My 16 biggest annoyances with Audacity (and the solutions)

Hi guys, first, let me say that I really do love Audacity :slight_smile:

However, there have always been certain aspects that I find seriously clunky and irritating. For years, I’ve kept thinking these issues would eventually get ironed out, but they never seem to, so I’m going to list all the issues here, with my proposed solutions.

I’m sure many of these must have been mentioned/requested before (perhaps there are even workarounds) but you’ll have to forgive me for not having the patience for looking them all up. Take what you want from this feedback!

1. Track names not clear enough
When your document contains dozens of tracks, the track names are EVERYTHING! You are completely dependent upon these names to know what you’re looking at. Yet these names are crammed into a very small space with indistinctive text. You can’t even resize the left panel to allow more room to show names.

Here is my proposed solution, to allow more room for the titles:

If nothing else, I really do think things would look a lot neater this way, especially making all the numbers on the right single-digit.

2. It’s hard to grab tracks
When you want to grab a track to move it, you instinctively want to grab somewhere near the top. But currently Audacity requires you to grab tracks near the bottom in a small area of leftover space. It’s not very elegant.

Solution: As shown in my illustration above, make the title bar the part that you grab. This can also be used for selecting multiple tracks - this removes the ‘Select’ button which takes up space and adds clutter.

3. Renaming tracks is a pain
I would say that the ability to quickly and easily rename tracks is an essential part of a quick workflow, but currently Audacity requires you to click twice, wait for a pop-up dialog to appear, rename it, then OK that. It’s really clumsy.

Solution: You should be able to simply click on the name and the title text becomes editable right there. Hit Enter to finish editing. Simple.

4. Zooming is cumbersome
Zooming requires hitting keys, it doesn’t allow precise zooming, and because of the steps between jumps, it can sometimes be hard to get a sense of how much you’re zooming.

Solution: Give Audacity a new zoom control: Hold down Alt + mouse wheel = zooms in smaller increments.

Even better solution: Alt + left mouse button + drag mouse left and right = a precise, real-time zoom (perhaps using hardware scaling, like Photoshop’s “scrubby zoom” feature)

5. Tracks are too tall
When you first open a document, the track height is nice and big as it should be. But once you pass 3 or 4 tracks and start having to scroll, the tracks are just impractically tall.

Solution: Audacity gets a new option: Auto track height (on by default): The result is that when you only have a couple of tracks, they will be tall, however, as more tracks are added, they begin shrinking slightly in height, down to a minimum height when you reach a certain number of tracks. (Options could let you specify the ‘tallest’ and ‘shortest’ heights in pixels, plus the number of tracks till shortest height is used.)

It would also be good to have a slider in the corner of the screen to universally change all the track heights.

6. Draggable track heights is annoying
Others may disagree, but personally, I find it really irritating how track heights can be resized arbitrarily, so you can end up with all kinds of messy different heights. I like uniformity. I like to feel that the interface is “solid” and “locked” and I’m not going to accidentally resize anything.

Solution: Audacity gets a new option in the prefs: Allow tracks to be manually resized. When this is off, tracks can’t be manually resized, however, if you want to make a track bigger, there is now an new button in the left panel called Expand track - Clicking this button instantly toggles the track between 100% height and 162% height (this is the height I think is most useful).

Personally, I would much prefer if it worked this way. Instead of the uncertainty and inconsistency of draggable track heights, they are all uniform - expanded by clicking one simple button, then the same button toggles them back to standard height.

7. No pan tool
Having to use scrollbars to move around the document can be irritating.

Solution: When space is HELD DOWN (not tapped), the cursor changes to a hand (pan) tool. You can now drag the document in any direction to quickly move around. This would make the application feel SO MUCH MORE professional!

8. No groups
My documents seem to quickly get very confusing and cluttered, with dozens of tracks, requiring a lot of scrolling up and down past elements I wish I could tidy away into groups.

Solution: Allow tracks to be put into collapsible groups. The result might look something like this: (Note this is a very crude illustration)

9. Mouse wheel scrolling is annoying
I find it annoying that scrolling up and down with the mouse wheel moves a fixed distance. I would find it WAY more helpful if each click of the wheel moved up/down by one whole track, so there’s always a whole track at the leading edge of the screen, instead of a truncated one.

If nothing else, you should be able to hold down a key (eg shift) + mouse wheel to scroll whole tracks.

10. Duplicated files remain selected
This is a minor point… When I duplicate tracks, I find it annoying that the ORIGINAL tracks remain selected, along with the duplicates. This is NEVER useful to me. Very often, I have a bunch of tracks and I want to create a mixed version of them, so what do I do? I duplicate them and hit the ‘mix’ key… oops… the original tracks were also selected and they got mixed in too! :frowning:

11. Dragging moves too fast
So we now come to my top four most frustrating things about Audacity. Firstly…

It is SO difficult to drag tracks up and down to re-order them! You can begin dragging them up or down the screen no problem, but once scrolling begins, it starts whizzing up or down at such an incredible pace, it’s virtually impossible to find the place you’re looking for, everything is just a blur. I find this quite crippling to productivity, and I go to great lengths to avoid having to drag tracks.

Solution: Scrolling while dragging tracks should either always start slow then speed up, or (ideally) the speed should be based on how far you’ve moved the mouse after crossing the edge of the window - very slow if you’re at the edge, increasing in speed as your mouse travels further.

12. Duplicating irritation
Now this is probably THE biggest thing that annoys me about Audacity - you duplicate a track (or make a new track) and it appears right at the bottom below the very bottom track! This is so frustrating because you’re obviously already working on that track right there where you are, and your duplication obviously relates to the current track in the current location.

Solution: New/duplicate tracks should ALWAYS appear right below the current track. I also think there should be a nice big button somewhere for “Add track below the current one”. Surely this is one of the most fundamental things that users want to do?

13. Pasting nightmare
Another one of my four biggest annoyances is when I’ve copied some audio in the clipboard and want to paste it in to the document. In every single case, I ALWAYS want to paste it directly below the current track at the current playhead position. But of course, Audacity makes this impossible because:

a) As said above, when I create a new track, the track always appears right down below the bottom track.
b) Then, when I’ve scrolled down to the bottom, I can no longer see the current playhead position, so I’m guessing where to paste it
c) I then have to drag the new track all the way up to where I was, which is a nightmare, both finding where I was, and getting the track back there.

Solution: As said above, making ‘new track’ appear directly below the current track would help a great deal. However, it’s still a little cumbersome having to create a new track - there should be an easy way to simply paste audio in BELOW the current track at the current position. Audacity has a ‘paste’ button, which is totally redundant as it just does a Ctrl+V. Instead, Audacity should have a ‘Paste below’ button which pastes the clipboard into a new track at the current position!

14. Pasting into blank space
The fourth and final of my ‘top four’ most annoying problems is when you go right down and click on that strip of ‘blank space’ below the bottom track. Hitting Ctrl+V creates a new track and pastes the clipboard into it. This is a handy feature—in theory!

However, in reality, the pasted audio ALWAYS appears right at the beginning of the song! This is almost never what you want, and it means you have to “lose your place” by zooming out or scrolling all the way to the left to find the pasted audio, then scrolling all the way back to where you were working!

Solution: This problem would disappear if Audacity simply allowed you to position the playhead in the blank space below the bottom track. Then, when you hit Ctrl+V, the clipboard contents is pasted right there in position!

15. Cut/paste causing ‘ripple’
Sometimes in Audacity you have ‘independent’ potions of audio on the same track, separated by gaps. You can use the Time Shift tool to move these portions left and right, and because they’re not connected to the audio on the right, the audio on the right doesn’t move. There is no ‘ripple’ effect. And this is exactly how it should be.

However, if you perform either cut or paste operations to these ‘independent’ portions of audio, any audio to the right IS ‘rippled’, even though it wasn’t in any way connected.

I find this highly undesirable and unintuitive. I believe that audio to the right should NOT be rippled IF:

• The pasted audio can fit without intersecting any existing audio.
• The right-hand edge of the cut portion intersects NO audio, and falls entirely in a gap.

16. Colored tracks/title
Finally, this is more of a feature suggestion than a complaint, but I would find it very helpful if track titles had colors (see my illustration at the top here). Each new track would be assigned a color (cycling through a pool of predefined colors). But any duplicating or copying/pasting would result in the color being retained, so you could visually see that they are related. You could also select a bunch of tracks and assign a color to them.

I’d be very happy to go into more details about any of the above suggestions, or provide more illustrations/icon designs etc (I am a designer). I also would have many other more minor interface suggestions, but these, for me, are the ‘big ones’.

If the above 16 problems could be resolved, I think it would really take Audacity to new heights of professionalism! :slight_smile:

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“Edit menu > Preferences > Tracks”
Enable: “Show audio track name as overlay”
(see: Tracks Preferences - Audacity Manual)

Actually, I instinctively want to grab somewhere near the bottom. I guess it’s different for different people.

But the “Name” button is already in use for opening the Track menu.
(see: Track Control Panel and Vertical Scale - Audacity Manual)

There are many ways to zoom.
(see: Zooming Overview - Audacity Manual)

I generally favour “Ctrl + mousewheel”

To zoom to a specific region:

  1. Select the region.
  2. “Ctrl + E”

“View menu > Track Size > Collapse All Tracks (Ctrl + Shift + C)”
See: View Menu: Track Size - Audacity Manual

Hey thanks! That is a very neat feature I didn’t know about! Though hopefully you can appreciate the benefits of my suggestion too.

Thanks for the replies, Steve!

If you look at my illustration, you can see that I moved the Track menu down to the next line.

Yes, I already use that function and have keys set up for it, but it would be nice to zoom in and out in a more precise, graphical way instead of in abrupt steps.

Ah, that sounds like what I was asking for. Unfortunately, I can’t use that as I have Ctrl+mousewheel universally set to my system volume. If this key could be redefined, that would be great!

That is not a feature I would use as I always like to see Mute/Solo and volume.

I feel that way about some ladies :smiley:

We all know the height of the wave goes from min to max and it does not really matter what value max is. We can estimate halfway. So all that would be needed is the horizontal line at zero.

“Mono, 48000Hz 32-bit float”. How important is it to see that in every track? Would it be enough to have that info in the status bar? Have Audacity nag when you open/import a track that is different from the project setting? For mono/stereo/… here are other visual indicators, tracks sticking together.

Edward Tufte’s books on visualising information are a great resource and inspiration. They deal mostly with data, but many of his findings can be applied to the field of interface design.

In general,
It is kind of sad and funny at the same time, many gripes I see about the interface on this forum are about the track with wave form. The centre piece of the software and the one thing that we did not have in the days of old. Have audio editors become video editors? Do they listen with their eyes? :wink:

The more you want a tool to do the less useful it gets. That’s why a hammer is so great.
The last sentence in the Zen of Python is often overlooked, but can be applied to many fields. Clear distinction of form and function. Audacity has many, it is a toolbox. Yet all you see is the toolbox and it’s hard to pick the tool. Audacity certainly isn’t unique in that.


I guess that “mono” is superfluous for sighted users as they can see if a track is mono or stereo. For blind users it is useful to have text that can be read by a screen reader.

The ability to see the sample rate of each track becomes important if you have multi-track projects with tracks that have different sample rates. Some effects can only be applied to one sample rate at a time (for example, Graphic EQ, Filter Curve EQ, and Plot Spectrum). It is also important if you have one or more tracks at low sample rates (below 44100). Example, if you paste full range audio into an 8000 Hz sample rate track, all frequencies above 4000 Hz are eliminated (See: Nyquist frequency - Wikipedia)

Whenever possible it is best to work in 32-bit float for best quality. Processing integer format tracks loses some sound quality with every process. Personally I would prefer that Audacity always used 32-bit float tracks, but some users feel strongly that support for 16-bit should be retained to save disk space. If a track is 32-bit float, waveforms can survive going over 0 dB, whereas other formats clip at 0 dB. Given that Audacity does support integer format tracks, even though they are subject to lower quality processing and possible clipping damage, I think it’s important to be able to see at a glance if a track is 16 or 24-bit integer.

Let me rephrase that to: “Mono, 48000Hz 32-bit float”. How important is it to always see that in every track?

As you brought it up, is Audacity usable for the blind? That would be very nice.


There are good tools available on Windows for blind and visually impaired users, including JAWS and NVDA screen readers. This is one area where Microsoft has done a pretty good job.

On Windows, support for blind users is pretty good, and there is a very active community of blind Audacity users.
It’s not so good on macOS or Linux, which is partly because these platforms do not provide such good tools. Nevertheless support for blind users is gradually improving. Accessibility has always been an important issue for the Audacity team.

There is a mailing list for blind Audacity users here: Missing features - Audacity Support

Thanks for that. Pointed friend there, she mostly uses Sox and ecasound.


I agree with this. I feel Audacity has a lot of unnecessary information/clutter, and I would love to see the amplitude numbers removed entirely. Though my 16 points above were only focusing on what I consider the most essential functional changes.

Forgive me but this almost sounds like a joke. Blind people editing audio in Audacity? Seems unlikely, but if you really must cater to this then perhaps have a preference: Display additional information for blind users.

I have certain disabilities/special requirements of my own, but they are my problem - I expect to be the one to jump through a few hoops, I don’t expect the vast majority to be put out because of me.

I’m someone who regularly works with both rates in a document, and need to know the rates so I can convert anything that doesn’t match. However I find “44100Hz” very long-winded. Surely, “44.1kHz” would be a lot neater and quicker to read?

Also, I love Ingoogni’s idea about having Audacity warn you when you import audio at a a different sample rate. This gives me an idea for a feature…

In the preferences, add an option called Allow mixed sample rates in a document (off by default).

When it’s on, Audacity functions exactly like it does now, and displays the sample rates. But when it’s off, there’s only one sample rate (shown in the status bar).

If the ‘mixed rates’ setting is off and you try to import audio of a different rate, you get this dialog:

**The audio you're importing is 44.1kHz - a different sample rate to the document (48kHz). Do you want to…**
☐ Convert it to the document sample rate (will sound higher pitched)
☑ Convert it to the document sample rate and correct the pitch (recommended)
☐ Allow this document to have mixed rates (limits the effects you can use)
☐ Allow _all_ documents to have mixed rates (global preference)

If the ‘mixed rates’ setting is off and you open a document with mixed rates, you get this dialog:

**This document contains different sample rates (3 tracks = 44.1kHz, 2 tracks = 48kHz). Do you want to…**
☑ Convert all tracks to the most common sample rate (44.1kHz) and correct the pitch (recommended)
☐ Allow this document to have mixed rates (limits the effects you can use)
☐ Allow _all_ documents to have mixed rates (global preference)

when I’ve copied some audio in the clipboard and want to paste it in to the document. In every single case, I ALWAYS want to paste it directly below the current track at the current playhead position.

Does “Edit menu > Duplicate (Ctrl + D)” do what you want?
or perhaps “Edit menu > Clip Boundaries > Split New”?
(see here for all Edit menu options: Edit Menu - Audacity Manual)

In Tracks preferences set “Auto-fit track height

See: Tracks Preferences - Audacity Manual


Thank you but No, none of those options work. I’m talking about if I copy audio from another document, come back to my main document and just want to insert the audio below where I’m working, there’s no easy way to do it.

Thank you, I didn’t know about that. The trouble with that is it makes the tracks too small, so I would never use it. If there was an option to specify the minimum height in pixels, then it would be perfect! :slight_smile:

Not the Track Control Panel - but the waveforms themselves can be different colors (from a palette of four)

See: Audio Tracks - Audacity Manual


Based on the above conversation, I’ve developed my re-design of the panel a little further…

Key features:

  1. Bigger, clearer title
  2. No more amplitude values - (spectrogram mode can still show values)
  3. Track drop-down menu now has its own dedicated space
  4. Collapse button restyled to more clearly indicate what it does
  5. ‘Select’ button removed (unnecessary as you can click anywhere to select)
  6. More width for volume/pan sliders to allow more precision
    • and + symbols replaced with volume symbols
  7. (Just an idea:) A button above the pan slider to quickly reset it to center?
  8. ‘Mono’ removed as we can see what tracks are mono/stereo
  9. ‘48000Hz’ changed to ‘48kHz’
  10. Titles are auto-assigned colors, making it easier to quickly find a track by looking for its color

This is where Mac really wins out over Windows.

With a Magic Mouse on a Mac you can horizontally scroll the waveforms with a left/right gesture on the mouse and vertically scroll with up/down gestures (this can be a little unsettling at times as its far too easy, I find anyway, to accidentally nudge the tracks about).

On my PC I can only scroll tracks vertically with the scroll-wheel on the mouse.