Play a Song from Spotlight Search in Mac OS X

Feb 13, 2016 - 5 Comments

Play a song in Spotlight search for Mac OS X, without using iTunes

Many Mac users know that music, apps, and documents can be launched directly from Spotlight search, and newer versions of OS X support getting weather, game scores, stock prices, and more from the powerful built-in search engine. But did you know that you can play music directly from Spotlight on the Mac as well? And if you want to, you can completely skip playing a song in iTunes, instead playing a song from your music library directly within Spotlight search.

How to Play Music Directly from Spotlight Search in Mac OS X

You’ll want to be sure the song you’re looking to play is part of your iTunes music library or stored elsewhere locally on your Mac, the rest is a piece of cake:

  1. Open Spotlight as usual by hitting Command + Spacebar
  2. Type the song name in Spotlight search, and hover over the album art cover in the search result to press the “Play” button that appears
  3. Play a song in Spotlight on the Mac

  4. Exit out of Spotlight as usual, the song track will continue playing in the background while you do other tasks elsewhere on the Mac

You can pause and stop the song by returning to Spotlight search and again hovering over the album cover to click on the pause icon, otherwise it will stop itself automatically when the song has finished.

Play and pause music directly from Spotlight search on Mac OS X

Only the song you searched for and chose “play” on will play, no other music is triggered, so if you’re looking for listening to a playlist or a full album you’ll still want to launch iTunes or your music player of choice to do so.

The short video below demonstrates this feature in use with Spotlight playing a Grateful Dead song from the local iTunes music library, note the audio is played entirely from within Spotlight and iTunes is not launched or used:

A similar trick allows you to play and preview movies in Spotlight as well, though since video is usually enjoyed at larger resolutions it is perhaps less useful than playing music this way.

Longtime Mac users may recall that a similar song and audio track playing feature exists within the Finder of OS X as well, except that when a song is played in the Finder through the icon view, it will stop when it’s no longer the focus, whereas when played within Spotlight it will keep playing until it has finished or it is paused. No iTunes required, kind of a nice trick, huh? Another iTunes-free option is to use the Quick Look music player, but that also will cease playing the track when it loses focus, making that approach better for quickly checking on a file or scanning through a song.

Playing a Song with iTunes from Spotlight in OS X

Another option to play a song from Spotlight is to search for the track name as usual and then just hit the “Return” key to immediately launch the song into iTunes and start playing the track.

A song playing within iTunes as launched from Spotlight

Of course, this method obviously launches directly into iTunes to play the song, whereas the Spotlight only method works without iTunes opening at all.


Related articles:

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


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  1. Patrick J. J. Mele says:

    Works fine on ElCapitan, however doing this trick also causes my MacBook Pro to create a generic copy of selected song and adds it to my music library! I open iTunes 11 and “walla” their it is without a album cover!

  2. Vasyl says:

    Nice soft. It was to find Grateful dead here – I am a huge fan. By the way do you know that their tour gonna start soon?

  3. Firth Malcolm says:

    Don’t work on my machine
    iMac (27-inch, Mid 2010) OS X EL Capitan Version 10.11.3

    • Don Won says:

      It’s a feature of OS X. It works on every Mac but yours. Coincidence? Usually not, sounds like user error, as often the case!

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