Open source Advent calendar: Audacity audio editor

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Open source is an island in the commercialized Internet. Every day until December 24, heise online will open “calendar doors” with a portrait of a project. It’s an advent calendar for tech-savvy people. In the fully commercialized digital world, almost everything is owned by a large internet company. Their software is neither open nor free. As an alternative, there is this small island of the open source world: software whose code is publicly visible and can be independently verified for possible security breaches and backdoors. Software that can be freely used, distributed and improved. Often the motivation for work is simply the joy of providing something useful to the company.


Short portraits of open source projects will be published on heise online from December 1 to 24. These are the functions of the respective software, pitfalls, history, context, and funding.

Short portraits of open source projects will be published on heise online from December 1 to 24. These are the functions of the respective software, pitfalls, history, context, and funding. Some projects are supported by an individual, others by a loosely organized community, a tightly managed foundation with full-time employees, or a consortium. The work is completely voluntary, or it is funded through donations, cooperation with internet companies, government funding, or an open source business model. Whether it is a single application or a complex ecosystem, whether it is a PC program, an application or an operating system, the diversity of open source is overwhelming.

The idea of ​​democratizing technology is often the driving force behind the development of open source software: what large companies sell at high prices should be made available to the general public for further development free of charge. Hardly any other audio processing project has contributed as much to this idea as Audacity.

While simple editing and mixing functions are now integrated into many multimedia software, this was not the case at the end of the 90s. Digital music, freed from physical data carriers such as CDs, is no longer the case. ‘has gained a foothold in the private sector only thanks to the MP3 codec of the Fraunhofer Institute. Ever faster hard drives and processors seemed to make it possible to perform audio processing on affordable computers. In the professional field, extremely expensive solutions like Pro Tools that rely on proprietary accelerator cards dominated. The counterpart for the home, although with much less traces possible and initially only destructive editing, were cheaper programs such as Cool Edit, which was later adopted by Adobe as “Audition” – a sign of Audacity. .

Boldness 1.2

A completely free and flexible audio editor did not yet exist. Must also Dominique mazzoni and Roger dannenberg at Carnegie Mellon University – both no longer undergraduates, Dannenberg had already obtained his doctorate in computer science in 1982. The two began their “Audacity” project in the fall of 1999, which means “daring” in German. Because it was bold to want to free the complex subject of audio processing with a lot of math behind the software vendors. As a result, it wasn’t until May 2000 that the first usable version was ready, the first upload only appeared on Sourceforge in October, with issue number 0.8 clearly marked as an unfinished project.

It wasn’t until June 2002 for version 1.0, which was finally able to record reliably – with the audio drivers, which weren’t very good at the time, that was one of the biggest issues for the developers. audio software. As a free publisher, the program is now a complete success, according to the wiki Audacity downloaded the first milestone over a million times.

From there the software was quickly developed by many volunteers, there were filters, effects, better functions for mixing multiple tracks, translations and other things. The appearance of the application has always imitated the classic recorders of recording studios. To make this possible on Windows, MacOS and Linux das Toolkit wxWidgets used for the user interface which, like Audacity, was available under GPL licenses.

In the case of proprietary file formats such as WMA, however, developments still had to be done afterwards, but over time interfaces with professional software such as VST plugins from audio giant Steinberg have become possible. By the late 2000s, Audacity had become serious competition for productions ranging from podcasts to full-length music albums.

Such projects always call the big names of the respective industry on the scene, in this case the Muse group. It took over the trademark rights from Audacity in April 2021 and subsequently caused a lot of confusion as new versions included data collection and tracking, including with Google Analytics. The outcry in the open source community was high and Muse was quick to back down. To understand how you can even have such an idea: Muse mainly makes his money selling sheet music, not software, and had access to his own sheet music library and accounting built into Audacity.

Free developers have developed this again in the form of forks; quickly there were many such splits from the last completely free code. The most ambitious project is called Tenacity, in German: Persistence. This is now also requested, as Tenacity has not yet produced a version as directly executable files. A final message from the developers on Github from November 2021 gives hope: The project is so not dead yet, just put it back a bit. If you don’t trust the current Muse version of Audacity, you can always choose between on the preview page of the previous project many older problems.


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Disclaimer: This article is generated from the feed and not edited by our team.

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