Using Keyboard Macros – Part 1

by dstifel

Welcome to my blog!

This is the first in what I hope to be a series of useful and thought provoking posts to the audiobook world. I’ve found the online presence of narrators and producers who hang out in the ethersphere together to be the most genial bunch of good hearted people I’ve ever found. And I want to give back to this community.

So I’ll be offering tech tips, advice, curmudgeonly opinion stuff that’s too long to fit comfortably into the social media platformsall’s fair game as long as it’s audiobook related. For starters, I’m going to do a series on keyboard macros and why the heck you narrators, editors and producers should care about them!

Using Keyboard Macros Pt. 1

Most of you have heard about keyboard macros. And that’s about the extent of it.

What every one needs to hear is that “Keyboard Macros are an invaluable productivity tool for those of us who do any editing to their sound files.”

Okay. So what is a “keyboard macro” anyway? A keyboard macro is variable list of keyboard (and/or mouse) commands, defined by you, that accomplishes complex tasks with a single keystroke. Let’s take a really simple example – padding the front of an audio file with a half second of room tone – and only a half second of room tone.

Normally you’d do something like this:

  1. Put your cursor right before the start of the first sound in the file.
  2. Delete everything from the cursor to the beginning of the file (eliminating all the existing room tone at start of file, because its duration is not known.)
  3. Go to another file that contains pure room tone of several seconds duration.
  4. Copy exactly a half second of this room tone file.
  5. Go back to your first track and paste the half second of room tone where the cursor sits.

Simple, really. But note how many keystrokes and mouse clicks it takes to accomplish this. Numbers 1 and 2 above are pretty simple mouse actions. Number 3 could involve bringing up a file menu, selecting “Open” on that menu, navigating with the keyboard and mouse to where the room tone file lives, opening it. NOW – set a start point in the room tone file, use keyboard commands to select exactly a half second duration. Keyboard command for copy. Keyboard command to go back to main file. Keyboard command to paste current clipboard contents into the audio file at the cursor.

Not too bad, really, until you consider you do this a lot of times when editing a sound file, don’t you? You need to insert a half second of room tone at file start – you need to insert 2.5 seconds between chapter headings and narration, and 3.5 seconds at file end. A half second of room tone is really useful for pasting into the file when you want a little more time between sentences, or paragraphs. Sometimes you’d like to fine tune your timing like this but the repetitive keystrokes and mouse commands get so tedious you say, “Naw, it’s good enough. This is taking too much time”

What would it be like if you could tell your computer, “Every time I hit the F12 key (I never use it for anything else anyway), I want you to insert exactly a half second of room tone into my file at the current cursor position.” Wouldn’t that start to make life easier, and your throughput a lot faster?

That’s exactly what a keyboard macro does for you. It strings together combinations of keyboard commands and mouse actions to accomplish complex tasks with single keystrokes.

So I will be blogging over the next few weeks about some useful keyboard macros I use that may help you grease your editing throughput. Here are the assumptions:

I work in a Windows (XP and 7) environment with Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 10 as my DAW. The code examples I will give will be specifically for these tools – but I hope to write generally enough for Mac users and non-Sony users to be able to take this information and apply it to their own situations intelligently.

Coming next in Part 2: AutoHotKey – a tool that lets you create your own keyboard macros.

© 2014 David Stifel – All Rights reserved