The Audacity format & workflow

The audacity interface is fairly straight forward. The main thing that might confuse some is the file structure.

It's critical to remember that in Audacity when you use the save menu ("Save Project") the program will not actually save audio files in a traditional format. It will save a project file that references the source files and saves the edits that have been made in seperate configuration files.

If you want to save an actual audio file, such as .wav or .mp3 then you need to use menu option "File > Export Audio" and choose your intended format from there.

Note: Should any of the toolbars in Audacity ever cease to be visible they can be reenabled via "View > Toolbars".

The Main Work Area

This is where the waveforms to your audio files are displayed. Most of the interaction here will be through individual tracks with the exception of the ccurrent time bar. At any time you can click on a particular time here to go to that point and begin playback. You can also click and drag the grey arrows on the time bar to change the playback area.

  • Track specific options such as moving the track up and down, swapping stereo channels, or even seperating stereo into mono can be found by clicking on the black down arrow for a drop down menu.
  • Clicking the "X" icon in the upper left of a track will remove it from the project (it will not delete the original file).
  • On the left hand side of each track you'll see basic info such as the bit rate / format of the fiel and whether or not the file is mono or stereo (this should also be evident by how many waveforms the track has).
  • There are two sliders for each track which allow you to adjust amplitude and panning.
  • The faded grey arrow underneath these options simply allows you to hide or show the track options.
  • Transport Bar

    The Transport Bar is probably the easiest to understand. It is the top bar with the large Play, Pause, Stop, Record icons. It's pretty self-explanatory.


    The Tools toolbar contains the select, envelope tool, draw tool, zoom, time-shift, and multi-tool tools. These are the most basic ways you'll have of editing through the main waveform display window itself.

    It also has the undo/redo buttons alongside zoom and sync lock buttons.

    The sync-lock tool will allow you to use the time shift tool to move several tracks at once after it has been enabled.

    The Selection Bar

    These options appear at the bottom of the window by default. It allows you to change the sample frequency and selection times easily and exactly.

    The project rate allows you to resample the output sound up or down to different sampling frequencies. Most projects will probably start at 48k. If you want to perfectly match the audio files you are working with you may want to change it to the sample rate shown in the file track info.

    Selection times simple allow you to input exact values for a selection. You can see them change when you click and drag with the selection tool within the main workspace, and likewise can see your current selection change when you enter new number values here.

    The Transcription Bar

    This bar is a quick way to alter the playback rate of the entire project. You need to use the "play" button within it to hear the effect. Should you want to reset the time scale, double click on the slider itself, and reset the number value to 1.

    The Mixer Bar

    Here is where you can easily change the input and output power of the project.

    PLEASE NOTE: The speaker output slider is linked to your system volume. Turning it up all the way is the same as turning the audio slider in your taskbar up all the way!

    The Meter Bar

    The meters found here show the signal strength of both the output and input lines, with the left and right channels for each. Their primary use is to be a quick visual reference for when sounds are either predominately too low or too high.

    Preferences for the way this information is drawn can by found by clicking the down arrow within the bar.

    The Edit Bar

    Here are contained the five most basic operations Audacity is capable of.

    • Cut, copy and Paste. The have the same exact function as they would in a word processor. In fact they even have the same keyboard shortcuts.
      • Cut: CNTRL-X
      • Copy: CNTRL-C
      • Paste: CNTRL-V
    • Trim Audio. This is askin to a "crop" tool in other programs. It will remove all audio in the track that is not currently selected.
    • Silence Audio. As you can probably guess, this cancels all signal strength within the se lected area.

    The Device Bar

    This bar has the use of being able to change the input and output devices quickly. It has 3 dropdowns.

    1. The device driver to use (which driver is used to for audacity to "talk" to the hardware found).
    2. The output device. This will typically either be your local speakers or headphones.
    3. The input device. Probably the one that will change more often. You can force a particular mic if you have a multi-mic setup or if you want to switch to recording onboard sounds from within your PC.

    It is not advised to change these unless you have a specific reason, or unless audio is not being produced in a new project.