Free Alternative Friday: Audacity

Free Alternative Friday explores various free (or very cheap) tools, apps, and utilities you can use instead of the expensive, mainstream alternative. Think Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, and you’ll be on the right track.  This week we’re looking at Audacity, a free program to record and edit audio files.

When it comes to editing audio, there are a lot of options out there. But when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck (or lack of a buck, in this case), it’s tough to beat Audacity.

Audacity - Free Audio Editor and Recorder

Audacity Features

With Audacity you can do almost anything you can think of with your audio files:

  • Record audio from the mic or a line-in jack, which will let you digitize your analog music collection
  • Up to 16 editing tracks, plus you can dub over existing recordings to create multi-track recordings
  • Import a variety of audio files, including WAV, AIFF, AU, MPEG, etc.
  • Export a variety of audio files, including WAV, AIFF, AU, MPEG, etc, and with a variety of quality options
  • Export to MP3 with a free plugin (there are other plugins available to export to a number of proprietary formats)
  • Robust editing options
  • Several built in effects, including audio clean-up options, volume adjustment and normalization, pitch/tempo alteration, etc.
  • Add additional effects with plugins

Read the full feature list here.

Audacity Requirements

It doesn’t take a whole lot to run this program. If you’re a Windows user, you’ll need to be running at least Windows 98 (and seriously, is anyone still running Windows 98?). If you’re on a Mac, you’ll need Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.7. It will also run on Linux.

Easy, right?

Getting Started

Audacity is a powerful application, and can be a little intimidating to new users. Thankfully, it’s also very well documented. You can look at the full documentation here. There is also a handy and fully searchable Wiki available.

While it has a robust suite of features, the tool can be intimidating to new users

I would highly recommend the Wiki, because it’s easy to browse, you can search for specific items, and there are also lists of tutorials and tips for getting started.

Expanding Audacity

Under the features section I mentioned that you can add to the program’s already impressive feature list with plugins. They even have a list of plugins available on their official site.

Audacity on the Go

Because it’s a desktop application, Audacity doesn’t seem very portable. At least until you realize there’s a version available for Portable Apps. What’s Portable Apps? It’s an extremely handy application that you can install onto your thumb drive to launch programs from any computer without having to install them locally. It has a wide variety of programs available: browsers, security tools, utilities, games, productive tools, and everything else.

If you’re not already using Portable Apps, check it out here.

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