ToDo: Unstick 'Stuck In a Mode'

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This page attempts to identify times when a user can easily get stuck in a mode and not know what to do to get out of it
Users often:
  • Inadvertently get into some special mode.
  • Do not know about the mode.
  • Do not know how to get out of it.
When we attempt to address such problems, our first defense is to make it less likely to accidentally get into one of these special modes. We sometimes can do better by making the mode self-cancelling, e.g. it only operates whilst you drag. Even better, sometimes we can avoid having a special mode altogether.


Contents

  1. Stuck in a Mode - Bear-Traps
  2. Other PITAs
  3. Completed


Stuck in a Mode - Bear-Traps

Bear trap.png
Quick Fix:

This potential new menu item may help some users. It would display 'Fix' buttons for some of the common stuck-in modes (if that mode is active).

  • Sound-Activated Recording
  • Sync-Lock
  • Snap-To
  • ToDo.png Stuck-in-Tool. Wave moves and selection no longer works. Solution will be proper implementation of multi-tool.
It's too easy to click the buttons unknowingly, worse still, the shortcuts for switching tools in the Tools toolbar are all single keystrokes F1 though F6 (plus A and D when Full set is selected) which makes it far to easy for the inexperienced user to press these and not understand why their view of the waveform has changed and why stuff doesn't work.
Peter 03Sep19: we get far too many users caught in this simple bear-trap (which also wastes Forum-elves' time hauling them out). Latest example today: Forum post.
  • ToDo.png Snap-To. Why can't I select in smaller units than a second?
    • Zoom in far enough and snap-to is cancelled (in DA) which is how most users try to get out of it.
      • ToDo.png Peter 03Aug19: BUT it is not fixed for normal Audacity (nor does it appear fixed in DA either) - I shall log a bug for this
        • Logged as P3 Bug #2210 - Selection fails at high zoom levels when Snap To is on
  • ToDo.png Stuck-in-Sound-Activated-Recording.
    • ToDo.png The amelioration could be done via Quick-Fix menu, but there are probably other improvements that could help.
    • Seems to be pretty common. One recent (Jan 2017) user even realized they were stuck in sound activated recording, and set the volume to -59dB to work around it.
    • Another recent user asks 'Why does my recording keep starting and stopping?'.
  • ToDo.png Stuck-in-Scrub.
    • We have three ways of invoking scrub/seek: Transport menu, Scrub Ruler and Scrub Toolbar. None of them invokes a form of scrubbing familiar to users of other audio or video editors - and it is too easy to get stuck, too hard to escape from. Redesign (and simplify) the GUI - make it so that releasing the mouse action for scrubbing just stops the scrub - rather than leaving you adrift in scrub mode.
      • This has been ameliorated from 2.3.1 onwards, where the Scrub Ruler has been turned "off" by default.
Longer term, consider removing it altogether - we don't need three ways to invoke scrubbing.
  • ToDo.png Stuck in overdub.
Overdub is on by default. Newbies usually don't need overdub turned on (unless they are very bold and start our straight off doing multi-track overdubbing). Although we are a "Multi-track editor" - overdubbing is a somewhat advanced piece of functionality. Turn overdub off by default.
  • ToDo.png Stuck with no FFmpeg library
  • ToDo.png Stuck trying to create custom shortcuts. It doesn't work!
    • Peter 03Sep19: actually it does work - it's just rather complicated - and too easy to not make your changes stick.
GUI is a mess.
  1. Click on the command entry
  2. then you have to click on (or tab to) the input box
  3. type your chosen shortcut (and deal with conflicts if necessary)
  4. Click Set
  5. Click OK
The big problem is that the user (Peter: often me included) mistakenly think that Set "does what it says on the tin" and makes the setting - but no. You have to use OK to set the set (If you just X out of the dialog after step 4 you lose your setting(s) made in that dialog session).
  • Done.png Sync-Lock. Why am I getting all those clocks? Why can't I edit clips individually?
    • ToDo.png More to do to make a more intuitive sync-lock that does not use clocks.
      • Peter 03Sep19: I'd like to be able to select a group of adjacent tracks, have a command to sync/lock them - and draw a bold rectangle around them to show the sync-locked grouping. Much better that delimiting but label tracks underneath.
  • ToDo.png Consider longer-term solutions for Vertical Zoom
Consider a VZoom bar OR major overhaul of zooming for rulers.
  • ToDo.png Time limited recording
    • When a selection is present (track selection or Timeline selection), using Record New Track (or when using Timer Record) Audacity will only record for the duration of the selection
    • This could cause users to lose valuable unrepeatable audio data
    • James suggested showing the Timer Record progress dialog to indicate a timed recording as a visual cue
      • We may need a new dialog for this, allowing the user to interact and change the end-time on the fly
  • ToDo.png Labels can have spectral selections applied to them in their data set
    • These can be (or rather become) invisible to the user
      • ToDo.png See Bug #2801 Frequencies added to labels by "invisible" spectral selection
      • ToDo.png See Bug #2646 Edit Labels dialog at default size "hides" the Frequency data
    • There is no real use-case that has ever been supplied for storing spectral selections with labels
    • As an edge case you can even have a spectral range assigned to a point label


Other PITAs

These aren't exactly stuck-in-a-mode, but have similar bad consequences for typical inexperienced Audacity users
  • ToDo.png Broken fragmented project
    Many users try to open the .au files - many users lose data through renames and other, external to Audacity, manipulations.
  • ToDo.png Orphan blockfiles
    We shouldn't really be getting these - but when we do users are confused about the courses of action offered to them in the dialog.
    The error/warning dialog was always overly scary - and confused/startled users, making them unsure what to do
  • ToDo.png Accidentally nudging the Pan or Gain sliders
Can cause unintended, unnoticed at the time, audio corruption. See Proposal Locking and/or Hiding Pan and Gain sliders
  • ToDo.png Users can lose carefully created toolbar layouts
See Proposal: GUI Custom Resets for Toolbar Layouts
  • ToDo.png Export in Macros
    • In Macros "Export as ..." relies entirely on the settings that last time the menu command was used (or default settings if command never used.
    We need parameter settings for the Export command(s) in Macros


Completed

  • Done.png No easy way to reset config files
  • Done.png Stuck-In-Pause. None of my effects will apply any more.
    • Pause now is over-ridden if the user tries to select and apply an effect or other edit
  • Done.png Select-less. All my effects are grayed out.
    • They aren't now, and they prompt you to make a selection.
  • Done.png Scrub ruler.
    • It's far too easy for the unwary to inadvertently click in the Scrub Ruler and get stuck in Scrubbing (see below). So it should be off by default. Scrubbing is easily "discoverable" via the Transport menu - and the Scrub Ruler is "discoverable" and capable of being turned on in Transport>Scrubbing or via the Timeline context menu. so we don't need it on by default.
      • From 2.3.1 the Scrub Ruler has been turned off by default.
  • Done.png Stuck in Type to create a label
It is too easy to inadvertently create a label with this as the current default is on. In Prefs>Tracks>Tracks Behaviors checked "on'" should not be the default.
  • Done.png Stuck in Show metadata tags before export

    In Preferences>Import/Export - folk often don't know how to turn it off. Suggest an off switch in the metadata dialog on export.

    • Peter 02Nov18: This has been discussed many times (including on the Forum) - it's such a simple fix, why don't we just get on and do it? It surely can't be a contentious thing to do (it would certainly benefit me while QA testing).
  • Done.png Stuck with no LAME library
    • A lot of folk still have trouble locating it - and Buanzo's site has nasty misleading ads with BGBs. Now that the patents have expired we should be able to integrate LAME.
      • From 2.3.2 onwards LAME is buit-in with Windows and Mac builds.
  • Done.png EQ curve management
Currently there are two independent curve management options in the Equalization effect. The user is unsure which to use - there should only be one.
See also: P3 Bug #1722
Fixed for 2.3.3 with the two new EQ effects replacing Equalization
  • Done.png Using "Save as..." switches Audacity from the current open project to the saved-as project (which could be the staged safety copy)
Fixed in UP-3.0.0 with the new Backup Project command
  • Done.png V-Zoom. Help! My waveform has disappeared.
It is quite common for users to activate vertical zoom by inadvertently clicking in the vertical ruler - and then being unable to understand how to restore normal vertical zoom
Short term amelioration
Two modes for for VZoom
  1. Simple (default): no left-click zoom, right-click delivers a context menu
  2. Advanced/Expert: left-click zoom-in and range zoom via drag as 2.2.1 and earlier, right-click delivers a context menu


  • Done.png Stuck in pinned playhead/recordhead mode. It is not "discoverable" as to how to return to unpinned:
  1. Hovertext tooltips are restricted very locally to the playhead-type icon at left of Timeline
  2. Hovertext tooltips are poor
  3. No Timeline context menu command to toggle playhead type
  4. Right-click on the pinned head fails to launch a context menu (it wrongly, according to established GUI guidelines, allows click&drag like the left-click)
  5. No preference for setting playhead type
  • Done.png Rendering a single track unnecessarily moves it to the bottom of the project thereby losing membership of any Sync-Locked Track group and unnecessarily rearranging the user's project layout. See Bug #2214.