Stop iTunes From Taking Your Media Keys Hostage: Use Vox Instead

Justin Pot 12-12-2013

Love Vox, the simple iTunes alternative, but find yourself annoyed every time you absent-mindedly hit the “Play” button on your keyboard? Stop iTunes from launching, and use your media keys with a program you don’t hate. Here’s how.


We’ve shown you that Vox is a sleek, lightweight music player for Mac Vox Is The Sleek, Light-Weight Music Player You've Been Waiting For [Mac] Are you frustrated at how huge and bloated most music-playing software is? The iTunes players of the world are really quite hefty, which is quite unnecessary if all you want to do is play a... Read More , and it has come a long way even in the past year. Vox offers a simple, playlist-driven interface fans of the original WinAMP will love alongside more advanced features like a graphic equalizer.

This lightweight music player also offers optional iTunes integration, so there’s a quick way to get at the music you have already amassed.


Vox looks great and works well, and is perfect for anyone looking for something simpler than the monster iTunes has gradually become. By default, however, Vox can’t use your Mac’s media keys. Why? Because sandboxing. More on that later, but for now here’s how to set up Vox to work the way you’d expect.

Setting Up Your Media Keys With Vox

This article assumes you already have Vox installed and up and running. You can read the MakeUseOf review of Vox Vox Is The Sleek, Light-Weight Music Player You've Been Waiting For [Mac] Are you frustrated at how huge and bloated most music-playing software is? The iTunes players of the world are really quite hefty, which is quite unnecessary if all you want to do is play a... Read More  to find out more, or head over to the official website to download.


Once installed and running, open up the Vox preferences from the menubar:


Hit the Control tab and you’ll see this button at the bottom:



Click Setup and a DMG file will start to download. Open that and you’ll see a Finder window like this:


Double-click the file to install the preference pane (you may need to bypass Gatekeeper What Is GateKeeper & How Does It Help Protect My Mac? [MakeUseOf Explains] Will your favorite programs ever run again? Certain programs won't load anymore - a message about Unidentified Developers shows up instead. There isn't even an obvious option to run the app. Gatekeeper just might be... Read More to do so). You can install for one user or all users:



You’ll now see a new button at the bottom of your Mac’s System Preferences window. Click it and you can control which buttons will now control Vox:


It’s pretty self-explanatory from here on out: you can use keyboard media buttons, headphone controls as well as the Apple remote to control what’s playing in Vox.

Solves A Problem For Many

We’ve already shown you just how hard it can be to stop iTunes from interfering with the Mac media keys How To Stop iTunes From Interfering With The Mac Media Keys Read More , so for this reason alone Vox and this preference pane is worth checking out. If you want to ditch Apple’s default media player, but don’t want to type commands you don’t understand to disable the “Play” button from launching it, this is an easy option. Vox, and its preference pane, make the process simple.


Why Is This Necessary?

You might be wondering why Vox can’t simply use the play button. Basically, it’s because Apple doesn’t want programs to do that, and has a way to enforce that.


We’ve shown you how to find out what each sandboxed Mac app can do, but what does being sandboxed mean? Well, apps you install from the Mac App Store aren’t entirely the same as apps you download and install from DMG files. These apps only have permission to do things Apple has approved, and overriding iTunes’ control of the media keys is simply not on that list. Apple wants its buttons to be used for its own programs, and isn’t going to approve an app for their store unless it plays by those rules.

Apps you download from the web, however, have no such need to comply. Vox’s workaround allows them to distribute their main app through Apple’s own app store while still offering the media key feature. It’s clever, even though its necessity is frustrating.

What’s your favorite iTunes alternative? They’re frustratingly hard to find, so fill me in using the comments below. Oh, and if even Vox is too complex for you, check out Cog, a simple, folder-based iTunes alternative Cog - A Simple Folder-Based Alternative to iTunes [Mac] Read More . It does the job.

Image Credits: Peter Alfred Hess Via Flickr

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  1. Ian P
    December 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Unfortunately, even after these steps Vox will only listen to your media keys half the time.

    It's an odd problem, but I have to select the Vox window manually and then hit the media keys. This kind of makes it a pointless exercise. Such great potential for this app let down by such little things.

    • Justin P
      December 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      That's so weird, for me it works with my media keys consistently...

    • Rob R.
      February 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      I have the same issue as Ian. iTunes still holds my play button hostage as well. God Apple sucks, and so does their iTunes.

  2. smaragdus
    December 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Cog is great but unfortunately abandoned.

    • Justin P
      December 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      Yep, but it still works like a charm.

    • smaragdus
      December 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      No doubt Cog is excellent but it is aging- it lacks support for some (new) lossless formats such as TTA, TAK, OFR, etc. One of its great features is the support for Cue sheets. By the way does Vox read CUE files? Nowadays I don't use MAC but I have always recommended Cog as a far better alternative to terrible iTunes, which is the worst program I have ever tried on Windows. Years ago I had it installed because I was ignorant and didn't know that there were better free tools that can maintain iPods. After uninstall iTunes leaves thousands of left-overs in the Windows registry and it is not easy to purge them all. I test software daily, I have installed thousands of programs but only iTunes was capable of totally destroying my OS and it needed to be re-install. I wonder how it is possible such a monstrous app to exist and how there are still people who use it. iTunes is bloated, heavy, it installs services in the background and cannot be uninstalled cleanly . Its support for audio formats is ridiculous. In two words- absolutely disastrous.

    • Justin P
      December 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Vox does indeed support CUE files, just so you know.