Talk:Completed Proposal Improvement of Meter Toolbar UI

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Revision as of 16:21, 13 November 2012 by BillWharrie (talk | contribs) (add comment on meter colours)
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Alternative Metering Display

Peter 13Nov12: Discussion thread transferred here from an email discussion on Quality Nov 2012.

  • Bill: +1 This is what every other DAW does.
  • Gale: +1 to investigating this, though it will be hard to incorporate the RMS information (if we need it) non-confusingly.
Another idea could be to retain the RMS colouring as now, but have a yellow stripe appear in the meter ticks between -12 and -6 when the level is between those points, and a red stripe between -6 and 0 when that is the current level (as well as the yellow stripe).
It may not be visible enough if we ever decide to allow half-height meters that some have asked for.
  • Steve: +1 I think that improving the meters would be a big help.
  • Richard Ash: +1 to this also (either discrete or blended colours). The fact that the default meters are red for record and green for playback just adds confusion. I assume we would have the same colours on each meter bar (until it can be themed)!
I'm not sure blending to red before clipping is a good idea, because the audio isn't being distorted until 0dB is hit.
I would favour green-to-amber gradient, with the holding clip indicator (as at present) being red and made significantly larger (it's currently very small if you have a reasonable definition screen).
This could be extended to turn (instantaneously) the whole meter red when the peak hits full scale, with the effect that an over-level recording flashes a big red light at the user - which might get their attention! Some tape recorders backed up analogue (needle) meters with LEDs doing this, the latter having proper peak response.
In a similar vein, with Show Clipping enabled, many of my projects have lots of red on the waveform when zoomed out, which then disappears as I zoom in, and the waveform turns out to peak but not clip. Bug ofsome sort?
  • Bill: Discrete (simulated LEDs) might be easier to read. What happens, though, when the meter size is changed?
Agreed that green for playback and red for record adds to confusion.
Also +1 to removing the peak/RMS distinction from the meters - just have them be peak reading.
Yes to having the same colours on each meter bar (until it can be themed)!
Perhaps we could blend from yellow to orange up to 0 dB?
+1 to making the clip indicator larger.
Not sure about turning (instantaneously) the whole meter red when the peak hits full scale.
  • Steve: I think that I'm less against change than many of the team. The red recording meters have always struck me as one of those ideas to make things simpler and more obvious for new users, but with drawbacks in the long run.
+1 for a more conventional (default) colour scheme for the meters.
I think I have a slight preference for banded colours than blended, but I'm open to persuasion depending on what it looks like.
turning (instantaneously) the whole meter red would certainly grab my attention.
  • Gale: As I "hate" regressions, I'd need convincing on removing the Peak/RMS distinction. Was there a good reason it was added, other than simply to match with the dark/light blue on the waveform? Do people using Audacity for scientific purposes find the Peak/RMS metering useful? I agree it is not a useful indication for beginners.
Of course, keeping that distinction muddies the message of differential colouring by level somewhat.
If we made the change, +1 for discrete, unless there is a simple logic to the blending.
To me: New_Record_Meter.png is confusing. Why is the same or similar orange colour applied to both -14 to -10 and -8 to -4?
"I assume we would have the same colours on each meter bar (until it can be themed) - Yes.
Even when it can be themed, if the point is consistency of colour for both meters.
+1 to making the clip indicator larger.
Considering many novices can hear clipping and know it's bad, but don't realise that's because they have gone into the red.
Perhaps turn the "L" and/or "R" of the recording meter red, as well as a wider clip indicator?
  • Bill: the meter mockup was "quick and dirty", so the colours are by no means optimum
I'd be in favour of a "simulated LED" look, or a hard transition green -> yellow then yellow -> red if that would be clearer.
I still think we should display red from at least -3dB to 0dB
There is a way to maintain the peak/RMS distinction if we think it is necessary: bar for RMS, dot for peak, but I think this would be counter-productive as the dot (peak) indication would be less "visible" than the bar, and it is the peak recording level that is important.

Meters Preferences

Meter preferences with radio buttons.PNG
Gale 01Jun12: Should this not save Linear/dB and Horizontal/Vertical separately for each meter? Otherwise, the ability to have independent settings for each meter is lost.

Meters reset button

Peter 1Nov11:In the forum discussion thread on this proposal a suggestion was made for a button to reset the meters. I have discounted this for now due to the implications of the additional screen real estate required to support such an option. As Gale pointed out "I don't see there can be room for it if we have playthrough and overdub buttons".

I have parked this idea here on the talk page so as not to lose it.

  • Gale: 06Nov11: I see a case for a meters preference for the persistence or otherwise of peak and clipping lines which might obviate a need to reset the lines.

Playthrough and persistence of monitoring

Gale 03Aug11: Does this Proposal request that:

  1. Monitoring should be on by default (which could be part of a GSoC project), and/or
  2. Software Playthrough should also be on by default, and/or
  3. a separate control for software playthrough should be provided in Meter Toolbar?
  • Peter 21Sep11: No to all three of those (though number 3 is an interesting idea which I'll consider further). This proposal is concerned with making it more obvious to the user what is going on with monitoring.
    • Peter 11Oct11: Though the more I think about it monitoring always "on" could well be a good solution to the issue of not knowing whether it is on or not.
    • Steve 11Oct11:Strongly disagree about software playthrough being on by default. On Linux software playthrough can often prevent Audacity from recording and there is no obvious indication of what is wrong.
      • Gale 12Oct11: In addition to which all the users recording YouTube would get feedback echoes. I wasn't recommending playthrough should be on, just pointing out a) the proposal wasn't clear b) there's an issue especially for those wanting to play tapes and records in Audacity without recording (including people doing a "test recording") that they expect monitoring to turn the sound on as well. There is a big GUI divorce between clicking in the record meter and turning playthrough on. A possible alternative is for monitoring to turn playthrough on, but when pressing "Record" or "Play", playthrough is turned off again (unless the menu item is on).
        • Peter 12Oct11: Sorry Gale, Steve's comment came because I mistakenly originally put "Software Playthrough always on" in my previous comment rather than "Monitoring always on", subsequently corrected after reading Steve's comment.
          • Gale 13Oct11: I know, but I'm still aware that many people intuitively expect playthrough to simply be on with monitoring so it's actually audible. But (software) playthrough when recording is much less widely desirable. That leads me to wonder if a playthrough switch on the meter should perhaps only control whether monitoring is audible and be independent of the Transport menu control? If so, I envisage it could be called "Listen" or similar. Not sure, but I think it's worth a thought.
          • Peter 13Oct11: I'm not sure I follow this Gale. Surely if you created a "Listen" like this then you would still create a feedback loop if the user was recording streaming audio playing on the computer, from YouTube say. I'm not sure what you're driving at with the "independent of the Transport menu control". Part of the underlying problem is that folk do really have to think about the audio paths they are creating with Software Playthrough and Overdub - and I don't see an easy way around that, sadly.
          • Gale 14 OCt11: Of course if the recording source is stereo mix, monitoring with playthrough will give feedback, as recording with playthrough will (unless Audacity gets clever enough to kill playthrough when a playback input is selected). Possibly this is a reason why monitoring shouldn't automatically turn software playthrough on, but fact remains that most users expect to hear the monitoring when they enable it (common complaint on [email protected] and according to your use cases "User reports that they cannot hear any audio playing", on the Forum too).

            OTOH, anyone recording with microphone does not want software playthrough on when recording (as discussed recently on the Forum). So, if your software playthrough button on Meter Toolbar only controlled playthrough while monitoring, I suggest this is more useful for people recording mic and for anyone who wants playthrough when monitoring but not when recording. It saves pushing the control on every time they monitor and off every time they record. For most of the USB turntable brigade, it would mean an extra step of having to turn on playthrough in the Transport menu as well.

  • Peter 12Oct11: I have now added Gale's third suggestion: a separate control for software playthrough should be provided in Meter Toolbar.
    • Peter 13Oct11: and today added further: a separate control for overdub to be provided in Meter Toolbar.

Transport Menu items

  • Gale 14Oct11: Peter suggests if Meter Toolbar has Software Playthrough and Overdub buttons then these commands can be removed from the Transport menu. -1 from me, because this creates problems for VI users who cannot access Meter Toolbar, and even if the keyboard shortcut bindings are retained, it makes them less discoverable.
    • Peter 1Nov11: I changed this in the proposal for publication in line with Gale's concerns.


The Meter Toolbar page in the manual attempts to document monitoring and how to use it, however users report that it can be hard to find in the manual (witnessed by the large number of postings on the forum). The relevant tutorials in the manual explain about monitoring too, but I am not sure how often they are read by users.

  • Gale 03Aug11: Do we assume then they are not looking in Meter Toolbar for a way to turn on monitoring? Any idea where they are looking?
    • Peter 21Sep11: I'm pretty sure that most of them have no idea where to look at all (either on the Audacity window GUI itself or in the documentation).
      • Gale: 28Sep11: If we found and fixed the issue that stops monitoring being on by default this might make being able to find it in the Manual less of an issue.
      • Gale 14Oct11: Added a mention on about monitoring function of Meter Toolbar.

Meter Image

One alternative possibility for an optimum (and overload) indicator that was mocked up by Bill Wharrie

New Record Meter.png
  • Gale: 28Sep11 Is this a playback meter or a record meter? If it is a record meter then "the red colouring of the bar would over-ride the yellow advisory colouring" in the text doesn't make sense. If the record meter is intended to be red then isn't it odd to have red over-ride red? Perhaps you shouldn't drift into meter appearance as there are lots of ideas that could be considered on Feature Requests. But if you do drift, initialised meter width and default meter range set in Preferences should probably be under consideration.
    • Peter 11Oct11: It's a record meter (see the Mic icon). This green/yellow/red could be used as the "on" indicator for the input meter, with the meter being the standard background gray when input metering is "off". Then rather than having a red bar to indicate the current level we could have broadish bold black line to indicate the current transient recording level, retaining a blue line to indicate the maximum achieved level since monitoring was turned on (as now).
      • Gale 12Oct11: I bet I won't be the only one to be confused by the green. What colour is the playback meter - does it have the same green/yellow/red? What are the recording meter bar colours when actually recording?
        • Peter 12Oct11: You would be confused by the fact that currently we have red for recording and green for playback, right? I would now envision that both meters would have the same green/red/yellow display and rather than my previous suggestion that the g/r/y should be an "on" indicator for the input meter. I now think that the colours should be an indication of the signal level, advancing along the meter as now but changing from green to yellow when the signal is getting hot and red when it is clipping or dangerously close to clipping. The output meter should only be active when output is actually active, i.e. when playback is in operation or the user is recording with software playthrough turned "on".
        • Gale 13Oct11: Problem is there is no clear proposal here so I'm just guessing what has never been explained. If we have multi-coloured meters I tend to agree with your revised idea that both should have the same colour gradations and that the colours indicate strength of signal.

          Another thing that irritates me about the meters is the thin bar of colour to left, which almost looks like the meter is running just above the bottom of the scale. I would propose removing those colour flashes. Possibly we could use an idea like that to indicate the meter is running below the scale, e.g. steady left-pointing green or red arrows at the left edge. This would I think be better than the red mic icon which I expect some will feel too garish. Also it would be a consistent visual representation for both meters (nothing in your proposal addresses playback in progress but off the meter).

        • Peter 13Oct11: Well well, I've never noticed the thin green and red colour bars to the left of the meters - but even though you've now pointed them out to me they don't acually annoy me like they do you. I've changed my colour recommendations for the Mic icon on the main page: green for monitoring on & changing to red if clipping has occurred.
        • Peter 13Oct11: I will formulate this as a proper proposal and in the coming days I will reformulate this along the lines of both meters having the same colour gradations with the colours indicating strenght of signal.

Alternative Metering Display

Ed 27Oct11 -- maybe too fancy, but a gradient fill of the green might look tasty:

  • Peter 28Oct11: This ties in with Koz' idea on the forum of the gray coloring for a signal that is so low as to be: "not likely to be useful".
  • Bill 29Oct11:I'm concerned that the shaded green would be difficult to see when there are low level signals. I think I prefer my original mock-up. I'd like to see bright saturated green for the whole length of the green section - no problem seeing if the meters are flickering.
  • Gale 30Oct11:I strongly prefer Bill's for the reason he states.
  • Peter 31Oct11:I agree with Bill's and Gale's reasoning and have changed the proposal accordingly.

Alternative GUI Examples

Ed 27Oct11 -- We could not only paint the mic green but also rotate it. This would make the color distinction on black & white monitors less of a problem and help those who have trouble distinguishing green. We could even go so far as to paint the original black mic red for OFF since we now have a way to distinguish them for those who are red-green challenged

We could even get more creative (pardon my poor drawing skills <grin> ):
using the "industry standard" of vertical for ON and horizontal for OFF
Peter 28Oct11: Thanks for providing these images Ed. Personally I prefer retaining the slanting mic icon - it seems clearer somehow.

Feedback from Koz 27Oct11

Is the meter display in the wiki page pretty much the only serious change? +1

For the next version:

  • The display from -60 to the left is gray. Active, working gray, but gray. Audio has a sweet spot and anything recorded at -60 or below is not likely to be useful, either. (pick an appropriate value)
  • The overload indicator fades or otherwise cancels itself. Nothing like coming home after a two hour unattended recording and seeing the overload indicator hysterically screaming about an overload condition -- that happened when you first launched the recording two hours ago and since not repeated. You're afraid to cancel it for fear of clicking something wrong and trashing the recording.
  • I've never used Audacity where I didn't make the meters bigger. Yes I understand this bumps up against real estate issues and layout and graphic attraction, etc. etc. But I know I'm not the only one whose first order of business is to blow them out a little bigger.
This is normal for me.
  • Meter both sides of the waveform. I know this is a development function, but it's a surprise when the announcing voice gets louder on the timeline, but the meter doesn't go up (non symmetrical voice -- many presenters have one). It's possible to get into serious overload problems that don't show on the meter.