Listen without adding to library in iTunes

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Have you ever wanted to listen to something (a song, a sound effect, a spoken book, whatever), but not have it added to your iTunes library? In my case, I wanted to listen to some audio snippets from a project I’ve been working on, but I didn’t want those snippets added to the iTunes library. You can, of course, preview such items in the Finder, but I wanted to be able to use iTunes’ controls to skip around the songs.

One way to do this is to open iTunes Preferences, click the Advanced tab, then uncheck the Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library button. Unfortunately, this is a permanent change, meaning you need to remember to recheck the box when you’re done listening to your snippets.

Here’s an easier solution. Make sure you can see the iTunes window, specifically the Source column, along with the song you wish to listen to. Hold down the Option key and drag the song file into an empty spot in the Source column. iTunes will create a new playlist containing the dragged song, but it will not add it to the library. When you’re done listening, just delete the playlist. The original file will be untouched, and once the playlist entry is gone, iTunes will no longer be aware of the song, either.

If you try this trick without holding down the Option key, the song will be added to your library, just as if you’d dragged it directly to the library. You can check this by hitting Command-I on the imported song; if you’ve held down the Option key, then the Where field will show the file’s original location; otherwise, it will show its location in your iTunes Music folder.

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