MassDosage writes "Getting Started with Audacity 1.3 by Bethany Hiitola covers the basics of using the Audacity software package for recording and editing audio. This book is written in a tutorial style and stays true to its title by covering Audacity from a newcomer's perspective with lots of diagrams and detailed explanations of how to install and setup Audacity and use its most essential features. This is all very much aimed at people who are new to audio software and are looking for a simple way to get started and be guided through creating and editing an audio recording. On the whole it achieves this but is occasionally let down by overly simplistic content and shoddy editing." Read below for the rest of Mass Dosage's review.Audacity 1.3 is the latest version of this well known free and open source software program that runs on GNU/Linux, Windows, Macs and any other operating system that an aspiring techy gets the source code to compile on. The author has done a good job of keeping the software's cross-platform nature in mind by minimizing anything operating system specific and describing alternative approaches where necessary. I followed along with the book's examples using Linux and didn't run into any platform-specific issues.
I've personally had a fair amount of experience with many different audio editors over the years but haven't worked that much with Audacity so I was interested in what this book had to offer me. To be honest most of what is covered I had already figured out myself just from playing with Audacity in the past. This book is really targeted at complete newbies — if you've used an audio editor of any form in the past and are comfortable recording or importing audio and applying some basic filters and effects to it, then the very basic, tutorial nature of this book probably won't be of much interest to you. However, for those who don't know much about audio editing and are looking for somewhere to start then this might just be what you're looking for.
It may not be the prettiest audio tool on the planet, but Audacity really is "good enough" for those wanting to do simple editing. The fact that it is totally open and free for anyone to download and use means that the software itself is a great starting point for an aspiring audio editor or creator as the barriers to entry are very low. The first few chapters of the book take one through installing Audacity and explaining how the program works and how its user interface is laid out. The minimal equipment needed to make a vocal recording (i.e. a microphone, soundcard and headphones) is touched on and again it is very clear that there is a low barrier to creating something simple. If you want to make state of the art recordings then you may need to spend a fortune on equipment but for the purposes of getting started one really doesn't need much.
The main example in the book covers creating a podcast from scratch which is a good choice as its something that many casual users are probably interested in. This also provides an opportunity to discuss most of the important aspects of recording audio and doing common tasks like removing noise, splitting up tracks, adding background music, fading sound in and out and applying various effects.This is all done with lots of diagrams and step-by-step explanations of the menu items and buttons to push to achieve this. Strangely enough the author mentions keyboard shortcuts (which is good) but instead of describing probably the most useful shortcut of all (CTRL-S to save) she describes going to the file menu and selecting "Save" each time.
The podcast example is expanded upon to show how audio can be cut, pasted, silenced and made louder or quieter. Noise removal is covered in a bit more depth than the other topics which is a good thing as the filter that is used to do this isn't very user friendly — after selecting the noise profile it vanishes with no information on what to do next. This is also something most users will probably need at some point as are the steps on how to normalize and compress the audio. The effects and filters covered are also the ones that a new user is most likely to want to start playing with. The bare essentials are wrapped up in a chapter explaining how to export audio to MP3 (or other formats) and some suggestions are given as to how to make this publicly available via an RSS feed or by uploading the audio to iTunes. It would have been nice to have some pointers to alternative ways of doing this, especially some more open form of publishing than Apple's proprietary and closed platform. There is even a whole section on how to circumvent Apple's DRM by converting locked iTunes audio files to CD and then importing from there into Audacity which is probably useful to some but feels a bit out of place in a book about an open tool like this.
The book also covers a number of other topics which are assembled somewhat randomly but are generally useful. These include adding background music, time shifting, adjusting pitch and tempo as well as various options for aligning, splitting, joining and moving multiple tracks around. Every effect that ships with Audacity is covered and this is serves as a reference guide for what each of them does. Adding more functionality to Audacity via the use of plugins is touched on but this is really just a teaser and isn't covered in much depth (probably due to the platform-specific nature of their installation).
I was a bit disappointed in the book as I didn't learn as much as I would have liked, this is really more of a "how to do the basics" and doesn't provide much depth on Audacity or audio concepts in general. It would have been nice if the book had wrapped up with some pointers for those wanting to know more or go further with their audio editing skills. The overall tone of the book is friendly which suits its "for beginners" approach but at times it is let down by not sounding very authoritative or convincing. The bad grammar and silly typos that weren't caught by the editors don't help much in this regard either. Give it a go if you're the type of person who needs a tutorial guide to get started, otherwise you can probably figure out most of the topics covered by just playing with the software yourself.
You can purchase Getting Started with Audacity 1.3 from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.