Last Updated on September 8, 2020 by

Dozens of audio editing apps are spread across the market. Some expensive heavyweights like Pro Tools and Nuendo are popular amongst top tier post-production professionals. At the other end of the spectrum, free app Audacity is prized amongst musicians. There are others: Ableton Live, Sound Forge, Cubase, and more. Each has its own uses and fans. One app, though, has become increasingly popular: Reaper.

The Reaper editing app was released in 2006. During the fourteen years since it was revealed, more people have evangelized the cross-platform digital audio workstation (DAW). It’s common to hear excited professionals share how delighted they are after switching to Reaper.

Perhaps you’re considering this, too. Switching editing apps isn’t a simple task, though. Each app can be vastly different from its design to workflow to a single keystroke for making a simple edit.

Today’s post is meant to help ease the pain. It shares why people love Reaper, how it is different, and the best way to transition to working with this popular editing app.



Why People Are Switching to Reaper

Why switch to Reaper? After all, adopting a new editing app may mean days or even weeks of relearning simple editing tasks. That’s not appealing when project deadlines are approaching.

Just the same, many pros are finding the results are worth the price. Why?


reaper DAW



The most common reason is value. Reaper offers an unlimited trial license. Once this has expired, users can pay $60 for a discounted licence, or $225 for a pro commercial license. There is no difference between the price tiers; both the discounted and commercial license share the same features. This is a stark contrast to the high prices and subscription plans of other software.

The app is portable, it has a small hard drive footprint, can be run from a USB flash drive and doesn’t need hardware copy protection such as a dongle.

The software itself is cross platform, and known to be fast, stable, and powerful, all while being light on system resources. The developers work fast and updates are released swiftly, all backed by excellent customer support when you need it, and helpful forums for those that want to make their own way.

Overall, Reaper is an app that is highlighted by its ability to provide choice. We’ll explore this more in a moment.


Pro Tools to Reaper

Many Reaper users are beginning after switching from Avid’s Pro Tools. What are some standout Reaper features that Pro Tools users will appreciate?

Pro Tools fans will find some significant changes. For instance, unlike the different flavours of Pro Tools, Reaper has no limit to the number of tracks and no limit to the amount of plug-ins per track. What’s more, tracks and the sounds on them are handled differently, too. Most notably, tracks aren’t limited to either midi or audio, and so on. Instead, Reaper can mix any type of media on one track. Tracks can mix different channel counts and sampling rates. A 44.1 kHz surround track can follow after a mono 96 kHz clip. Reaper is similarly flexible with its approach to plug-ins. With a bit of work, an endless amount of plug-ins can be added to a track, mixing both 64- and 32-bit plug-ins. Reaper also supports VST plug-ins. Pro Tools can do this as well by using a “plug-in wrapper”, however Reaper is able to do this natively.




Many Pro Tools wish lists dream about opening multiple sessions at one. Reaper delivers: it’s possible to open many projects at the same time in separate window tabs.

A short list of smaller perks:

  • Automate session playback rate.
  • A dedicated mono track button.
  • A dedicated flip phase track button.
  • Detailed exporting or “rendering” options.
  • Offline exporting.

Perhaps the most significant change for Pro Tools users is the amount of customization possible. Reaper can be tweaked with themes or “skins” to refresh the editing interface. Those wanting to dig deeper can use ReaScript to program scripts and extensions in EEL2, Lua, and Python languages. Reaper can be vastly modified to any taste.


What To Expect

Scratching your head when reading words like EEL2, Lua, and Python? You’re not the only one. While Reaper’s customization grants power to the tinkerers, those who prefer to begin simply and swiftly may find Reaper daunting. What parts of Reaper will Pro Tools users or audio editing newbies find challenging?






Pro Tools offers an arguably cleaner and polished interface. Of course, Reaper’s UI can be tweaked, but this requires a time investment or tracking down a pleasing theme. On the subject of clutter, Reaper creates a small “repeak” waveform files next to every sound file, which can muddle your sound library folders.

Similarly, Reaper’s menus and preference window are complex and a bit much to digest at first. A lot can be accomplished by right-clicking, however that may not be as intuitive to people arriving from other apps where commands are more apparent. And, while it is true that nearly any task can be automated with scripting, “action” programming, or mouse movement, this too takes some time to understand. Overall, Reaper’s power takes time and patience to unlock. That is the cost of Reaper’s customization: it is complex, and requires diligence to master.

Here are stock Pro Tools features missing from Reaper:

  • Importing and exporting AAF and OMF files.
  • Playlists. (Reaper’s “takes” is a substitute.)

There are also a few one-click Pro Tools features that appear in Reaper in different forms, but are technically not available as simply as Pro Tools out of the box:

  • BeatDetective.
  • Groove quantizing.
  • Track aligning by sync point.
  • Track aligning by snapping.
  • Create fade to cursor.

Some of these are possible by creating Reaper macros, or with multiple steps, but are not available as simply as the one-click solutions present in Pro Tools.

Adjusting to Reaper

It’s important to remember that most of the features above can be accomplished in Reaper with a bit of work. For example, the AATranslator app ($199) can perform AAF and OMF conversions for Reaper. Other clever programmers can create workarounds by using Reaper’s “Action” window to string together a number of keystrokes or commands.




Here are suggestions to help you adapt to Reaper a bit more smoothly.


First, some terminology:

  • A Pro Tools “session” is known as a “project” in Reaper.
  • Reaper’s “Media Explorer” is similar to Pro Tools’ “Workspace Browser.”
  • “Regions” are known as “media items” in Reaper instead.
  • In Reaper, “Regions” refer to a span of time between two markers.
  • The “Track Control Panel (TCP)” is the list of tracks on the left of the main editing window.
  • Pro Tools’ automation is handled with Reaper “envelopes.”
  • “Bouncing” is called “rendering” in Reaper.

There are others. Be prepared that familiar terms may have changed.

File Organization

Some editing apps work best when media is collected in one location. Reaper is more flexible. Tracks, as well as the reapeak waveform files mentioned above, can be stored anywhere. Many pros tweak these preference to gather files in one place. This is optional, though.




Pro Tools users will find one of the largest adjustments in discovering how they navigate through a Reaper project. Scrolling, zooming, track resizing and so on are all different. Of course, these can be customized to whatever is preferred.


While Pro Tools plays whichever region is selected, Reaper works differently. Instead, the app plays from the playhead position, regardless of what audio is selected. This takes some adjustment, too.



selections reaper



Want to split a media file? It may seem natural to click where you’d like to cut. Perhaps you’d like to trim the beginning and end of a region to a shorter length. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d select a media you want to change, then typing s to create an edit, or by selecting the Item/Trim items to selected area menu item.

With Reaper, it’s a two step process: first selecting the region or “media item” you want to change, then click in any other track to specify where this will be done. For example, to create an edit, select the media item you want to cut. Then, click in a track below to indicate where you’d like the slice to happen.

Trimming and Fading

Advanced Pro Tools users may use the Smart Tool to create fades, trim, edit, or move a clip. Reaper works similarly: fades are created by clicking and dragging the upper corner of clips, and trimming by dragging its left or right edge.

Mouse and Keyboard

Even loyalists admit Reaper’s default key command mapping and mouse actions are confusing. Customize your clicks and key presses to make life easier. How? Mouse actions are modified in the Preferences window. Changing keystrokes takes place in the action list. Both have endless options. Use the search field (Preferences) and filter (Actions) to track down the changes you’d like to make.


Making a Smooth Transition

Whether you need to swap one editing app for another or simply want to try something new, any fresh DAW will have its own learning curve. Adopting the Reaper app takes more effort than most. Its workflow requires adaptation: adjusting how tracks are moved and edited, how projects are viewed and navigated. Time and effort help ensure a smooth transition. The result? Expertise in a powerful and flexible value-packed app.