Proposal Label Enhancements

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Revision as of 19:09, 31 January 2010 by BillWharrie (talk | contribs) (more commentsDragging)
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Proposal pages help us get from feature requests into actual plans. This page has multiple proposals for enhancements to label tracks.
Proposal pages are used on an ongoing basis by the Audacity development team and are open to edits from visitors to the wiki. They are a good way to get community feedback on a proposal.

  • Note: Proposals for Google Summer of Code projects are significantly different in structure, are submitted via Google's web app and may or may not have a corresponding proposal page.

Proposed Features

  • Better dragging of labels, so point and region labels can be dragged unchanged, while region labels can be dragged backwards on themselves like audio regions. Bugzilla:109. Done
  • Labels in the waveform, not just on the label track
  • Multiple Selection of Labels
  • Better transcription support
  • RTL support
  • New Preferences

Developer/QA Backing

  • Better dragging: Bill, James, Edgar, Gale. Done.
  • Better transcription support: Gale, James
  • Multiple Selection of Labels: James

N.B: James has a longer term interest in making labels good for 'structured audio' for language learners. That for example means ability to mark phrases and complete sentences for easy replay of 'last phrase' or to cause longer pauses between sentences. We'd also have different colour labels for different languages. Also ability to hyperlink the labels, so that on a smart player you could click a button to hear 'more' e.g. express the same idea with simpler words for a less experienced speaker. Converting labelled audio into a quiz would be another option. In the shorter term I'm interested by label tracks, but not seeing the bigger enhancements like labels on the waves themselves as a priority.

Motivation / Use Cases



  • Point labels should have a circle handle and both triangle handles. Dragging the circle handle moves the point label. Dragging a triangle handle expands it to a region label. Done
  • Dragging the circle handle always moves the label. Region labels would retain their length. Use SHIFT and drag to shift the label
  • After collapsing a region label, a continued drag should flip the label rather than moving the temporarily-created point label. You would have to change handles too?
  • When a region label is collapsed to a point label it should "light up" to let the user know this, similar to the snap-to-edges feedback.
    • GA: It does show steady white now (on Windows).
    • BW: It depends on whether or not the label itself is selected (white background) before you start the drag.
      • Drag out a region in an audio track, add label at selection and type a name but don't hit enter. Drag the left edge of the label and let go before collapsing the label to a point - the timeline selection changes while dragging to match but the audio selection does not. When you let go the audio selection changes to match. Drag the LH edge to the right again until it hits the RH edge - again the timeline selection changes to match and when the two label edges meet the label line turns white.
      • Start again creating a region label but this time click anywhere in the waveform to remove the selection, or press enter to remove focus from the label text. When dragging the label edge, the timeline selection does not follow the label region and the label line does not turn white when the label is collapsed to a point.
  • Alt-click (or option-click) on label text to move the audio selection to correspond to the label without opening the label for editing.
  • When moving or resizing a label, the cursor or audio selection should always change to match. Users will likely be trying to adjust the label to match something in the audio and this feedback would be very helpful. To have the cursor or region move, the label must be selected, which then requires ENTER or arrow to play the region.
    • The user may not always want this to happen, so perhaps alt-click on a handle moves the cursor/selection to that point.
      • Alt-click on a circle handle moves the cursor to that point
      • Alt-click on a triangle handle in a region label selects the region
      • Alt-click on a triangle handle in a point labels behaves like a click-and-drag in the waveform
        • GA: Having to click in the label to make cursor or region move with the label does however provide alternative behaviour, and ALT + Click isn't very discoverable. I think I'm -1, but I would support a *temporary* region or cursor in selected tracks while you hold the mouse, whether you click in the label or not. Is it too advanced for Widgets?


  • Where labels are joined, the circle has a special function (as now) of adjusting the labels within the joined area.
  • JC had suggested a workround within the current method: add an option where you can shift-drag or control-drag a label edge and preserve the label size. This would also give a one-drag way to drag a 'point' label left - by shift-dragging the left edge. Because drag modifying isn't always discoverable, I prefer arrows drag, circle moves.


  • I don't want to lose the special function of the circle. I very much like that the same draggable label widgets can be used for regions, for points and for boundaries between regions without the user having to insert/delete/change three different kinds of 'thing'.
  • I don't mind that shift+drag is less discoverable. We should add it to the mouse preferences list because that is one way we have alerted users to what different kinds of dragging can do.
  • Having labels 'cross over' as selections do could be good, and helps improve consistency. It does make point labels a little less discoverable and harder to create. I would like to make this a user preference something like 'Label boundaries can swap when dragging' (default off).
    • BW: So what happens when a user collapses a region label to a point and continues to drag? I don't understand how this could make point labels harder to create or less discoverable. A point label is automatically created when the audio selection is a cursor and the user choose Add Label at Selection. If, during collapse, the point label lights up (and perhaps has a snap-to "slop" setting (not a preference!)), point labels would be easy to create from region labels. But I really have no idea how often someone would want to do this. I just found it odd that after collapsing a region label to a point that the resulting point label would be moved, especially since I'm "holding" the triangle handle, not the circle handle.
  • I am considering an option that allows users to choose either <0> point labels or >0< point labels. It is really just 'graphic design'. Or that could perhaps be an outcome of the theme preferences.
    • BW: In terms graphic design, in the current version the triangles hug the circle quite nicely. But in terms of reflecting what the handles do, the inward-pointing arrows on region labels infer that dragging them will moves the edges "inward".
  • The 'marks glued on the waveform' I see as just a display mode for labels. It is, if we get linking 'right'. So I would see users as being able to toggle the label display between showing in tracks and showing as an overlay.
    • BW: This has given me a totally new idea for indicating linking. When linking is on, the label lines extend up into the linked track(s).

Labels in the Waveform

  • (from Feature Requests - 29 votes: "Ability to drop vertical marks that are 'glued' to the waveform on the main track (not on a label track). They should move when when track is moved, and also be adjustable and label-able if required. Should be possible to snap a region to the markers. This is an extremely useful feature available in Sound Forge and most other editing programs. (For most editing purposes, the new split function now works in lieu of markers on waveform - thanks - but this would still be nice.)
    • BW:
      • Would this replace linking?
      • I use the split function for this purpose, however it seems from comments on my "splitting recordings" tutorial that many users do not understand that splits can be used for this purpose.


  • 6 votes on Feature Requests
  • Allowing users to select many labels at a time would allow them to apply effects, copy or delete several regions very quickly. Users could control-click to add labels to a selection, or shift-click to select everything from the start of one label to the end of another.
    • GA: We must remember to move SHIFT + click for adding to selected tracks to CONTROL + click.
    • GA: Would "Play" play all of the selected areas in the audio file, skipping the non-selected regions, as asked for on Feature Requests? "This feature would be useful for comparing two regions of an audio file without delay between the playback of the two (or more) labeled regions."
      • James: If/When we do it, it should.
  • Also there could be commands to select multiple label regions, to invert the selection, or to ignore specified labels. See extra detail here.
  • Should work on point labels, too, thereby selecting regions between labels. (3 votes on Feature Requests)
  • GA: Also a couple of votes on Feature Requests for selecting multiple (by implication, unlabelled) regions.

Better Transcription support


  • Labels won't accept any more text input once two factors are true: (1) the text reaches the right-hand end of the screen (2) the audio track is not sufficiently zoomed in, leading to there being no scrolling region remaining. This is the same whether a track is playing or not. This limits use of labels for transcription. There are 5 votes on Feature Requests for finding a solution
    • JC: (from Feature Requests) Correct this by adding multi-line support and linking to text editor?
    • GA: This situation is slightly better now we allow more space after the end of the track, but you can still be limited to only 20 characters or so in a label right at the end of a zoomed in track. Suppose it means setting a maximum supported characters per line, then allowing end of project to move if the end of the label line requires it.

RTL support

  • Support for right-to-left languages, selected in label drop-down menu

New Preferences

  • Add a Preference for "Label typing:" "Standard" (CTRL + B only required for typing in a label track if cursor is at same place as an existing label - this is current behaviour) or "Manual" (CTRL + B always required). Use case: unmodified shortcuts can be used even if focus is in label track.
  • Every new audio track creates its own label track underneath - requirement for DAISY Books
  • New label track(s) placed underneath selected track(s) - not at bottom of project (5 votes on Feature Requests)

Some links


  • The screenshot of Audition is hard to read, Ardour is easier. I've not used either program but it appears that the "labels" in these programs are naming what we would call "clips".
  • The GarageBand labels seem to merely carry the name of the track.

Past Discussion

There were some inconclusive discussion of this on the page, deleted in Jan 2010. Some issues touched on:

  • Where to add Label Tracks With the current way of defining track groups, the 'where' of where to add new label tracks becomes important.
  • How to show what linking will do There was some discussion of using two-tone selections to show what would be affected by a linked-operation. One possibility is to always select the same on all tracks in a group when in linked mode.

Other possibilities from Feature Requests page

Edit Hint: This section is 'indicative' of feature requests and voting and provided for convenience. The definitive version, particularly of current voting, is on the Feature Requests page. Don't expect this section to stay up-to-date.

Feature Requests as at 31 Jan 10 also show the following:

  • 8 votes for Mark-in and mark-out points: As per video editors, "I" sets Edit In Point and "O" sets Edit Out Point. Should use zero-crossing accuracy. Doesn't matter what you do between those two actions; once you press "O", everything between "I" and "O" is selected.
  • 7 votes for "Ability to import/export cue sheets for CD burning (and/or text file compatible with shntool) to and from labels"
  • 4 votes for "Split to multiple projects: Split the project into smaller multiple projects by labels, similar to the "Export Multiple" command. Each project retains the per-track labels of the original single project."
  • 3 votes for XML/SMIL Label Export for using Audacity to analyze interviews or to generate Audio-Picture-Slideshows e.g. for educational use). Nodes: "trackname" with Nodes "start, end, label" or using SMIL.
  • 2 votes for "Add Next and Previous buttons for navigation between labels to the panel of the Label Track."
  • 2 votes for "Automatic snap-to CDDA boundaries when exporting multiple with labels: The FLAC encode actually has an option to do this."
  • 1 vote for ODF Label Export with the timecode of each label in an ODF document. JC: We already have CSV. Already easy to get ODF.