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Edit your File

You edit audio waveforms in Audacity in much the same way as you would edit text in a word-processing document. When you are editing text you first select the text you want to change and then choose what you want to do with it. You might want to cut or copy the text, delete it, paste new text in it's place, or change it to bold. You do the same thing in Audacity: first zoom and select the range of audio you want to change, and then choose what you want to do with it. (Source1)

This chapter contains a summary of the use of some of the tools that will allow you to start to edit your file.

Using the Zoom Tool2 

Image of edit toolbar with zoom controls highlighted

The image above shows the Edit Toolbar with the Zoom buttons highlighted. This image of zoom in button is the Zoom In tool, and this image of zoom out button is the Zoom Out tool.

To zoom in to get a closer look at the waveform, first choose the Selection Tool image of selection tool, then click near the point you're interested in, then click the Zoom In button. Keep clicking the Zoom In button until you see the detail you need. Note that when you click the Zoom In button the cursor is centered on the screen.

There are also menu commands and keyboard shortcuts for zooming. View > Zoom In (or CTRL + 1) is the same as clicking the Zoom In button. View > Zoom Out (or CTRL + 3) is the same as clicking the Zoom Out button. View > Fit in Window (or CTRL + F) will zoom the waveform so it fits in the window.

Use the Zoom commands so that you can make maximal use of your Audacity window to see as much detail as you need, or to make sure you see the entire file when necessary.

Selecting regions using the mouse3 

The easiest way to select a region of audio is to click and drag. If it's not already selected, choose the Selection tool Selection tool from Tools Toolbar, below:

Tools Toolbar

Now click the left mouse button anywhere inside of an audio track, and click and drag to the other edge of your selection, and release. Some tips:

  • You can drag from left to right or from right to left, it doesn't matter.
  • If you move the mouse past the left or right edge of the window while dragging, Audacity will scroll the window in that direction as long as the mouse button is down.

To extend or contract an existing selection, hold down the SHIFT while clicking the mouse. The nearest edge of the selection will jump to the current mouse pointer location. This is really useful if you know exactly what you want to select but it doesn't easily fit on the screen at once:

  • Click at one edge of the selection
  • Scroll until the other edge is in view
  • Shift-click to set the other edge of the selection.

You can also extend or contract a selection by hovering the mouse near the edge of a selection, then clicking and dragging. When you hover close enough to the edge of a selection, the mouse pointer changes to a hand with pointing finger, indicating you can now click and drag the selection:

Selection extended, mouse pointer displaying as a hand with pointing finger.

Previewing your selection4 

Press Space to listen to the entire selection. Playback will stop when the end of the selection is reached.

A convenient way to listen to only the adjusted start of the selection is to move the mouse pointer a little after the start of the selection then press B. The selection plays from the start of the selection to the pointer. To hear the adjusted end of the selection, move the pointer close to the selection end, then press B to play from the pointer to the selection end.

You can also play a length of audio either side of the selection by pressing C. This lets you make sure there is no audio you want to keep that will be removed. Playing either side of the selection would also be useful if you later wanted to cut a small piece out of that selection - you would select the small piece to be cut, then could preview how the audio would sound after the cut. To adjust the length of audio played before and after the selection, go to Cut Preview in the Playback Preferences.

Editing your selection5 6 

There are some simple methods that form the basis of editing with Audacity. We will look at deleting sections of audio ('cutting') and shifting audio by pasting it in . With these two methods you can already do quite a lot.


You've now selected the portion of the audio that you want to keep. Make sure you have pressed Space to stop if the track is still playing, then to delete everything except the selected audio, click on Edit > Remove Audio > Trim.

If you make a mistake, you can always click on Edit > Undo. Audacity has unlimited Undo and Redo. You can undo your editing actions all the way back to when you opened the file. You can also Redo actions that you have undone.

You now have a region of audio that starts several seconds (or perhaps minutes) from the beginning of the track. You could move the audio to the beginning of the track, using Tracks > Align Tracks > Align with Zero, but this isn't a necessary step because when exporting, Audacity will ignore the white space between time zero and the start of the audio.


You will of course have Audacity open in front of you with an audio file ready to edit. The process of editing requires that you first know your source file (the file you will edit). You need to know where a cut needs to be made so play the audio file and listen for where you want to make your first edit.

Lets assume you have chosen the area to be cut. You need to know select the area by clicking on where the cut should start, holding down the mouse button, and dragging the mouse to the end of the area to be cut. If you do this correctly the area to be deleted will be highlighted in grey :


In the above example you can see that I have highlighted the area from 1 minute (1:00) to one and a half minutes (1:30). A selection of thirty seconds. To delete the file I can now click on the Edit menu and choose 'cut' :


When you release the mouse button you will see that the selected area has disappeared and the length of your file will have been reduced.


If you wish to shift audio from one place to another then you can easily do so with Audacity. First select the area you wish to shift. I will use the same area I used in the cutting example :


Now choose cut like you did in the above example.


The audio will now be cut from the track. Now click on the audio that is left at the point you where you want this audio to be shifted to.


In the above example you can can see that I ahve decided to insert the audio at the 4 minute mark. Now choose the Edit menu and select Paste:


The audio will now be inserted and you if you look at the Audacity window you should see the selected audio in its new place :


Now experiment with cutting and pasting audio!

Apply an Effect (Fade out)

Navigate to the end of your audio clip by clicking the Skip to End button image of skip to end button.

Zoom In until you can see the last two or three seconds of the audio clip and then Select the last one second of the waveform.

Click on Effect > Fade Out. The last second of the audio is smoothly faded out.

Note that we always select some audio first, then choose what action we want to perform on it.

Other effects can be applied in the same way although other effects may need you to input information about how you want the effect to be applied. 


  1. http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/tutorial_editing_an_existing_file.html^
  2. http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/tutorial_editing_an_existing_file.html^
  3. http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/audacity_selection.html^
  4. http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/tutorial_editing_an_existing_file.html^
  5. http://en.flossmanuals.net/audacity/basic-editing/^
  6. http://manual.audacityteam.org/help/manual/man/tutorial_editing_an_existing_file.html^