Tracktion: single-screen DAW


5707588422813782168Tracktion is a digital audio workstation for recording and editing audio and MIDI. The software is cross-platform, running on Apple Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and GNU Linux.

Tracktion was originally developed by a single UK designer/programmer, Julian Storer and was first released in 2002 by UK-based Raw Material Software. US-based Mackie, a division of LOUD Technologies specializing in studio recording and live sound products, took over distribution of Tracktion in 2003 and the software was sold in standalone, boxed retail versions as well as bundled with Mackie, Tapco and Echo Audio computer-audio interfaces and digital-capable mixing boards. The project had been discontinued in late 00’s, as no updates, communication or announcements had been forthcoming from the company since January 2008. However, at the January 2013 NAMM show Tracktion was reborn through original developer Julian Storer, who announced that he had re-acquired control of the software and would be developing Tracktion with his newly founded “Tracktion Software Company”.

Tracktion was designed to be as transparent and intuitive to the user as possible. Track object controls and parameters are context-sensitive; effects, MIDI instruments and other software objects can be added to tracks or even applied directly to individual audio and MIDI clips using a drag-and-drop system of filters. Complex chains of filters can be created, stored and recalled for later use as rack effects, which can be thought of as analogous to a saved channel strip setting in a traditional DAW/sequencer.

Tracktion represented a move away from the modal dialog boxes, multiple menus and cluttered windows common to most legacy MIDI sequencers and Digital Audio Workstations, in favour of a streamlined, single-screen approach that presents the user only with the options they need for the task they are currently doing, such as editing audio, adjusting MIDI automation parameters, effects settings, etc. In this respect Tracktion is often compared to Ableton Live, although Live has two separate work areas (Session and Arrange) and does not have fully context sensitive non modal elements that automatically show or hide depending on the task as does Tracktion. However both are notable for the use of a more abstract visual style that does not attempt to visually replicate “real world” recording equipment or effects boxes. As well as the drag and drop based non modal interface and rack filters, other key innovations of Tracktion’s, later to be followed by most other DAWs, were the development of “freeze”, a way of reversibly converting a midi instrument track to audio to free up memory and cpu, and an inline midi editor that allowed midi to be edited in the track rather than in a separate window or dedicated editor. Tracktion was also the first DAW to adopt a fully vector-based, resizable interface.

Currently versions T4, T5 and T6 are available at Traction website: www.tracktion.com

Photo Credits: Photos courtesy of Tracktion Software Corporation, www.tracktion.com

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