Use the White EarBuds to Control iTunes in Mac OS X

Mar 11, 2013 - 8 Comments

Control iTunes in Mac OS X from Apple earphones

You probably know the white earbuds that come with iPhones and iPods can control music volume and skip songs on your iOS devices, even take pictures or summon Siri, but did you know those famous white Apple earbuds can also control iTunes on the Mac? Yup, the white in-ear headphones are useful far beyond iOS, and they have some equally nifty features that work with OS X too.

Connect official Apple earbuds to the Mac audio jack to get started, then try the following tricks.

Earphone Controls for iTunes in Mac OS X

A set of Apple earbuds must connected into the Mac audio port for these to work.

  • Click the center button once to launch iTunes application in OS X
  • Start playing a song with a center button click
  • Pause the currently playing song with a center click
  • Skip to the next song with by double-tapping the center button
  • Go back a song by triple-clicking the center button
  • System volume up and system volume down are controlled by pressing the + and – buttons

Earphone controls for the Mac

Curiously, the +/- volume buttons control overall system volume, rather than iTunes volume alone.

Considering Siri is possibly coming to the Mac soon, you can expect some of the other earphone tricks from iOS to swing their way over to the Mac sometime in the future too.

Works with Apple Classic White Earbuds & New EarPods

These tricks worked with both the older in-ear headphones and the newly redesigned EarPods that arrive with the newest iPhone and iPads. Though some third party in-ear headphones also have the buttons, we’re not able to confirm that anything other than genuine Apple earbuds will do the trick.

Supported Macs 2010 Models and Up?

On the Mac side of things, the controls worked on every Mac we tested, but all of them are fairly new. That said, we wrote about a similar trick quite some time ago in 2010 for volume controls indicating it’s been around at some extent for a while, but it seems back then the adjustments were limited to sound volume in iTunes and the buttons couldn’t do much more. Thus, it’s not entirely clear how new the Mac model must be be to support the earphone tricks, but it’s possible it’s also entirely software based. If you’re finding any of these unresponsive on your Mac, let us know which model and version of OS X you’re using in the comments and we can try to figure that out.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iTunes, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Epona says:

    You can also use them in Keynote for Mac to start, stop, and move back and forth between slides. VERY handy if you present often. I haven’t tried it, but I would expect that to translate over to Keynote for iOS too?

  2. Alexander says:

    Beats Solo HD could control iTunes too, just confirmed.

  3. Trevor says:

    This works with any brand of audio control headphones I’ve found.

  4. John Robinson says:

    The buds that came with my iPhone4 are swimming w the fishes. I put them on before walking around a lake and as they refused to stay in my ears, I felt my lake’s aquatic life would find them useful for something. I thought they were junk.

  5. James says:

    My Skullcandies Ink’d and 50/50 have been able to do this on my late 2008 Macbook for forever now… This isn’t a new trick…

  6. John says:

    Been using them and confirm to be working well on a mid 2009 MacBook Pro

  7. esaruoho says:

    >Curiously, the +/- volume buttons control overall system volume, rather than iTunes volume alone.

    To be honest, this makes way more sense than for it to just set iTunes volume. I use Earpods on my MBP every once in a while, and mostly for non-iTunes sound.

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