Tuesday August 13, 2019

For a long, long time I avoided Audacity, although many people have recommended it (it seems to be an obvious choice whenever it came to audio-editing work). But I would rather stick to my personal choices because over the time I’ve witnessed pretty many cases in which “popular” does not equal “well-done”, “optimal”, etc. There are surprisingly many examples of that kind, but it’s all predictable when to think of it a little deeper: because who would bother Yourself with really good research? Or, how many PC users are equipped with the proper perspective, which could allow to genuinely recognize, “what is what”? I think it would be fair enough to say that among non-geeks (i.e., most users out there) the main, or at least highly significant factor determining the app’s quality is its popularity. How much hype has been around a particular name, who talks about it, etc.

But I digress.

Back to the point: I’ve avoided using Audacity as long as it was possible - i.e., for years, till recently. Earlier on I used to use WavePad 4.01 - a pretty old software probably remembering the times of Windows 98. I’ve found it, however, much more intuitive than Audacity, which for a long time hadn’t convinced me to switch to it, seemed to be unfriendly in terms of interface, which - on top of that - in my eyes lacked aesthetics.

As a curiosity: WavePad is not all-in-one solution in which everything works out-of-the-box. Instead, it may download (by itself) any additional component required for the current task (like an .mp3 en-/decoder, for example) from its server(s). What is pretty impressive is that those plug-ins are still available even after many, many years - I haven’t experienced any other similar (software-related) case in which anything would be available on-line so long (I’ve used plug-ins not only for .mp3 just mentioned, but also for more exotic ones, like .aac, .amr, or .flac - they all have been available to grab).

But, what is not a rare occurrence when it comes to pretty old software, using WavePad 4.01 became more and more problematic, due to compatibility issues. Windows' Compatibility mode did the trick for a while, but finally it hasn’t been enough. Sometimes some feature didn’t work well, or at all, or crushed the app. Another thing is that it didn’t support custom Windows themes well - which made its GUI much less readable.

The last time it refused to work was when I wanted to record audio from my PC (so-called What U Hear) through Virtual Audio Cable. WavePad handled this several times and suddenly... stopped, crushing every time I was trying to initiate the recording. It was the last straw.

There are some good news, however: in the meantime Audacity became more user-friendly, mostly because of incorporating themes (great feature! :) ).

Curiosity again: yet another surprise is that WavePad is still around, and it seems that it also received tangible improvements as far as GUI is concerned. So in theory I could give it another try, but I decided to opt for Audacity due to that it has been published under my favorite GNU GPL license which I highly value.

Back to Audacity, funny thing is that I could not be aware of this significant improvement if I hadn’t take a closer look on the app’s website, which presents (right off the bat) screenshots illustrating those themes in action. First I tried to figure out how to enable them in my current Audacity version (which wasn’t the newest one) - but it wasn’t there. So, after a little bit of research, I’ve realized that it must be a feature brought by one of the newest release - so I’ve upgraded the app and, voilà, have themes active :) ! Finally it looks nice and elegant.

Audacity - combining tracks.

The next consecutive step was to learn all I really need - thinking of my typical usage of the app. I decided to look for keyboard shortcuts for each and every action I would usually perform while editing audio - the very essential stuff, basically speaking. Soon after I became equipped with a handful of shortcuts and how-to’s, which allowed me to release my first Audacity-powered podcast episode. In case You’d like to know what exactly comes in handy in my particular case, here You are. On top of that there are two procedures which I need to know how to handle: 1) how to remove noises and 2) how to prepare a single .mp3 out of, say, two (or more) recordings. The latter turned out to be surprisingly complicated - not so much, but I would expect something simpler and much more intuitive:

  1. Import all files at once by using Import.
  2. From the menu, click Select › All.
  3. From the menu, click Tracks › Align Tracks › Align End To End.
  4. From the menu, click Tracks › Mix › Mix and Render.
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