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Audacity has been lumbering on for a few years with an increasingly bloated collection of tricks and effects. It’s become increasingly difficult to use… and it’s probably fair to say that a few people have jumped ship to check out some of the alternatives.
But Audacity 2.2.0 is finally here, and brings some much needed improvements, such as a new user interface and tidier menus. There are a few new features in there, too. Have you been considering leaving Audacity behind? Already moved on but missing the simplicity of this digital audio workstation (DAW)?
Here’s why it’s time to upgrade to Audacity 2.2.0.
Of course, there are many DAWs out there, so why would you choose Audacity? For starters, it’s free and open source. Released under the terms of the GPL (GNU General Public License), Audacity is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux completely free of charge. (See our explanation of free and open source software to find out what this means.)
But Audacity’s features also make it a great DAW. It can be used for a myriad of purposes, from audio drama to recording study notes, interviewing, and even video game sound effects and dialogue. Oh, and there’s using it as the hub of a home recording studio, too.
Audacity was first launched in 2000, and since then has added features and effects to its repertoire. However, things have gotten a bit untidy, which is why this vital update is particularly welcome.
How to Update to Audacity 2.2.0
Previous versions of Audacity don’t have a built-in update tool. So if you want to upgrade to the latest version, you’ll need to do so manually. To do this, head to audacityteam.org and click the Download button. You can also head to the website from within Audacity, via Help > Check for updates. This option will simply open the same page in your browser.
Audacity 2.2.0 is available for:
- Windows XP (SP2), Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 (you should be using the latest Windows 10)
- Mac OS X/macOS version 10.6 and later
- GNU/Linux (the source code can be downloaded from the site, or you can check your repositories)
Older versions of Audacity are also archived online for Mac OS 9.0–10.5 and Windows 98–XP.
Once downloaded, ensure you have closed any previous instance of Audacity on your computer before installing the latest version.
Give Audacity a New Look
When upgrading software, it’s always good to see a new look. Audacity has been pushing on for years with the old Windows XP-style grey user interface (UI), but with v2.2.0 a few alternatives have been included.
Indeed, you’ll notice a slight change to the default UI when you first launch Audacity 2.2.0. However, if you don’t like this, others are available.
You’ll find them in the Edit > Preferences menu (or Ctrl + P), under Interface. Here, look for the Theme dropdown menu, and choose between Classic, Light, Dark, and High Contrast. There’s also a Custom option, which you can configure yourself — the Audacity Wiki explains how to design your own UI.
How you proceed here is of course up to you. Whichever option you select, however, note that the chrome around the application — the very top and bottom bars — remain in the default light grey. Personally, I like the dark theme, despite a couple of unreadable buttons, but your mileage may vary.
One of the most notable features of Audacity 2.2.0 is the introduction of tidier menus. The older version had become somewhat clogged up and busy with menu items as more features were added.
This time around, there is a more hierarchical attitude, enabling you to find the instruction you’re looking for faster. However, this isn’t across the board.
The Generate and Effect menus remain as lengthy as ever. Rather, you’ll find these menu changes in the File, Edit, Select, View, Transport, and Tracks menus. All of the old features are there, but it’s all just a bit tidier now.
Note that there is no change to the toolbars. No new features have been added here, and you’re still able to drag them around to suit your purposes.
Look out too for some hidden menu options. The Extended Menu Bar can be toggled via View > Extra Menus (on/off). The Ext-Bar and Ext-Command menus will then be added to the toolbar. These are arranged as per the first bunch of menus, with options arranged in a hierarchy.
Default Recording Mode
In previous versions of Audacity, recording would start a new track each time you hit the Record button. This feature is still available, but now the default option is to append a second recording to the initial track.
There are various reasons why this is a good idea; perhaps the main one is that it saves space on screen. Hitting record several times creating a new track on each occasion can lead to some considerable scrolling!
However, if you prefer to revert to the old default — whereby a new track is created each time the Record button is clicked — open Preferences > Recording. Here, check the box under Options, labelled Always record on a new track.
Note that in this screen it’s also possible to set a name for new tracks. This is an oft-ignored feature that can save a lot of time in multi-track projects. Use the Custom Track Name field to set a name, then append this with a track number or date and time for further identification.
Amazingly, Audacity previously didn’t have MIDI import feature, but this is now possible thanks to Note Tracks. Use the File > Import > MIDI… option to import the MIDI file, and view it in the Note Tracks view. Clicking play will enable you to preview the track.
Sadly, only limited editing can be performed here. Cutting, pasting, and deleting are all possible, which should give you what you need to shorten or lengthen a MIDI track for your purposes.
Note that while playback of MIDI tracks in Note Tracks is possible by default in Windows, macOS and Linux users will need to install software synthesizer tools. The Audacity manual pages explain what you should currently use, and how to install it.
More Help and Manual Revisions
The new version of Audacity has a few more tricks up its sleeve. One particular favorite is the Help button, which you’ll find on many dialogue boxes.
Clicking this will take you to a manual page explaining what is going on in the box. Given the number of audio effects that are bundled into Audacity, this can only be a good thing! Each manual page explains how to use the effect, which can help you use the tool in question.
A big mention should go to the manual itself, too, which now includes far more detail than before. This is a definite go-to feature for many, and can help you learn in the ins and outs of Audacity features like never before.
Audacity: Still the Most Versatile Open-Source DAW
Like many people, I use Audacity extensively for editing audio (mostly podcasts). This open source Digital Audio Workstation is feature-packed, but perhaps it’s been a bit tricky to get the best out of it in recent years.
I’ve often found myself looking for particular features, thinking that they’re not there, only to find via Google that they are — and they’re pretty good too. These improvements should change that.
Are you an Audacity fan? What do these changes mean to you? Perhaps you’ve already abandoned Audacity — if so, what are you using now, and how is it better? What future improvements do you think this DAW needs? Tell us in the comments.