Avid’s Pro Tools audio editing software is used by thousands of feature film and television editors, musicians, and sound designers. Have you just begun using this powerful digital audio workstation (DAW)? There’s a lot packed into the app.

To get you started, here are 11 clever keyboard shortcuts to help you get a grip on the app, improve your workflow, and supercharge your editing skills.

 

The Power of Shortcuts

It’s possible to do most of your work by pointing and clicking in Pro Tools windows and menus. After a few days working in this complex app, you’ll notice these random clicks take a lot of time, especially when repeating the same task again and again. Save time by using keyboard shortcuts to accelerate your work.

Just ask Bruce about how keyboard shortcuts sped up his workflow

We’ll skip the basics of opening, saving and so on. Similarly, we’ll set aside the complexity of keyboard focus mode for now. Instead, we’ll look at some of the most common time-saving keystrokes in these categories:

  • Layout and set up
  • Navigation
  • Making selections

Let’s get started.

Note: we list Mac commands below. Working on PC? Substitute “control” anytime you see “command,” “alt” when you see “option,” and “start” (Windows) when you see “control.

 

Layout and Set Up

You can save a lot of time before you even begin editing. These shortcuts help set up your workspace and make it more manageable.

  1. Adding tracks

Have a mix of mono and stereo tracks, sends, and mixes? No need to add them one by one. You can create them all quickly without taking your hands off the keyboard:

  • Create a new track with command-shift-n. This invokes the “New Tracks” window
  • Type the number of tracks you want to create
  • Cycle through track channels (mono, stereo, etc.) by typing command-left arrow or command-right arrow
  • Cycle through the type of track (audio, midi, mix, etc.) by typing command-up arrow or command-down arrow
  • Add a new row of tracks by typing command-shift-down arrow (or remove it by typing command-right arrow)

 

  1. Naming tracks

Keep your sessions tidy and understandable by naming tracks. After all, the default “Audio 1,” “Audio 2” naming scheme isn’t that helpful. There’s no need to double click on every track to rename them. Try this:

  • Double-click a track name. This will invoke the track naming window
  • Name the track in the top field. Type tab to move to the next field and add comments
  • Now that you’re done, type command-right arrow to move to the next. This will display the naming window for the track below without the need to click the “OK” button and double-click it
  • Want an even faster method? After you’ve finished adding the track name and comments, just type command-return to jump to the next track

Note: It’s worth naming your tracks prior to recording or processing on them, as the auto-renamed clips will be named according to the current track name. 

 

  1. Resize mix tracks

Have you found your mix desk is overflowing with tracks? Tired of scrolling? Want to see as many channels on the screen at once? Type command-option-m to show narrow mix tracks.

 

  1. Resize edit tracks

What about your edit tracks? Perhaps they’re sprawling down the screen in an endless flow. Of course, you can right-click on the left track edge and select the size. There’s a quicker way. Type control-down arrow to make them smaller (and control-up arrow to make them bigger). This will change the track selected with the edit cursor.

Want to change many tracks? Drag the mouse vertically across many tracks then try the shortcut. All of them will resize. What to change every track? No problem. Type command-option-down arrow to reduce them, and command-option-up arrow to increase them.

 

Navigation

Now your session is ready to go. It won’t take long before the edit window begins filling with regions scattered throughout your tracks. Here are few tricks to move quickly around the edit window.

  1. Jump to track

Have the mix desk in view? Want to see the related track in the edit window? Simple. Just control-shift-click on the mix track name to make the edit window’s track jump immediately into view. It works the opposite way, too: control-shift-click on an edit track name to make the mix desk channel strip jump into view.

 

  1. Tab to transient

Imagine you have a sound file with dozens of whooshes. Each of them has five seconds of space in between. Jump from one whoosh to the next by pressing tab via the “tab to transient” function. You can turn tab to transient on and off by clicking an icon in the edit window header. Type command-option-tab to save reaching for the mouse every time.

 

  1. Jump to marker

Markers are a good way to make simple session above the edit window timeline like using “Exterior warehouse” and “Interior office” to keep track of scene changes. These will be shown in the marker list (type command-keypad 5 to bring it up). Jump from one marker to the next by typing the keypad-period and the number beside each marker name and then period again.

 

Making Selections

Now that you’re able to move around your tracks more quickly. Let’s see if we can speed up editing the regions.

  1. Change edit mode

You’ll find yourself switching between “Shuffle,” “Slip,” “Spot,” and “Grid” modes hundreds of times during a project. Here are shortcuts to save clicking:

  • Switch to shuffle mode: option-1
  • Switch to slip mode: option-2
  • Switch to spot mode: option-3
  • Switch to grid mode: option-4
  • Cycle through modes: escape key

 

  1. Change edit tool

Similarly, you’ll need to switch between the zoom, trim, and other tools. Here are the shortcuts:

  • Zoom tool: command-1
  • Trim tool: command-2
  • Selector tool: command-3
  • Grab tool: command-4
  • Scrub tool: command-5
  • Pencil tool: command-6
  • Cycle through tools: tilde key
  • Cycle through each tool’s modes: press the same command again. For example, pressing command-4 will select the grabber tool. Pressing the same key again will select its “Separation” mode, then “Object” mode, before returning its standard mode once more.

 

  1. Record/Solo/Mute all tracks

While listening to your work, you’ll find yourself muting some tracks, soloing another, and arming record on others. Save dozens of mouse clicks in a minuscule area by using keyboard shortcuts instead. Position in the edit cursor in the tracks you want to change and type:

  • Shift-m to mute the tracks
  • Shift-s to solo the tracks
  • Shift-r to arm record on the tracks

 

  1. Change clip gain

Need to raise the gain of a region? You may have tried this by clicking the icon in each region’s bottom left corner. There’s a faster way, though. Select the region you want to change and type control-shift-up arrow to increase the gain or control-shift-down arrow to decrease it by the same amount.

The default is to change by 0.5 dB, but this can be changed in the Preferences Editing tab, in the Clips section next to Clip Gain Nudge Value. This is especially helpful if you want to change the gain of many regions at the same time: simply select all regions you want to change; the shortcut will change all by the same amount.

 

Supercharging Your Editing Skills

At first, you wouldn’t suspect it, but it’s true: every time you reach for the mouse it takes a bit more time to get the job done. Get out of the editing suite faster by substituting mouse clicks for keyboard shortcuts. That will ensure you spend more time creating and less time mired in endless clicks. Want more tips to get the most out of Pro Tools? Stay tuned for more Pro Tools article on the Soundsnap blog.