How to audio-scrub on Macbook Pro

I downloaded 2.1.1 which supposedly allows audio scrubbing (like I used to do by moving the tape recorder reels back and forth over the playback head). Following Audacity’s instructions (Selection tool “I” plus left-click control) I get nothing. I assume ‘left click’ on a Mac trackpad means ‘control’’ + pressing down on the trackpad?
I’d appreciate a step by step guidance to get me to scrubbing.
(Macbook Pro lat3 2011, OX 10…9.5)

Left click is the normal click.

Right click is CTRL + click.

The current scrubbing interface is really designed to be used with a mouse - but I just tested and it does woork with the trackpad (on Windows anyway) but my track pad has left and right click buttons

  1. Move your cursor to wher in the waveform you want to scrub from
  2. hold dow the modifier key - on Windows this is Ctrl - on Mac I think this is Cmd
  3. tap the trackpa left-click button
  4. now moving the cursor left or right of wher it currently is will cause scrubbing to start

You may find it easier using the Timeline Quick-Play - I cerainly do, I use it all the time. See this page in the Manual:

We are currently woking on thinking about a serious re-design of the scrubbing UI (User Interface) for a later version of Audacity as we do realize that, although the underlying engine technology is excellent, the current UI has some serious shortcomings. See:

I have added a link to this Forum thread as a use case for that proposal - an example of how confusing the current UI can be.


Thank you very much for your insights.
I have just tested Audacity scrubbing with the Macbook Pro’s trackpad, as suggested, and find it not very easy or useful, because I cannot reliably repeat the scrubbing speed (to identify the flaw in the recording or find the irritating clicks I need to remove) with finger movements. The reel-to-reel-type scrubbing with analog tape machines of old made it much easier to manually hone in on the exact edit point.

Maybe there is a way to redesign scrubbing so that it would steady the scrub when used repeatedly over a section…??

If you had to drag the playhead or some widget to scrub play, would that be easier?

Is it easy to drag Audacity sliders (or any sliders on Mac) with the Trackpad?


I wish I could be certain, but any of these virtual movements would need to be tested to verify that they work well in practice.
All I know is that a steady scrub, i.e. a scrub whose speed does not change, or a scrub whose speed is controllable in a fairly precise way would be great. The goal remains: scrubbing where the artifact or click to be edited can be honed in on by repetitive, confirmative movement, until certainty of the location is achieved.

The default COMMAND + single-left-click scrub (without dragging) is steady speed (1x) . What you have to remember is that scrub play stops when the playhead reaches the pointer. If you think ahead all the time to keep the pointer moving either side of the playhead then you can scrub smoothly at 1x.

If you are determined to use a pad rather than a mouse then precise dragging may be hard, just like it may be when using Envelope Tool. This is one reason that I have been arguing we want to add a simple variable speed drag bar for intuitive scrubbing, but also retain (something like) the current scrubbing modes that don’t depend on drag (but may have drag features).

But it is essential there is some button or widget to turn on scrubbing mode and essential that it is made obvious you are in that mode.


+1 to that


Replying to this old thread…

juniormarbles, I think you want to zoom in during a scrub to help hone in on something.

On Windows, ctrl + mouse wheel changes magnification. On Macbook, Command + double finger vertical swipe.

It is required that whoever is developing scrubbing be a proficient video editor. It’s not optional. The video people have been doing this successfully for decades.

Anybody who tries to use Audacity after successfully using a video editing program is horrified how difficult it is. No, you shouldn’t turn the function on and off. It’s completely seamless. You want scrubbing (from any mode), you grab the cursor and push, either direction, any speed, full stop. No modes, conditions, Alt keys, two-finger mice, odd pointing devices, etc.

Any non-video editor developer is always going to make up complex systems and services that are convenient to program (see: forcing Labels to be Mark-In and Mark-Out). Graceful, seamless scrubbing is not easy to program. It’s extraordinarily difficult to program and it would be good for the developer to have a clear, proven, legacy goal.


Sorry koz, you can’t have everything. The team had to settle for poor old me doing this. I squeezed it into 2.1.1 around existing keystrokes and clicks that were already taken for other purposes. Getting the audio engine to cooperate at all with whatever gestures was the hard part. If you want to make detailed proposals for a better interface, please do so.

My comments about turning scrubbing on an off were in relation to scrubbing in the waveform.

If there is a scrubbing drag bar, then that is the method of turning it on and off (just using the drag bar turns it on).

Quite a few less able users are happy enough with Quick-Play without scrubbing. Some of them would have preferred Quick-Play was still available in the waveform. They do not want to stumble into scrubbing by accident as they do now.


Coming from Final Cut Pro X to Audacity, allow me to heartily second the notion that timeline scrubbing in Audacity is a really miserable experience, particularly on a MacBook Air.

I expect to be able to slide the waveform to the left or to the right, thereby changing what part of the waveform I am looking at, but can’t. In order to move the visible area without playing it (or “seeking,” which is really scrubbing), I have to zoom out, move the playhead to the area I want (and hope it’s close, since I can’t make fine adjustments after), then zoom back in again. It’s ridiculous.

FCP: two-finger swipe on trackpad, L or R, to scrub timeline backward or forward (also, pinch out to expand and pinch in to contract visible time).
GarageBand: same
Audition: same
SoundStudio: same

I recognize that Audacity must admit of at least three interface paradigms (macOS, Windows, Linux), but you can’t tell me that a Windows user wouldn’t prefer to use the scroll wheel on their mouse—if they have one available to use—to zoom in & out, and shift-scroll (or tilt, if their mouse offers such) to move the visible waveform left & right.

Are you taking about scrubbing with audio playback, or just time shifting and zooming in/out at a point?

I recommend you try the latest 2.1.3-alpha at the top of and give us feedback on that.

Please let us know in that version if you can use use two-finger left and right to scroll horizontally without using the SHIFT key. Use of SHIFT is necessary to scroll horizontally in 2.1.2.

Let us know in that version if you can pinch and expand to zoom at the mouse pointer.

Turn on Scrub Bar in Scrubbing Toolbar to left of the devices boxes then click the Scrub or Seek button and scrub in the Scrub Bar. You can’t drag the Timeline as such during scrubbing, but if you click the button that has a downward-pointing green triangle to left of the Timeline, the button changes to a Pin icon. The playhead is then centred and the track moves with playback.


I did download that alpha, and yes two-finger L & R works just as expected from other interfaces. Pinch in and out both work as expected to zoom in or out. I didn’t do anything else with it, just tested to see if those work, but yes they do work, thank you. :slight_smile:

With audio playback…but.

Video editors have a built-in advantage for video scrubbing. Frames. Television frames. Correct me, but when you click and hold the cursor in the timeline in Final Cut Pro, it repeatedly plays that frame’s sound in a tight loop. As you pull sideways, it progressively plays the next and next frame. If you move too fast, it starts skipping frames. In all cases, with a little practice, you can tell where you are in the show without ever pressing Play. With a little more practice, you can be play.

And again, correct me, you can do it from regular Play. Play something and realize you’re miles off, grab the cursor and go. Release and it starts playing from the released position.

Scrubbing is locked out in Record (It might not be, but nobody I know is willing to try).

I am assuming you are not a third-party editor human who got dumped into a completely foreign show. I know times like that and first, it’s mercifully rare, and two, Producers hate it because it’s expensive, stomach-churning and massively inefficient. That means chances are excellent you already know roughly where the content is.

I’m going from fading institutional memory (I still have a working account on the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group. It’s a standing joke the the first letters of the words do not make an acronym, no matter how hard you try.)

However, we seem to have a poster who might be willing to hang around long enough to help with the project. As the elves are fond of reminding people, this is a forum, people helping people, not a Help Desk.


And yes, the temptation to try and simulate what that sounds like in printed text is almost overwhelming.


Which is not a half-bad idea. Can you make an audio recording of what it sounds like when you scrub a video show? Or any show. It doesn’t have to be Glen Glenn Studios. The recorder on your cellphone should do it.


That might have been true of 7, but in FCP X it does not do that (at least, not that I am aware). Audio skimming can be enabled, in which case it skims along wherever your pointer happens to be, at the speed you move the pointer around, but almost nobody that I know skims audio that way (it’s exceedingly annoying except for very specific circumstances).

That does work; if the playhead in FCP X is actively playing and you grab it and move it, it will temporarily pause playback until you release, then start from wherever you drop it.

Point well-made; I came across this specific topic via google search, and didn’t realize that this wasn’t a tech support (but, rather, a peer-support) forum until after. I was frustrated after using other programs (Sound Studio, Audition, usw) all of which made it simple to adjust the “zoom” of the timeline with pinch in/out, and permitted two-finger swipe L/R along the timeline only to find Audacity didn’t support it. As it turns out, apparently it did support it, but only with keyboard modifiers; with that said, the alpha of 2.1.3 supports it without modifiers and works more similarly to the other applications I mentioned. I use the 2.1.3 alpha all the time with only one crash, so it’s been quite reliable.

I strongly agree but didn’t like to say, being new around these parts.