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In-depth Feature:  Apple Garageband
Mike Beaudet writes: .

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Is beauty only skin deep?
One of the things that have always set Apple apart from the pack has been their attention to detail on user interfaces. Here Garageband is no exception, as the software has a very accessible and mostly intuitive interface. The application has few drop-down menus with a minimal amount of options on each. Most of the application functions are located either in the main program window, with its wooden-style end caps, or in a properties menu so there’s not a lot of need to wander through the program to find that certain function that you're looking for but can't remember where the designers put it.

The Garageband Interface

The default view mixes the functions of track selection, mixer, and timeline into a single window. The left most portion of the window is dedicated to what Apple calls Track Headers, which contain the name of the track, a button to mute or solo the instrument, and one to open a volume curve channel for automation. Sadly other types of track automation aren’t available. Double clicking on the Track Header will open the Track Properties window where you can change the instrument parameters for either the Real or Software instruments but we’ll get to that later. Immediately adjacent to the Track Headers is the Track Mixer where you can set the panorama and overall volume for your track.

Next to the Track Headers and Mixers is the Timeline view, which if you’re used to any other DAW will seem instantly familiar. Here you can see individual audio or MIDI phrases in a color-coded context with blue representing Real instruments and green representing the Software ones. A button in the upper right hand corner of the Timeline allows you to modify the display grid and happily triplets are available as an option. At the bottom of the Track Headers is a zoom bar for selecting the level of detail displayed in the Timeline.

Working in the Timeline is fairly straightforward and you can take advantage of copy, cut, paste, and delete. If you are used to working with shortcut keys will be happy to know that you are well represented as most commands you work with have associated shortcuts, including option-drag for duplicating a part. Because of the simplicity of the arranger, there is no real need for a toolbox of arranger functions when working in the Timeline. In addition to basic editing, joining and splitting of parts are available through both the edit menu and shortcut keys. Some functions however, like enabling looping for a portion of the timeline, are only available through a shortcut key.

Below all of this is the main program control bar with the standard transport functions, a time display, overall system output volume, and buttons to add tracks, view track properties or view either the integrated Loop Browser or track editor functions. Clicking on either the Loop Browser or Track Editor buttons will cause the control bar to lift and present an additional display on the lower portion of the screen.

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