Old Experimental Theme Support

Experimental Theming support was introduced several years ago in a couple of the 1.3.x beta versions. This old theming support, which is limited to buttons and waveform still exists, but is disabled by default.

The old theming support is not officially supported, but may be turned on (at the users risk) by enabling it in audacity.cfg. This file can be found in:

  • XP SP3: Documents and SettingsApplication DataAudacity
  • Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8: UsersAppDataRoamingAudacity
  • OS X: ~/Library/Application Support/audacity/
  • Linux: ~/.audacity-data/

To enable Theming support, append the following to ‘audacity.cfg’:


Tip: If you mess up the audacity.cfg file, you can just delete it and it will be recreated the next time that you use Audacity, though doing so will reset all user preferences.

To install a theme:
Create a folder called “Theme” (without quotes) in the same directory as the audacity.cfg file.
Download (or make) a theme file and name it “ImageCache.png”. Then put that file into the “Theme” folder and restart Audacity.

Some ready-made themes are available here:
http://jcsu.jesus.cam.ac.uk/~hdc21/design/audacity/ (several themes from Jesus College Student Union website)

Enabling Theme options in preferences:
This requires building Audacity from the source code.
Enable (un-comment) #define EXPERIMENTAL_THEME_PREFS in the /src/Experimental.h file before building Audacity.
There is also #define EXPERIMENTAL_THEMING which is a ready made theme you can turn on.
Please not that this is not officially supported.

Some additional old information about theming in the manual:
and on the Audacity wiki: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Theming_HowTo
Please note that these were written for now obsolete versions of Audacity so may not be entirely accurate for current version.

Just upgraded to 2.1.0 and unfortunately this appears to only work partially now. Yes the theme file gets loaded and buttons etc are changed, but the colours are not.

If anyone can shed some light on this please do.

There are a lot of new features and enhancements in Audacity 2.1.0. As Audacity continues to evolve, it is inevitable that obsolete features that have been unsupported for years will stop working. At some unspecified time in the future, I’d guess that theme support is certain to return, but it is likely to be in a completely different way to the old 1.3.x method (which was rather cryptic, incomplete, did not support modern high resolution display rendering, and not at all user friendly).

The visual appearance of Audacity is largely down to WxWidgets (the cross-platform development library that Audacity uses https://www.wxwidgets.org/). Currently we use WxWidgets 2.8, which is now quite old. In the near future we are likely to upgrade to WxWidgets 3.1 or 3.2. This is a very big change that requires a lot of work from the developers but is necessary for Audacity to continue working on modern operating systems. There are also several Audacity features that we would like to improve but currently can’t due to limitations in WxWidgets 2.8 and require 3.x. As an educated guess I think it is very likely that when we do upgrade (not in Audacity 2.1.1 but probably soon after that), the old theme support will probably stop working completely and much of that old code removed.

In the long term, there is interest in developing support for touch screen devices. To date that has not been a practical issue due to the limited power and storage capacity of mobile devices, but there is a clear trend toward high power touch screen devices, including hybrid laptop/touch-pad devices. Already Audacity is running into problems with the high pixel density of “Retina Display” on the latest iMac computers. Audacity needs to be able to meet the demands of next generation technology, and that will require change to how the GUI is handled.

The short answer is, that if you want Audacity primarily for its audio editing and processing features, use the most recent version. If the old theme support is more important to you than the new and enhanced audio processing features, then use an older version.

Thank you for such an in depth answer. To be honest I am not too fussed about being able to change things like the buttons. Colours, especially the waveform and its background, is much more important. We all perceive colours differently, even without taking personal taste into the equation plus there must be variations in screen reproduction. The ability to be able to manipulate the colour set would be a desired feature even once the other theme code is dropped.

I did have a quick scan of the wxwidgets site, but I confess my eyes glazed over. Is it likely that via the widgets the colours could be changed? I expect that might mean compiling afresh?

Off the record (if anything can be “off record” on a public forum :wink:) I’ve seen a sneak preview of the available customisations proposed by one of the lead developers, and it does include the ability to manipulate the colours. There is as yet no timetable for these changes, but thought that you would be interested that it is being worked on.

I want to be able to make the waveform red without altering anything else. Is there a theme that can do that for me? I’m currently running Audacity 2.1.2 on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

i’m trying to install a theme, and it seems to be doing fine except for the color. The color won’t change no matter what I do, and I want to make the waveform green. I’m currently using Audacity 2.1.3 on Windows 10 64-bit.

Closing this topic as theme support has been reintroduced in Audacity. Information is available in the manual: https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/themes.html