediaplayers, not each one by name. I tried to do it with org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.* but that doesn't work.

Any ideas?


I did it this way:

This is a script that always runs to check which player is currently active/was last active, and stores that player in a file:


while true ; do
    for m in `qdbus | egrep -i 'org.mpris.MediaPlayer2|plasma.browser_integration'` ; do
        if [[ `qdbus $m /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.PlaybackStatus` == 'Playing' ]]; then
            echo $m > ~/.config/activePlayer/currentPlaying.txt
    sleep 3

and this is a script that sends dbus commands like play/pause/etc/ to the player that is currently active (based on that file). The script gets called by sxhkd which listens to my keypresses.


if [[ $1 == 'play-pause' ]]; then
    qdbus `cat ~/.config/activePlayer/currentPlaying.txt` /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.PlayPause
elif [[ $1 == 'next' ]]; then
    qdbus `cat ~/.config/activePlayer/currentPlaying.txt` /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Next
elif [[ $1 == 'previous' ]]; then
    qdbus `cat ~/.config/activePlayer/currentPlaying.txt` /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Previous
elif [[ $1 == 'stop' ]]; then
    qdbus `cat ~/.config/activePlayer/currentPlaying.txt` /org/mpris/MediaPlayer2 org.mpris.MediaPlayer2.Player.Stop

Is this a good way to do this?

  • 1
    Is your setup using pulseaudio ? If so pacmd list-sink-inputs will print (among other stuff) something like application.process.binary = "totem" ... there's your currently playing app name... – don_crissti Nov 9 '18 at 18:54
  • For me it displays the currently opened apps (it shows spotify and firefox, while both are not playing anything), not the one playing. – zjeffer Nov 9 '18 at 19:07
  • 1
    Well, you should only look for the ones with state: RUNNING... – don_crissti Nov 9 '18 at 19:09
  • I see. But what would the difference be with what I'm doing now? It works perfectly so far... – zjeffer Nov 9 '18 at 19:20

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