Importing & Exporting Labels with Mac OS

I am unable to use Microsoft Word 2011 on the Mac to edit Label files. According to the manual
( label files can be imported or exported as long as they are simple text files. The above page of the manual has a note about how to do it in Windows, “If you use a Windows application to create the file, you may have to use “Save As” and look for a specific option that saves with UTF-8 encoding.”

I can find no note about how to do it on a Mac. Although Mac also has options including “UTF-8”, I have had no success despite trying every option I can find. I notice that the label file exported has no extension, and that when you try to open it in Word

  1. It presents you with a “Convert File From:” dialog (see first attachment). This also happens when you add the .txt extension before trying to open it

  2. If you then open it with the Text Only option, you get these strange characters appearing in place of things like apostrophes and dashes. See the second attachment. Other options produce similar strange characters or don’t work at all for importing the file to Word

  3. If you then try to edit the file in Word and save it, you sometimes get a warning about saving it in the txt format because you might lose info. When you do save it, strange characters appear when it’s re-opened, as int attachment 3

You might ask, why would I want to open a label file in Word? The answer is that I have dozens and dozens of audacity files with labels that need editing to change capitalization, remove spaces, etc… These tasks are easily automated in Word, but if you only use a simple text editor, you have to type in everything by hand. Each file has many labels and many of the labels are quite long (I’m editing audio books an using the label track to produce mp3 files of each section in each chapter, and when these files were originally made the section headings were copied and pasted into the labels)

I’ve attached the label file I used in making the above screenshots as a zip file

Conclusion: It seems to me that the file format used for the label track import/export is not Mac friendly.

Thanks for any help!
Labels_test (237 Bytes)
3 after editing and saving in Word, strange characters can appear.png
2 converting to text only.png
1 opening label file exported from Audacity into Word.png

I’ve not tested, but Libre Office should be able to handle the files, even on OS X (works fine of Linux and Windows).

Does TextEdit read the Audacity labels file correctly? If so it’s not really an Audacity problem. Resaving the file in TextEdit may or may not help.


It is true that the files open just fine in Text Edit. In fact, I used the following work around for my situation (changing to Title Case a & removing unnecessary spaces in dozens of files)

  1. open the file in Text Edit
  2. Copy/Paste into Word
  3. Take advantage of Word’s text editing features
  4. Copy/Paste back into Text Edit

I just thought that was a little unfriendly compared to the Windows version of Audacity.


The problem is that the label text contains the Unicode character E2 80 94 “EM DASH”
In order to display this character correctly, the application must open the document as plain text with UTF-8 encoding, AND must use a font that has the “Em-dash” character (

How did you type that character? (or did you copy and paste it from somewhere?)

These problems won’t occur if you stick to standard ASCII characters in the label text, as these all have proper representation in just about every font and every application.

The other problem character is the second apostrophe which is and not ASCII single quote.


Yes, the text was copied from a web browser initially and then edited in Word. As I mentioned, the dozens of labels I’m dealing with were put in by another user while making audio books. He copied the text from the book section titles, and the idea was to separate the audio into sections based upon these labels using Audacity’s Export Multiple feature. I’m editing/cleaning things up, and also trying a figure out a way to do things more sensibly for future audio books.

After much trial and error, I’ve come up with a work around, which works most of the time. I have placed all of the text corresponding to the section headings into an Excel file, and then written code to export each chapter’s labels as a label file. Those label files are then imported into Audacity. The code was a little tricky because the options for exporting tab-delimited text files from Excel are quite limited, and they tend to put quotes around any section headings which have commas in them. An additional routine was necessary to remove the quotes prior to importing each label file into Audacity.

The only problem is that there is no “batch import option” for importing label files into Audacity, which means I’m faced with importing about 80 labels files manually.

Thanks again,

I think all you need is a text editor…

One that can produce text, like TexWrangler or one of the many others. Even OSX’ included Text editor isn’t a text editor. If you paste stylized text from other sources, some alien characters will always show up and mess with things.

The solution you have now, could fail in the future, if other alien characters come in from other sources.

Word is especially sensitive to this, and Excel is even worse. But kudos for fixing it like that!

Firstly, I’m impressed by your solution.
Regarding “batch import”: You can import multiple label files at the same time, but they will be merged into one label track. Is that not suitable for the job in hand?

If there is an equivalent of AutoHotKey available for OS X, then it ‘may’ be possible to automate importing multiple times so as to get one label track per file, but if this is a one off job I suspect it would be quicker to import them manually than to learn a new program well enough to write such a script.

There is. It’s called “Automator”. It can record macro’s and run Applescripts. Works with every program that’s scriptable. But Audacity isn’t scriptable, so it’ll depend on what you’re trying to do.

You can see if a program is scriptable by opening Applescript editor and opening the program’s library. That will show what commands are supported.

A user managed to do quite a lot of Audacity automation using Apple’s “UI scripting”:


I wouldn’t be caught stating that it’s easy, as Apple is very slowly moving away from Applescript. In Snow Leopard era, almost all major apps were scriptable. These days, I’m amazed if it turns out that fi Skype is scriptable. Makes it easy to call someone from your own database in fi Filemaker, or HTML. Just one command: callto:555-xxx-xxxxx…

There is no Applescript, nor Automator for iOS. In defense of Apple’s slow drop, most users aren’t very interested in these either. And certainly on iOS, there’s no market for scripting. Apple is pushing toward Swift too. And they prefer to push talent in that direction…

I’m seeing ARM powered Macbooks arriving any day now. And that will be the demise of the Mini and the Mac Pro. With an OS that is a mix of OSX and iOS. Sierra does get a new filesystem, so OSX isn’t dead, but iOS and OSX are closer with every release. And that will end Applescript and Automator, replacing these with Siri, messaging and the cloud. I only wish Apple imagined the cloud with something new. So far, it’s only shopping, backup, anti-theft and sharing your stuff over multiple devices. Nothing new. And the only new thing in the near future, is Apple payments. Not exciting.