Audacity is a popular free and open-source audio editing utility available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Under development for more than two decades, the software now has a robust and powerful set of tools that you can use to record, edit, and apply post-processing effects to music, podcasts, or any other type of audio.

Today Audacity 3.0.0 was released, and it brings a few new and improved features, more than 160 bug fixes and one major change: the introduction of a new project file format.

Up until now when you save an Audacity project file, you’d get a small .aup file that basically told the software where all the audio files and other associated files in your project were located, allowing you to pick up where you left off when re-opening an audio editing project.

But if you accidentally moved or deleted some of those other files, then the project session wouldn’t restore properly. And if you wanted to send a project to somebody else, you’d need to make sure all your files were included, possibly by ensuring they were all in the same folder and then zipping that entire folder.

Audacity 3.0.0 replaces .aup with a new .aup3 file format that holds everything in a project including your audio files. That means .aup3 files will be much larger than .aup files. But it also means that you can now save or share your projects with a single file.

One thing to keep in mind is that opening old Audacity projects in version 3.0.0 or later will automatically convert them to .aup3, so you may want to save a backup first if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with.

Audacity 3.0.0 Backup Project

It’s also worth noting that .aup3 files shouldn’t be larger than the sum of all of the files combined to create an .aup file… but I was surprised that my first attempt at creating a project using the new format resulted in a file that was twice the size I had anticipated. Then I figured out that this was because Audacity was converting my 16-bit, 44.1 Hz WAV audio files to 32-bit float when I imported them. Once I changed my project settings and started over, I was able to save a project file that was just a little bigger than my raw audio recordings.

Audacity’s developers say that in addition to helping keep your files organized, the new .aup3 format should allow some Audacity functions (especially effects and generators) to run more quickly. The new format also helps with automatic recovery after a crash, since it’s less likely that you’ll have to worry about missing block files.

Other changes in Audacity 3.0.0 include:

  • There’s a new new File > Save Project > Backup Project command that saves a copy of the current project as an .aup3 file with a new name
  • Label Sounds analyzer can help differentiate songs or long silences in a recording based on your settings (you can set a volume level threshold and minimum and maximum silence durations, among other things).
  • You can set default folder locations for different actions including open, save, import, and export.
  • There are import and export macro settings in the Manage Macros settings.
  • You can also now add comments to Macros.
  • The Noise Gat4e effect now supports attack times as low as 1ms and includes separate controls for attack, hold, and decay. It can also process longer selections (up to 13.5 hours of audio with a sample rate of 44.1 KHz).
  • Users can set Multi-view as the preferred default view for tracks in the Tracks Preferences settings.
  • The Mixer Board now always remains on top when it’s in use.
  • You can assign custom shortcuts to repeat last used command for generators, analyzers, and tools.
Audacity 3.0.0 Label Sounds analyzer

via Audacity (1)(2)

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  1. Brad, I love reading your articles on sound recording/editing stuff. As an audio amateur, it’s nice to read about.

    Thats a really neat feature. I use Audacity, but I haven’t been paying attention to their updates. I should update my install of it.

    I believe the old AUP files were just XML, so if something went wrong, you could open them up in a text editor to view the data, and possibly make edits.

    I wonder if these AUP3 files are still somewhat possible to read in code. Something tells me the inclusion of raw audio in the file might make them messy.

    1. Yeah, just for kicks I tried to see if I could open one in 7-zip. I could not. But that’s as far as I went today. 🙂

      Personally I find Audacity to be a pain to work with because it behaves so differently than Reaper Pro Tools, Audition, or other digital audio workstations I’ve used. But it’s definitely a powerful tool in its own right, and from time to time I open it up when I’ve got some particularly problematic audio to see if Audacity’s noise reduction or other effects might help where my other tools do not.

      It’s also very easy to use for making simple recordings, so it’s my go-to recommendation for folks looking to record podcast narration or interviews from home, assuming they’ve got a halfway decent USB microphone or headset.

      1. I use it mostly because I haven’t spent any time with anything else.

        I’ve definitely felt the need for something better though. Often I’ve tried to cut a section of audio out, and the difference in background noise is enough to tell that it was cut. I sometimes manage to get it sounding less obvious by grabbing a small section of ambient noise, and giving it a fade in and fade out, and overlaying it over the cut section.

        I haven’t spent enough time to find more graceful solutions, but I’m sure theres something better out there.

        1. For the most part, the best Digital Audio Workstation is the one you know best… Unless you hit a point where it doesn’t do something you need. I’ve always found it odd that Audacity uses destructive editing (you’re actually changing the source file, so you need to make sure to save backups of your audio files and not just your projects if you might want to revert anything). But I know plenty of people who use it professionally.

          I personally like Reaper, because it’s versatile, affordable, and powerful. But after years of avoiding learning Pro Tools, despite it’s “industry standard” to status, I finally picked up a license a few years ago when I started doing podcast editing part time, because it’s what some of my clients are using, and we need to be able to swap project files back and forth.

          Your background noise solution, could definitely work. In radio, we always made a habit of recording at least 60 seconds of “room tone,” whenever possible to help blend the audio with recordings made by a host or reporter in a voice booth, but it can also help hide rough cuts like this. Some third party adaptive noise reduction plugins like Izotope’s RX voice de-noise can also help hide cuts like this. I find that it’s less jarring than some of the other noise reduction tools I’ve used, which can struggle when the tone of the background noise changes over time (like an hvac or refrigerator kicking in during part of an interview and then turning off).