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Is there a way to play a file or folder in iTunes without adding it into iTunes library?

I have quite large collection of music that i want to listen to but not necessarily keep. So i want to be able to listen to some music files in a given folder (be it a complete album or just a collection of various songs) and once i'm done listening and close iTunes i want all the files that i just listened to be gone from iTunes library.

I want to be able to do it with iTunes, because I can control iTunes with apple remote and with alfred remote.

And if it is not possible, maybe there is a workaround to achieve similar results?

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As you might have feared based upon the countless other disappointing Apple-related answers, the answer to your question is "You can't". You cannot play a file in iTunes without adding it to your library as well. Moreover, a converted version of your file is generated and copied into your iTunes library folder.

Seeing as how you have Alfred working for you, and are otherwise willing to consider workarounds, I would suggest these potential [partial] workarounds:

  • Associate each desired file type with a batch process to stream the desired audio through a third-party podcasting application to a specific address, and launch iTunes with the proper arguments to play the streaming audio from the appropriate address.

  • Associate each desired file type with a batch process that modifies the file before launching iTunes, so that, once another partial solution is found, all files launched in such a way are easier to target programmatically, eg:
    -- prepend or append some distinctive string to the filename
    -- for mp3s, modify some rarely-used ID3 tag value

  • Deleting the converted file that iTunes automatically creates when adding audio files to its library. (Obtaining the exact name with no margin for error may prove challenging however, nor will it remove the file's entry in any external library inventory file if there is one.)

  • Settle for programming some process to merely uncheck the box in iTunes next to the file, which will prevent it from being played unless you explicitly ask for it to be played. (This will not stop the file from being synced to your iPhone or iPod though, and I am not sure if its unchecked nature on your computer will prevent it from being shuffled in on your iPod.)

(Also keep in mind that Automator (included with OS X in the Utilities Application folder), particularly its "Watch Me Do" feature, may offer some key functionality in creating executable shortcuts to actions you take manually, which may in deed provide an important part of the solution to your endeavor.)

  • Thank you for your input. Your answer actually got me thinking if anything can be done using Smart Playlists and Automator. Something like creating a smartlist with all the files that are played that are NOT in the specific folder (and i have my "permanent" iTunes library in one specific folder) and then delete that playlist upon exiting iTunes. – RusI Feb 13 '15 at 10:25
  • Ha looks like this bit of Automator brilliance inspired us both at the same time! =) Good thinking! – ProductionValues Feb 13 '15 at 10:29
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    Moreover, a converted version of your file is generated and copied into your iTunes library folder You can disable this in the options – cde Oct 6 '15 at 17:28
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http://www.macworld.com/article/1049828/listenonly.html may be out of date of course ... this link takes you to an article that seemingly explains how to do what the OP requires ...

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.

  • Welcome to Ask Different! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Jaime Santa Cruz Jul 27 '15 at 18:40
  • Anyone know where this mystical source column is? I tried what this article says and the songs were added to my library but not copied and now they sit in my library with the little ! next to them saying source cannot be found since the songs were on a thumb and the thumb is long gone. – pathfinder Nov 23 '16 at 20:25
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I want to be able to do it with iTunes, because I can control iTunes with apple remote and with alfred remote. And if it is not possible, maybe there is a workaround to achieve similar results?

VLC, the Media Player is a well known media player for multiple operating systems, and can do what you want. It can be used as a simple media player to play a folder of mp3s, can be controlled by an Apple Remote (The physical IR remote), has multiple Alfred2 workflows, as well as native remote control abilities, with plenty of iOS/Android remote apps.

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