Update 3.1.0 has Ruined Audacity for Me.


I am an amateur flight simulator audio engineer who has been using Audacity for around seven and a half years. Until update 3.1.0, Audacity was arguably my favorite program that I had ever put on a computer.

Unfortunately for this state of affairs, update 3.1.0 has added a special looping mode toggle button. With the type of sound design I use Audacity for, playing parts of and entire audio samples on loop very quickly and conveniently is EXTREMELY important. This loop mode toggle button, along with the ridiculous and unnecessary special 2nd type of selection for selecting which audio to loop, has made the looped playing of audio and parts of audio an annoying and time consuming process. What took under half a second now takes five to ten. For this reason, any Audacity version past version 3.1.0 is completely unusable to me.

Discovering this update and schlepping through editing audio files with this horrendous feature has been such a pain in my rear area, it has convinced me to overcome my incredible laziness and actually record a video, demonstrating the terribleness of this feature, purely out of my hatred for it.

You may watch the video here for a demonstration of this abomination:

If anyone who sees this post has any authority or voice in Audacity’s development whatsoever, PLEASE consider implementing or requesting the implementation of an option to revert to the old mode of looping audio. Simply selecting a piece of the sample and pressing Shift+Space is so easy, so simple.

To whoever may read this, I apologize for my rudeness and terseness, but if you have indeed read it, it should be more than understandable.

Martin Keary, who is now in charge of designing Audacity, explains the changes to loop mode here: https://youtu.be/HpA138b-J9s?t=84
Earlier in that video he describes the other main changes in Audacity 3.1.0.

Looping is perhaps a bit better in the current 3.1.3 version (available here: Audacity ® | Downloads), though personally I’m still using Audacity 2.4.2 for production work.

One feature of the new looping that might be useful to you is the command Transport>Looping>Set Loop to Selection - and it’s shortcutShift+L

This came to mind after watching your “angry video” where you import a short file to be a loop.

And see the other new looping commands - particularly the shortcut “L” to toggle looping on/off

You can also access (most of) the looping commands by right clicking in the Timeline:

See this page in the Manual:

BTW I have sent a link for your video to the design chief at Audacity responsible for new looping.


Thanks for the feedback.

FWIW: You can drag in the timeline to create a new loop region anywhere, you don’t need to zoom out to move the old loop region over. If you also right-click the timeline and enable dragging selection, playback will start inside the loop region automatically as well.

So, I have looked over the 3.1.0 update video on the Audacity YouTube channel, which was definitely very foolish of me to not have watched before making this forum post (thank you for directing me to it, steve!), and I have learned a few things.

Starting with things I was not aware of before, the click-dragging on the timeline to select a section of audio for the special loop selection (which I still think is superfluous anyway) makes things a lot faster for looping sections of audio. Shift+L to set the loop section selection to your audio selection is also useful. But all of these nice features don’t feel like they’re all part of a greater whole of something that works well—they’re more like patches put on something that’s inefficient to make up for that inefficiency.

Also, note that even though I said “3.1**.0**” has ruined Audacity, I am using Audacity 3.1.3—I said 3.1.0 because it was the update that added the feature, not the update I was using. It’s my bad, I should have mentioned earlier.

Now, onto why, after learning more about this feature, I still think it’s needlessly inconvenient. These lists of steps detail the mental process of doing different things with looping in post-3.1.0 Audacity, and pre-3.1.0 Audacity.

Post-3.1.0, How to Loop an Audio Section
(1) Zoom in to a part if necessary (Ctrl+Mouse Wheel)
(2) Click and drag your mouse along the timeline to select a loop section, which will also enable loop mode
(3) Set the cursor* to the beginning of the loop section
(4) Press the space bar or play button

Pre-3.1.0, How to Loop an Audio Section
(1) Zoom in to a part if necessary (Ctrl+Mouse Wheel)
(2) Click and drag your mouse along the audio to select a portion of audio to play (much larger and more convenient click-space than the timeline, by the way)
(3) Press Shift+Space

As you can plainly see, even to someone with a complete knowledge of how the new looping works (which I did not have before), it’s still less convenient, and still an unnecessary change.

Post-3.1.0, How to Play an Entire Sample
(1) Check if loop mode is enabled
(2) If loop mode is enabled, press the L key to disable it
(3) Press the Home key to set the cursor* to the beginning of the audio
(4) Press the space bar to play the audio

Pre-3.1.0, How to Play an Entire Sample
(1) Press the Home key to cancel your selection and move the cursor to the beginning of the audio
(2) Press the space bar to play the audio

Looks like it takes a similar amount of effort, and it’s just the specific keys that have changed (it’s also noteworthy that this takes 3 keypresses instead of 2), but this is deceptive. Because of the way loop mode and the loop section selection transfer between files, it adds an extra layer of confusion, because the user will have to actually check whether this special loop mode is enabled or not. Before, you always knew whether loop mode was on, based on whether you were holding down the shift key—there was no button that you had to check. Let’s look at one last thing, my main complaint:

Post-3.1.0, How to Loop an Entire Audio Sample
(1) Press Ctrl+A to select the entire file
(2) Press Shift+L to set the loop selection to your selection
(3) Check if loop mode is enabled
(4) If loop mode is not enabled, press the L key
(5) Press the space bar

Pre-3.1.0, How to Loop an Entire Audio Sample
(1) Press Ctrl+A (if you’ve just imported the file, this step is unnecessary)
(2) Press Shift+Space

In the old versions of Audacity, looping an entire audio file required about three or four brain cells, which is something the new looping method completely obliterates, requiring you to go through extra checks and steps when, in the old system, you simply imported a file, pressed one key combination, and boom: done.

There is still nothing you couldn’t do before that you can do now, and each and every thing you could do with the old looping system was more streamlined and intuitive than with the new system. My opinion may have become less absolutely negative after learning more about the conveniences that this new looping mode brought along with it, but I still dislike this feature a lot.

Thank you very much; that’s more than I ever could have expected! If it’s not too presumptuous of me, I would also like him to see this forum post if he does see the video, as it contains corrections to some of the inaccuracies that were in the video due to my previous lack of knowledge of the new looping mechanics.

Now, I will move on from complaining about this feature to my ideas for what can be done about it to make Audacity less excruciating to use for people who prefer the old looping system. In the video and original forum post, I suggested adding an option to revert to the old method of looping. But, I now think that’s unnecessary. Here is what is, in my opinion, a simpler way to allow people who preferred the old looping mode to enjoy its mechanics without coding in the option to completely revert the GUI:
(1) New option: “Loop Section Conforms to Audio Selection” (off by default) This option, when enabled, will force the loop section selection to conform to whatever portion of audio you select, and will delete the loop section selection when you unselect audio. But, it will not affect whether loop mode is enabled while selecting audio.
(2) New option: “Shift to Enable Loop Mode Temporarily”. (off by default) While this option is on, holding the shift key down will enable loop mode, and releasing it will disable loop mode upon release.
(3) New option: “Retain Loop Selection Between Files” (on by default) When on, this option will retain the loop section selection when importing a new sample into Audacity while there are no samples currently loaded in. If disabled, when one imports a new audio sample while there are no other samples currently loaded by Audacity, the loop section selection will be reset to nothing.

These three options would be a way of allowing for looping more like the old style, and be pretty simple to implement, without being too invasive to the code as adding in a way to completely revert to the old looping style. Maybe they could be in the “Preferences: Playback” menu?

I will almost definitely still prefer the old style until the day I rot in my grave, but it would be unreasonable of me to ask of developers that they add in a way of completely reverting to an old way that something works after just having added in something completely new.

  • Not sure what this is actually called. It’s the one-pixel wide line that indicates where the audio will start playing when you press the space-bar or the play button.

There was an even quicker way pre-3.1.0:
(1) Import the audio file
(2) Zoom in to a part if necessary (Ctrl+Mouse Wheel)
(3) Shift + Click and drag on the timeline (the time ruler above the tracks).

This was the looping version of “Timeline Quick Play” (TQP).
Parts of “Timeline Quick Play” still exist in 3.1.x, but sadly not the “Quick Loop” feature. (See here for how it is now: Timeline - Audacity Manual and the old behaviour here: Timeline - Audacity Manual)

It’s academic now (unless you revert to an older version of Audacity), but a prime reason for TQP was to make it easier to create seamless audio loops. It was particularly convenient for long loops as it allowed you to start playing the loop region from any point - for example:

  1. Click and drag your mouse along the audio to select a portion of audio to play
  2. Shift + Click on the Timeline just before the end of the selection. Playback starts immediately and when it reaches the end of the selection it loops back to the start (very handy when making long loops).

Fortunately the ability to start playing a loop region from anywhere within the loop region, has been retained.

The downside of the old TQP looping is that it was not very discoverable. I’d hoped that the old behaviour would be retained, but just made more visible / easier to find, (similar to your proposal), but that was not to be. I agree that for those of us that frequently use looping, the new way of doing it is cumbersome in comparison to older versions,

What really kills me is that these newer versions of Audacity are actually better for the process itself of editing audio (mainly due to being able to drag said audio around), but it’s so much more cumbersome to hear the results of your work.

I’ve recently been upgraded to 3.1.3 though Manjaro Linux. I by far preferred whatever version I was using before Is there a way to install earlier versions with the previous behaviors?

Yes. OIder versions of Audacity are available here: Old Audacity versions download

For Linux, the Audacity team only provide source code for versions earlier than Audacity 3.1.0 (later versions are also provided as AppImage builds).
If you can build from source, then the source code is available either from the link that jademan provided, or from GitHub: Releases · audacity/audacity · GitHub

Maybe this is old, but just upgraded to a newer version and wondering what happened. I too preferred an easy loop mode via Select, Shift+Space. Soo easy and the main thing I use Audacity for. The shortest new way seems to be Select, Shift + L, L, Space. Twice the steps… please bring back a single shortcut for loop on select.

Just checking in to add up. I guess many people misses this. It is the reason why I’m still using version 2 indeed… To me, fundamental. I deeply love audacity and have much respect for thou tho

Can’t tolerate a world without shift+space = playback loop… it was sweet to sample and the seamless behavior favored drifting around the footage/song