Audacity Needs A New Look & Needs It Soon

First of all let me just say, I am a big fan of Audacity and I want you to know that before the criticism starts. Audacity is a great audio editor, I think we all know this and it’s been around a long time to the point it has become a staple of the Open Source community as the go-to audio editor and an example of how great Open Source can be.

With that said, the problem of Audacity is that it looks like a relic stuck in time. Even the modernization of the look, doesn’t look modern. This is not to say that the design and branding was always an issue. The issue is that design trends have a lot over time but Audacity hasn’t.

The current version of Audacity [3] looks better than the previous versions, sure but the differences aren’t that much. This is very apparent when you compare the design of Audacity right before this “modern” version was made to the “Classic” theme [2] and then compare the Classic theme to the “Windows 98” version. [1]

The differences between Windows 98 to Classic is almost unnoticeable. If you move the toolbars in the Windows 98 version then its essentially the same. You could say “yea thats why its called Classic”. The issue is the difference between “Classic” and the current design is also not much at all. There are some icon changes and some slight color alterations on the timeline / canvas. That’s it.

There’s some good news though. . . no, Great News

I know this sounds like a lot of criticisms but there is a gigantic upside to this. There are MANY people in the Audacity userbase who are passionately fans of Audacity and also happen to be Designers . . . I am one of those people. There are also many examples of people making Audacity modern over the years that can bring inspiration to what the new Audacity could be.

higorsm25 from DeviantArt created a nice modern dark mockup for Audacity in 2015. [4]

madis posted a nice improvement to Audacity on Ubuntu here on the forum just a couple months ago. [5]

I am not saying that these themes should be adopted necessarily but that they are good paths forward to make Audacity not only a staple of the Open Source community but to invigorate a lot of people to be excited about Audacity and it’s future.


Additionally, I think that a new branding for Audacity needs to be adopted for modernizing the software because the current logo is improved from the previous states but it has the same issue that the software itself does, stuck in time. Good for its time but needs an update.

WedzMantra’s idea for updating the branding [6] is something I think is pretty well done. The modernization of it is nice and clean while still feels like Audacity to a degree and I like the A in the center merged in with the waveform. It’s a nice design concept. I am not saying it is perfect and should be adopted outright without adjustment but its a great start on the path of modernization.

I have seen many people make comments negatively towards Audacity solely based on the design of it and even in some cases refusing to try it thinking its not active anymore. This is very wrong on their part yes but that perception is there. Presentation is very important and I appreciate the fact that the Audacity website has been somewhat modernized but the program itself needs that too.


I can absolutely guarantee you that a hype train will go full steam ahead with a modernization effort in the design of the software alone. Do it in an all-encompassing approach with the branding and etc as well and you will have so many people talking about it you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure its real.

I would be happy, no thrilled to help make this happen and bring Audacity to a presentation state that matches the awesomeness of the functionality it has. I am open to discussions for making that happen if the team is interested in making this happen. I also am a Podcaster and YouTuber so in addition to the Designer / Marketer value I also have the possibility of starting that hype train I talked about. :slight_smile:

I apologize for the novel I just wrote but hopefully you see that as a sign of caring. :smiley:

Screenshots for reference:

[1] Audacity on Windows 98 (circa 2004)

[2] Audacity “Classic” (circa 2017)

[3] Audacity on Windows 10 (circa Now)

[4] DeviantArt user higorsm25’s Design (circa 2015)

[5] madis from here on the forum (circa May 2020)

[6] Audacity Logo Redesign by WedzMantra (circa 2019)

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Thanks for your comments.

We’re aware that there are a lot of aspiring designers that would love to restyle Audacity, but unfortunately very few of them have the necessary skill set to turn their designs into code.

For cross-platform support, Audacity uses wxWidgets. In the early days of Audacity, there were very few cross-platform tool kits that were able to provide the features that Audacity needs while also being open source. 20 years later and we have around half a million lines of code, deeply integrated with wxWidgets. Consequently, and redesign of the GUI has to work with wxWidgets.

Personally I’m not a fan of the ubiquitous dark gray GUI that virtually every other audio editor and DAW feel compelled to use, but for those that do like it, this is what Audacity 2.4.2 looks like on Linux with the stock dark theme:

Window Plus000.png

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A word on dark themes. We are advised in the last hour or two before bedtime to reduce screen brightness and if possible greatly reduce the blue content. Make everything dark, sunset orange.

We should be careful that the operating display doesn’t vanish when we do that.


More or less normalized for room lighting. That’s a 2-stop gray gel, CTO color temperature conversion gel, Night Shift on (stronger than normal), video driver color temperature shifted from 5600 to 4500 and the monitor brightness turned down as far as it will go.

And that’s just about right.

If you see a haze when you look away from the monitor, it’s too bright and it’s going to trigger your pithicampropus or whatever that thing is in the back of your head that keeps you awake.

I see people staring at their phone in the late evening and the phone has obediently shifted the color orange, but nobody turned the brightness down, so you can land a plane by the screen illumination. And those people will be up for weeks “for some reason.”

Dark themes are not welcome.

Los Angeles Times has a wildfire and smoke info display that is all but invisible in anything but perfect room lighting and screen setup.

Screen Shot 2020-07-08 at 1.38.59 PM.png
There’s a smoke belch up near the San Francisco Golden Gate. Did you miss it?

Late evenings need not apply.


I do have a logo design that I can put into words. Throw a tiny glow or outline around the existing logo so it doesn’t vanish against a blue or dark background like this.

Screen Shot 2020-07-08 at 1.50.17 PM.png
There’s a technique with text overlay where white text can be outlined in thin black and black text with thin white. No matter what the background does, you can read it.


We could drive everybody nuthouse and shift to a pair of these.

Screen Shot 2020-07-08 at 1.58.05 PM.png
I think I have a set of those in the garage. Probably still working. They were hard to kill.


The thing is Audacity is based on an API that has some flaws in custom theming and it would take a lot of work to make it as customized as you’re showing, Michael. That’s why I did a personal selection of themes for Audacity that help achieve way more modern look of it now. I published them on Github as a repository. You can preview and try them HERE. Hope some of them will become official ones someday.

Audacity Themes Repository
is a Github repository created by me to share my themes with Audacity community. I prepared a super simple page to help people find nice themes and install them with ease. Below you can see a thumbnail with one of my dark themes.

@MichaelTunnell I agree 100% with your post. madis effort is great, the higorsm25’s mock is awesome. on the icon I don’t necessarily agree with the one you propose (there are two other in the forums which I prefer better) but I agree that current blurry orange vomit thing with a streak of blood in the middle has to go.

The problem I think is convincing developers this is important. I’ve seen it many times, in my real job and in open source projects. There are this great developers which build fantastic software tools - they are literally geniuses, but they lack this ability to recognize that the ui sucks. It’s not that they are lazy, they just don’t need a beautiful ui. for them it has to function, and that’s enough - choosing a palette or making it pretty is really not worth. again, I think it is just how their brain is wired. But their tool will be used by people and most of them actually care for a curated ui, and here the two world collide.

There are too many unheard posts in this forums begging for the same thing, I can’t really propose anything better than what has already been said. If anything, look at what happened when blender decided in 2.8 to be less stubborn and listened to designers.

I assume you’ve never developed a program using WxWidgets.

I think the color scheme is fine, what should be focused on is the design of the layout.