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In-depth Feature:  Cakewalk Sonar 3
Rob G writes: .

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User Interface Enhancements

The big picture

Once the audio configuration has been completed, the changes really start sinking in. The most obvious improvement is the user interface, which has been totally overhauled. Just about everything has changed -the style and layout of controls, toolbars are now modern, dockable palettes, colours can be configured for almost every interface element and saved as presets (similar to Windows themes).

Other notable enhancements include:

  • Within track view, tracks may be individually resized vertically or maximised to occupy the entire area available to allow finer-grain control when editing envelopes on tracks, or minimised to a tiny strip to free up display space for other tasks. Muted tracks are dimmed and record-armed tracks are highlighted for quick identification. Text labels have been replaced throughout with intuitive icons allowing more to be shown in available space and overall improving the visual appearance of the program.

  • A track inspector is displayed to the left of the track view, allowing for quick and convenient access to all the parameters for any channel - MIDI, audio, bus, soft synth or output. The inspector can be configured to track the current selection in track view, or locked to an individual channel.

  • When recording, "confidence recording" may be used to provide visual feedback that the operation is working, by directly drawing the waveform or MIDI events in the track's strip in the clip pane. When a track is armed for recording, it is overlaid with a red tint - helping eliminate accidental overwriting of existing data.

  • DirectX instruments, and by extension VST instruments, now create special tracks within the track view. Inserting an instrument into a project creates a MIDI track to control the synth, and one or more DXi tracks used to route the audio output to an appropriate bus or output, apply EQ and effects and perform other mixing and routing tasks.

    New console

  • The mixing console has had a similar redesign - so that the same options are generally available in either place where appropriate. Sections of the console panel may be selectively shown or hidden to reduce clutter and allow the user to concentrate on the task at hand - the full set of available parameters in comprehensive to say the least! Meters can be displayed horizontally or vertically, their peak levels can be displayed as numeric values directly in the track header bar - as well as highlighting clipping and indicating the amount of reduction necessary to eliminate it.

  • A new large transport bar allows quick access to record and playback options - such as loop, punch, tempo and record mode settings. The transport can be configured to act either as start/stop or start/pause - affecting where the next playback will start from - depending on the task at hand.

    This list is by no means comprehensive, listing all the changes here is nigh impossible, suffice to say that Cakewalk really seem to have spent a lot of time considering the user-interface from both aesthetic and usability perspectives, and this certainly seems to have paid off.

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