Using Manual without Opening Browser?

Hi, I don’t understand why, even though I download the zipped manual, the only option when I open Audacity is the manual “in web browser”?
I don’t want to have a browser open when I’m recording, so how can I simply access the manual without having to open a browser? I don’t understand this at all… thanks.

2.0.5 Mac OS 10.6.8

Well, after again downloading the manual, I opened Audacity, and from the help menu clicked on the manual, (as I already have Safari open anyway), and now it’s opened the manual up in Firefox! What is going on? How many browsers need to open to just see the manual, and why can’t it just be in PDF form, and viewable when offline? I’ve honestly never run across something this frustrating with any other program.

There isn’t a PDF Manual, sorry. That’s why it says Help > Manual (in web browser). The HTML Manual uses image maps (meaning that you click on different parts of the image to visit different links) which have proved a stumbling block to making a professional-looking PDF version.

If you have downloaded the Manual, you don’t need to be online to view it (except for external links in italics which do require an internet connection).

If the Manual’s HTML file opened in Firefox that must be how your association for HTML files is set. You can change Safari to be your default browser in its Preferences if you wish.

If you have a professional PDF application on your computer, you may be able to point it to and have it make a PDF of the entire site. This works (with at least the image map limitation above) in Adobe Acrobat.


Hi Gale,

I don’t understand how I can view the manual without going online. You said the manual can’t be downloaded as a pdf., so how and in what form is it, if you download it, how do you view it?
Why can’t it be like every other manual out there, what is in it that makes it different from all others? This is puzzling, and confusing to me. I just want to know if there’s a way I can access the manual, without having to connect to the internet… thanks

Assuming that you are on Mac OS X, download the recommended DMG file from here ( and install Audacity according to the instructions. This will install the Audacity program including the manual on your computer.

The manual (from your computer) will then be available in the Help menu. It will open in your default web browser but the page content is coming from the help files that have been installed on your computer. The help files are still there even if you have no Internet connection.

The most common format for help files is CHM which is the Microsoft Windows “compiled HTML” format. They don’t work on Linux. The probably don’t work on Mac either (I don’t know, I don’t use Mac, but Mac isn’t Microsoft). We don’t have the resources to maintain the manual in platform specific formats, so it needs to be a cross-platform format, such as HTML or PDF.

The manual is written by a team of volunteers and is updated constantly so that the manual is up to date for each new release. New volunteers are always welcome (particularly volunteers that are able to translate into other languages). Audacity is a free program and there is no remuneration for documentation volunteers.

As the volunteers that write the documentation are scattered across the world, editing is done on line as a “wiki” ( which enables volunteers from the Audacity community to write the documentation collaboratively. Immediately before each release, a “snapshot” of the latest version is taken (after first checking that it is accurate and complete. This snapshot is then included in the Windows EXE installer and the Mac OS X DMG version and available as a download for other users including GNU Linux from here:

It is theoretically possible to convert the HTML help into PDF format, but we have not a way to automatically and accurately convert the “image maps” that provide tool tips and links (such as the clickable picture of the Audacity interface on the front page of the manual). Converting to PDF format would require a lot more time and effort, not only to create the converted version but to then re-check it to ensure that the converted version is complete and accurate. If we employed documentation staff at commercial rates, then no doubt this would be viable, but then we would need to charge for it to cover costs.

I have previously suggested that some users may be willing to pay for printable documentation, and that could raise much needed funds to support future development. Would you be willing to pay, say $30 for a printable PDF manual?

I am not in favour of charging for a PDF Manual “that can be printed”. It’s clear (as I predicted) that a significant number of users think that PDF is the “expected”, “non-confusing” local format for a Manual, and Manuals should really be free in a free application, surely?

$30 to $40 for a “printed” manual seems more reasonable.

Creating a Manual collaboratively in PDF seems to be quite hard, unless you use for example Google docs formats then convert it to PDF afterwards, in which case you are back to the same problem.

Floss Manuals uses a system called “Booki”: and supports PDF and EPUB publication formats. I can’t find much by way of technical details about Booki.


To answer the specific question, browsers are just computer programs and they work just fine without any internet connection at all. I run a web site and I build it completely on my Mac Mini with no internet connection. I “surf” to it in Safari by File > Open File > comix.html (for one example, my comics web page). It’s in my Documents folder.

I write it in plain old TextEdit and open the file in Safari to make sure it looks OK and then I use Fetch to post it on-line. Yes, for that last step I do need the internet connection, and no, I don’t need a fancy web generator package to write a web page, but I do need to know how to speak html like you know how to speak English (and maybe others).

In the same way, the Audacity instructions should open up with no internet connection. It’s just a file on your Mac.

Control-Click on the file > Get Info and down near the bottom should be a place where you can select what browser opens it.

Open With:

As above, it’s totally possible for you to be reading the instructions on your Mac and the instructions require something from a real web site. Then the browser just calls for a connection to the internet and goes looking for it. I don’t think PDF can do that.

It’s usually completely transparent to you (unless you pull your internet connection down). If you do have troubles with your internet, then some portions of the instructions may not be available.

Also as above, Audacity is available on the three major computing platforms and cranking out individual instruction books for all of them is a problem, and then there’s the Adobe PDF license which is money-based.

How much did you pay for Audacity again?


Viability at that price would depend on expected sales. The current 2.0.5 manual is 212 pages, some of which are quite long, so after formatting for a book it could be upward of 500 pages. Even a major distributor such as Amazon is likely to list such a book at around $40 + p&p, and they have the benefit well established world wide distribution. In addition, it would be out very of date in a couple of years.

The Audacity manual IS free. No-one is suggesting for one moment that it should not be.

It may be worth considering moving to a different collaborative authoring platform, but the initial move is likely to be a huge undertaking. There are a lot more people making demands about what they expect than there are people contributing. With more contributors much more could be done.

PDF files can contain Internet URLs. Normally, when clicked, they would call the document from the Internet which would then open in the default web browser.

The PDF format itself is essentially free (" Public Patent License") but there are some associated technologies that are owned by Adobe and restricted. There are several open source pdf readers and authoring programs, but there are a few features of “Adobe PDF” that are not supported. Adobe Acrobat is the big, bells and whistles PDF authoring suite - it is not free,

Converting from the current wiki format to PDF is not straightforward and would require either very sophisticated conversion software (such as Acrobat), or a lot of manual editing of the HTML, or both. If it were straightforward then no doubt we would have done it. I’ve had a look at this myself and I can get quite close (with open source software), but the image maps remain the major problem.

If you are looking at it in Finder, there are dozens of HTML files (and images) in different folders. It is not a unitary document.

If you have not installed the Manual, you have to look at in Finder to open it.

As Steve said, most (not all) PDF applications will open links to web sites (in a web browser, not in the PDF application).

If it was felt sufficiently important that some page on the main Audacity Wiki to be part of the Manual, it would have to be part of the PDF.


Even Acrobat fails on the image maps. It’s actually a bug that they are pretty much refusing to fix.

The image map translation worked quite well in Acrobat several versions ago, but at that time the conversion of the entire site to PDF using just that URL was a mess.


Yes. Perhaps it might be a subscription for n number of Manuals.

It would be an encouragement to upgrade Audacity when the new Manual came out.

And a lower cost, unitary digital format should probably be considered (to be read outside the browser). That should be cheaper.