DEV Community

Cover image for Building a BBC Sounds status bar app for macOS
Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor

Posted on • Originally published at

Building a BBC Sounds status bar app for macOS


I listen to the radio a lot while developing and after trying the available
apps at the time I wrote a simple native status bar app a few years ago in Ruby using the
RubyMotion compiler toolkit.

Radio App

This allows you to simply switch between a preset list of radio streams
and has media key support so you can pause/play and change station with the
forward/back keys.

This is probably my most used app on the mac but it lacks a lot of features
I really want and I have intended to revisit it for a while.

Having a few rare hours to spare over Christmas this year I started to have a
look at what was available and determined that a WebView app of the
relatively new BBC Sounds web app would be ideal,
the main criteria being:

  • Native status bar app
  • WebKit webview of the BBC Sounds site
  • Media key support for pause/play from the keyboard

Existing tools

There are a couple of projects I'd heard of that assisted you writing apps that
wrap websites in web views so I thought I'd start there.

The webview golang project assists you in writing a
native app with cross-platform support (windows, mac, linux) very simply, this is
literally all you need:

package main

import ""

func main() {
    webview.Open("BBC Sounds",
        "", 400, 600, true)

It really couldn't be any simpler to get started and results in a native player,
job done!

webview App

The only downside to this great project is that it abstracts so much away from you
there isn't really any room for customisation, unless you want to get your hands
dirty with C so it doesn't really meet all my criteria.

The WebShell project looked
like it would allow for more customisation at the expense of the cross-platform
support (which isn't essential for me).

Following the instructions and doing a little bit of configuration I had a
player up and running with almost the same results as the webview app. WebShell
also allows you to configure it as a status bar app and has references to the media
keys in the code so I thought I'd hit the jackpot.

Unfortunately there were a number of major bugs, eg. 2 audio streams playing at
the same time and the media keys not doing anything for me that meant it wasn't
going to work.

I figured it would be a good starting point though but after
delving deeper into the code I realised it was doing so much more that I would need
(or understand) that I wouldn't be happy maintaining my fork, if I could even
get it working as I wanted.

At this point though I was starting to understand what was needed to make it work,
and had a great reference app to look at I decided to have a go building it from scratch.

Building the solution

I cracked open a new macOS app in Xcode and found this great tutorial Menus and Popovers in Menu Bar Apps for macOS
that walks you through building a simple status bar app with a popover. This WeatherBar tutorial was also really useful as a second reference. I'm not going to duplicate the setup steps of these tutorials here.

The main gist of the code that gets this working (in the AppDelegate) is:

let statusItem = NSStatusBar.system.statusItem(withLength: NSStatusItem.variableLength)
let popover = NSPopover()

func applicationDidFinishLaunching(_ aNotification: Notification) {
  let icon = NSImage(named: "status")
  icon?.isTemplate = true
  if let button = statusItem.button {
      button.image = icon
      button.action = #selector(togglePopover(_:))

@objc func togglePopover(_ sender: Any?) {
    if popover.isShown {
        closePopover(sender: sender)
    } else {
        showPopover(sender: sender)

func showPopover(sender: Any?) {
    if let button = statusItem.button { button.bounds, of: button, preferredEdge: NSRectEdge.minY)

func closePopover(sender: Any?) {

Once the popup was showing I needed to get a WebView in there and this incredible
article The Ultimate Guide to WKWebView was my frequent reference.

The main detail of the implementation here (in WebViewController) is:

var webView: WKWebView!

override func loadView() {
    let webConfiguration = WKWebViewConfiguration()
    webView = WKWebView(frame: .zero, configuration: webConfiguration)
    view = webView

override func viewDidLoad() {

public func loadURL(_ url: URL) {
    webView.load(URLRequest(url: url))

At this point the content failed to load, and I discovered I needed to add a
permission to the app to be a network client, apparently this is a relatively
new sandbox security feature in macOS.


With the content loading we have a functional status bar player! One drawback
was that that the audio failed to play automatically until the popover was
opened. I couldn't find a perfect solution to this but hacked in a quick
open/close on launch that worked around it in AppDelegate.

DispatchQueue.main.async {
    self.showPopover(sender: self)
    self.closePopover(sender: self)

If you know of a better way of handling this please let me know!

The next part of the puzzle is getting the media keys controlling the player
within the WebView.

I've used the SPMediaKeyTap project
before in the previous player and it worked great. After looking for alternative
solutions that didn't seem to work I found the successor project MediaKeyTap for swift and it worked a treat.

The main gist of the code in AppDelegate

var webController: WebViewController?
var mediaKeyTap: MediaKeyTap?

func applicationDidFinishLaunching(_ aNotification: Notification) {
  mediaKeyTap = MediaKeyTap(delegate: self)

func handle(mediaKey: MediaKey, event: KeyEvent) {
    switch mediaKey {
    case .playPause:
    case .previous, .rewind:
    case .next, .fastForward:

This basically just forwards the media key press events to the webview controller.

One gotcha here is that macOS requires you have the accessibilty permission
for the app to receive the events. Under Security & Privacy in macOS settings you need to add the app.

Security & Privacy

The app will prompt you to do this on first launch, but you need to restart the
app after adding the permission, I couldn't find a way of responding to any
changes in this setting within the running app. If you know a way please let me know.

The last step is to respond to the key events by executing javascript in the
web view.

var webView: WKWebView!

public func togglePlay() {

public func live() {

public func start() {

private func execJS(_ js: String) {
    webView.evaluateJavaScript(js) { (result, error) in
        if let error = error {

And that's it! We have a BBC Sounds app with native media key controls and now
I can get back to work :) I really like having the playlist available in the
app too, you can just scroll down to see what is playing and explore further.

Sounds App

The final code is available on GitHub.

If you have any feedback please add it to this thread on Twitter.

Top comments (0)