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The Audacity Environment

To use Audacity, you must first become familiar with the environment and tools. This document will provide you with a description and explanation of the basic tools and functions of Audacity. This includes everything you see upon opening a file in Audacity.

return to topAccessing Audacity

  1. To open Audacity, from the Start menu, select All Programs » Audacity

return to topThe Control Toolbar

The Control toolbar is made up of two sections. The Audio Editing tools are located to the left of the Control toolbar. Using these tools you can directly modify certain aspects of your track. The Audio Control section is located on the right of the Control toolbar and allows you to control aspects of playback and recording.

Control toolbar

Audio Editing Tools

The Audio Editing tools assist you in editing your track. You can fine tune elements of your track by moving the Waveform left or right along the timeline, changing or fading the volume for specific sections, or manually altering small parts of the Waveform itself.
Audio Editing toolbar

Name Image Description
Selection Tool Selection Tool button Selects the audio
Envelope Tool Envelope Tool button Changes the volume of the desired portion of track
Draw Tool Draw Tool button Directly changes the shape of small parts of the Waveform
NOTE: You must be zoomed in to the extent that the nodes of the Waveform are visible.
Waveform nodes
Zoom Tool Zoom Tool button Zooms in or out of the project
Time Shift Tool Time Shift button Slides Waveform left or right along the timeline
Multi-Tool Mode Mutlti Tool Mode button Enables you to access all of the editing tools without selecting them depending on the location of the cursor and keys being pressed.


Audio Control

The audio controls allow you to start, stop, and pause recording and playback as well as move the cursor to the beginning or end of a track.
Audio Control bar

The following table provides more information on the Audio Control buttons and their functions.

Name Image Description
Skip To Start Skip To Start button Moves the cursor to the beginning of the track
Play button Plays the track from the cursor position. If a section is selected, only the selection will play.
Loop Loop button Continuously plays the track.
HINT: To access this button, hold [Shift] and the Play button converts to the Loop button.
Record Record button Begins recording a new track
Pause Pause button Pauses the playback or recording
Stop Stop button Stops the playback or recording
Skip To End Skip To End button Moves the cursor to the end of the track

return to topThe Track Display

Audacity displays your audio recording as a Waveform on a track. By applying various tools and functions to the Waveform Display you are able to modify your track to meet your specifications.

Track Display

Waveform Display

The Waveform Display is a visual representation of your audio recording. Regardless of the format of your audio recording, it will appear on the Waveform Display. By viewing the Waveform you are able to see the changes being made to your track. The Waveform also serves as an interactive timeline for your audio track. When using the Edit toolbar or Audio Editing tools you will apply them to the Waveform.
Waveform display

The Cursor

The cursor is a vertical line located on the Waveform Display. By moving the cursor, you can indicate where playback will begin from. During playback the cursor advances along the Waveform. This allows you to pinpoint the location of what you are hearing on the Waveform. Move the cursor using the Selection toolSelection tool button.

Vertical Ruler

The Vertical Ruler represents the output range allowed by the audio file. Anything that goes above 1.0 or below -1.0 will be missing during playback. This is called clipping. For more information on clipping refer to Working With Soundtracks: Clipping. By clicking the Vertical Ruler you can zoom in or out. This becomes necessary for editing small sections of the Waveform (e.g., using the Draw tool).
Vertical Ruler


The Timeline is located above the length of the track. It serves as a reference point when pinpointing certain parts of the track. At the default zoom level it is divided into fifths. If you zoom in, the increments decrease. If you zoom out, the increments increase.

Track Control Panel

The Track Control panel is located on the left of every Track Display. It allows you to control the gain and balance levels, and allows you to delete, mute, or play the track solo. You can select a track in its entirety by clicking the Track Control panel anywhere outside a button or slider.
Track Control panel

These are the basic controls and functions of the Track Control panel.

Name Image Description
Close Close Track button Closes the track
Solo Solo button Plays only the selected track
Mute Track Mute Track button Mutes the track
Gain slider Track Volume slider Controls the gain of the individual track. Using the Gain slider, you can raise or lower the volume of the track.
Track Balance slider Track Balance slider Controls balance of the individual track
Track pull-down menu Track pull-down menu This menu contains options for changing the name of the track and moving it.


return to topMixer Toolbar

The Output Volume slider (left) lets you adjust the volume of playback for the entire project. The Input Volume slider (right) lets you adjust the recording volume. You will need to adjust the Input Volume if the input level is too quiet, or if you encounter clipping. For more information on clipping, refer to Working With Soundtracks: Clipping. The Input selector (far right) allows you to choose from different input sources (e.g., microphone, line in).
NOTE: Altering either the Output Volume slider or the Input Volume slider will not affect any part of the project that has already been recorded.
Mixer toolbar
NOTE: Certain operating systems (e.g., Windows Vista) will not show the Input selector. For more information refer to Recording Audio in the Audacity Basics document.

return to topMeter Toolbar

The Meter toolbar allows you to monitor the audio levels of both the output (left) and input (right). You are able to alter these levels using the Mixer toolbar. Using the Meter toolbar you can tell whether the output or input volumes are too low, or if either one is clipping. For more information on clipping, refer to Working With Soundtracks: Clipping. For more detailed information on the Meter toolbar, refer to Meter Toolbar.
Meter toolbar

return to topEdit Toolbar

The various tools located here assist in editing tracks (e.g., remove an unwanted section of the audio, silence a section of the audio). To use them you must first select a portion of the Waveform with the Selection toolSelection tool button. The Editing tools provide you with various ways to remove sections of a track. Different tools will work better for different circumstances.
Edit toolbar

Name Image Description
Cut Cut button Cuts a selection
Copy Copy button Copies a selection
Paste Paste button Pastes the cut or copied selection
Trim Outside Selection Trim Outside Selection button Removes all audio from the track outside of the selection
Silence Selection Silence Selection button Removes all audio from the track within the selection
NOTE: This will only remove the audio, leaving silence in its place.
Undo Undo button Undoes last action
Redo Redo button Redoes last action
Zoom In Zoom In button Zooms in on the entire project
Zoom Out Zoom Out button Zooms out of the entire project
Fit Selection in Window Fit Selection in Window button Fits the selection to the size of the window
Fit Project in Window Fit Project in Window button Fits the entire project to the size of the window


return to topCustomizing Your Environment

When using Audacity, you can move any toolbar to any location you desire, including outside the Audacity program window. This can be convenient if the project you are working on has multiple tracks.

  1. To move any of the toolbars in Audacity, to the left of the toolbar, click the FLOAT buttonFloat button

  2. To put a toolbar back in its original position, from the View menu, select Dock [toolbar]

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