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When I run VLC, an icon appears in the tray. When I click this icon, it pops a dropdown list containing shortcuts (hide vlc, play, stop, previous, next, speed, ...).
But the stop, previous and next are greyed out.

Note that I'm right in the middle of a playlist and that the other shortcuts (buttons on the VLC player) works fine.

Any idea why ?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

You are using an app indicator for vlc provided by the sni-qt package, not a systray vlc icon. The reason that those buttons are greyed out is because they don't work.

Overall the indicator for vlc is pretty poor & has been that way ever since sni-qt came out. No one has fixed it so it remains just as you've seen for the last 2 years..

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Mhmmm, ok. Weird thing is that I can't remember installing anything exotic like sni-qt; is it possible it got installed as a dependence of something else ? – Anto Jul 18 '13 at 6:26
sni-qt is part of ubuntu's default install – doug Jul 18 '13 at 15:01
Oh ok, thanks for the information. – Anto Jul 18 '13 at 15:07
It's possible to go back to using the actual systray icon for vlc which works flawlessly, how depends on which release of Ubuntu you are using (& there are other considerations – doug Jul 18 '13 at 15:09
Oh, ok. Sounds like it would be a sweet complement to the answer you gave, wouldn't it? :) – Anto Jul 19 '13 at 0:08

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