How about Soundtrack Express?

 open public Beta of Adobe Audition for Mac. While Audition for Mac remains in Beta, anyone can download it for free to take it for a spin. It’s worth a look if you’re interested in advanced audio editing.

I’m planning to use it to produce the next episode of my podcast to see how it stacks up to Apple’s Soundtrack Pro. In preliminary tests editing some audio files and piecing together a multitrack project, it seems to offer all of the tools and capabilities of the Apple audio editing program (at least for my needs).

I’m interested in Audition as an eventual replacement for Soundtrack Pro. As much as I like Soundtrack Pro, I don’t like the fact that I can only get it as part of the Final Cut Studio suite. I don’t really use the other Final Cut tools*, so I’m loathe to upgrade to the most-recent version of the Apple suite just to use the audio editing application. A bit of backstory: I own the first version of Final Cut Studio, which I purchased at a steep discount thanks to an Apple promotion for people who previously owned one of the stand-alone apps that make up the Suite.

This is not to say that I want to purchase the stand-alone version of Adobe Audition. That would likely cost more than the upgrade price for Final Cut Studio. Rather, I’m anticipating that I might pick it up as part of a suite when Adobe comes out with CS6, as I’m still using CS3. 

Here’s the thing, though. Both Audition and Soundtrack Pro offer much more power than I really need.

However, these pro-level tools allow me to do things with audio that I just can’t do with other tools. I’ve tried to make GarageBand work, but it’s just too limited. I’ve tried Audacity, too, but it’s just too hard to use when juggling six or seven tracks and scores of clips.  I keep going back to Soundtrack Pro. 

What I’d really love to see is an audio application from Apple that’s akin to Final Cut Express. I want Soundtrack Express. It would offer less than Soundtrack Pro, but more than GarageBand. What do you say, Apple?

* I would gladly upgrade my copy of Final Cut Studio if the next version rolls in new capabilities to publish content for iOS devices.

Hidden Opera

Opera is installed by Adobe as part of the Creative Suite.

Turns out Adobe has been using Opera for years as a rendering engine. I’ve read that it’s used in all kinds of places: to display Adobe Help files, in Device Central (to preview how applications would look in different mobile devices), in Photoshop, in Bridge, and in Dreamweaver (which has apparently been using Opera since Macromedia days). I’m sure this is only a partial list.

With a little digging, I found the hidden Opera installation in the bundled contents of Adobe Bridge (you need to view the application’s package contents to peer inside).

I discovered Opera was on my system when opening a torrent. Expecting Transmission to open up, I was surprised to see an Opera browser window. This, it turns out, is a common occurrence. If you run in to this, the easy solution is to right click the .torrent file, choose ‘Get Info,’ and then choose Transmission. Then choose ‘Change All’ so that all future torrent files will open with Transmission.

While I was a bit annoyed to see a browser I never installed on my machine, I’m not going to do anything about it since it’s needed by my Adobe apps. But it should stay there, behind the scenes. I think I know how this happened. I recently reinstalled Mac OS X and reinstalled all of my applications. I installed the Adobe Creative Suite, and I later installed Transmission. When I opened a torrent link, the Mac OS had was still associating all .torrent files with Opera, as that was (prior to installing Transmission) the only application on my system that would accept this file type. That explains why I had to re-associate the file type. So the real problem here is that the Mac OS associated a file type with an application that is hidden inside a bundle. That seems like odd behavior to me.

And since I’m talking about Adobe applications, I can’t pass up the chance to rant about Dvorak-Qwerty. All Adobe apps that were once Macromedia apps (Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks) function as expected with the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout. All other Adobe apps do not support the D-Q layout.

This drives me crazy. We’re now on the fourth iteration of the Creative Suites, and this inconsistency persists. Guess it’s time to send Adobe another message.

On Dvorak and the future of the keyboard

1. Dvorak-Qwerty redux

I decided to test out Tweetdeck, a new Twitter application in Beta developed on the Adobe Air platform. I like it. But when I attempted to hide the app with the shortcut ?-H … it didn’t work. Then it hit me. It’s an Adobe app. Of course it doesn’t work. That’s because I type using a keyboard layout called Dvorak.

It’s a common enough layout that it’s included as an international keyboard option for both the Mac and PC. The Mac also has a unique keyboard layout called ‘Dvorak-Qwerty,’ which I use. This allows one to type using the Dvorak layout, but use Qwerty key combos. It’s a thoughtful tip of the hat to Dvorak users who know and rely on standard Qwerty keyboard shortcuts.

Most of the applications on my Mac respect this convention and work very well with the D-Q layout. The glaring exceptions are Microsoft Office and Adobe products. I’ve given up on Microsoft ever fixing this problem, seeing as the OS still doesn’t include a D-Q option (and likely never will). But Adobe? Come on. I can’t imagine that fixing this little glitch would take much time. Correct me if I’m wrong, Adobe.

I’ve written about this on Adobe forums, I’ve sent in suggestions, I’ve posted on this topic here and on other blogs. Nothing has changed. While I’m sure that there are not many Dvorak typists using Adobe creative suites who rely on Qwerty key combos, I’m surely not the only one! And, hey, we’re paying customers. And those suites are expensive.

Someday, I hope that Adobe will fix this relatively simple thing. Adobe: take heed that Smile on my Mac fixed this same problem with TextExpander with one simple update. I wrote to them about the problem. And it was fixed with their next update a few weeks later. Now that’s service.

2. This Dvorak post rocks

So, I got an email a while back from Francis Siefken from the Netherlands, a fellow Dvorak user. He put forward a convincing case that switching the U and the I on the Dvorak keyboard would lead to even greater efficiencies. I love this kind of analysis.

Check out his post even if you don’t use Dvorak, if only to appreciate the time and thought he clearly put into this. It seems that his blog may have went into hiatus after this one post (something that I can certainly appreciate!), but it’s worth the read nonetheless. As is how he named his son, which also appears on this page. I hope we’ll see more posts on his blog someday soon.

My view: why not switch the U and I keys? The point is that the keyboard—our primary interface to the digital realm—must continue to evolve. Dvorak, while imperfect, is arguably an evolutionary leap forward from Qwerty. But why stop there? I say let’s continue to perfect the layout of keys to meet our needs.

Note that Siefken emphasizes that the primary benefit of Dvorak isn’t necessarily speed. It’s comfort. If you’re someone who types a lot (as in all day, every day) it may be worth your time to learn Dvorak if you’re not already heavily invested in Qwerty. Let the keyboard evolve, and let repetitive stress be damned!

The careful reader might now ask why I don’t use Dvorak keyboard shortcuts, preferring instead to keep using Qwerty shortcuts. The answer? The most-used shortcut keys are largely grouped down by the ? key, so it’s easier and faster. D-Q is a great combo.

3. On the evolution of the keyboard

And speaking of the evolution of keyboards, check out the Optimus Maximus. It’s expensive as hell, but wow. It’s the future of keyboards.

And what’s Apple doing on this front? Perhaps making an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) keyboard of their own. Will it be cheaper than the Optimus Maximus? Probably. Will Art.Lebedev Studios, creator of the Optimus and other wonderful and expensive design goodies, sue Apple? This might be a story we hear more about next year.

Dvorak-Qwerty support for Adobe CS

So, here’s my latest Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard support rant.

I received a very odd ‘personal’ response from an Adobe customer support representative regarding my request for Dvorak-Qwerty support for Adobe’s Creative Suite applications.

My complaint: Dvorak-Qwerty does not properly work with Adobe products.

(See my previous post for background on DQ if you have no idea what I’m talking about)

Here’s a snippet from what I wrote to Adobe about this annoying problem:

I must toggle to the QWERTY layout to use my shortcuts, then toggle back to Dvorak when I need to type. This is very annoying. Would Adobe consider posting a relatively minor update to address those users who rely on the Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard layout in Mac OS X?

They wrote back to me today (within 24 hours, as promised on their website):

I understand that you would like Adobe to post a minor update for Macintosh users who rely on Dvorak-Qwerty keyboard, as you have to continually toggle between these two keyboards in order to use it to type text and use short cut keys respectively.

I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

We need to inform you that AdobeĀ® Systems continually develops new applications and improves existing products, but cannot comment on unreleased products until a press release is posted. When new releases become available, the details regarding new features and purchasing information will be posted on the Adobe Web site at the following URL: http://www.adobe.com

Ok. So they seem to grasp the issue, but then again … the response mimicked the phrases from my complaint so closely that it left me with the distinct impression that some sort of AI compiled and regurgitated a customized automated response based on my input. The part that annoys me most is that the automated response tries too hard to appear like it came from a real human. Or perhaps what annoys me is that it doesn’t seem like it came from a real human, but Adobe would like me to feel as if it did.

I can’t say that I expect to see a software update from Adobe that addresses my issue anytime soon. I’m guessing there aren’t too many users out there who suffer from lousy DQ support (and it’s not just Adobe products that lack DQ support), and I’m assuming that the Adobe user base is so massive and the number of suggestions to improve their software are so many that my little complaint may be backlogged until Adobe CS 10.

It’s nice that Adobe has a system in place to so quickly respond to a customer input. I bet a lot of R&D went into this auto-rapid-super-friendly-personalized response system. Still, it raises a larger philosophical question about automated, rapid customer support. Is a quick reply better than a delayed reply (or no reply at all) if it is canned and impersonal? Is it actually worse if it’s canned and impersonal and it attempts to be personalized in a very fake way?

In addition to the mimicry of my original complaint, the ‘personal’ message also included my name at awkward intervals throughout the response. Here’s an example:

Troy, also, please visit the following URL on the Adobe Web site for the latest customer service and technical information: http://www.adobe.com/support/main.html

And later on in the (relatively short) message:

Troy, the Web Support Portal Representatives are available from Monday to Friday.

I’m convinced that a human would not reference my first name repeatedly in such an awkward manner.

The Adobe response was signed by ‘Victor M.’ of Adobe Customer Service. I’m sure that Victor M. exists, but he surely would not have typed out such a weird response to a customer. I really wouldn’t expect a human to type out a detailed response within 24 hours from such a massive company. It had to be a generated response. So what’s my point? If Adobe is committed to a personalized, rapid customer response, I would rather receive a message that said:

Hi Troy, we get a bazillion comments and suggestions every week. We got your message. A real human will read it. We will consider your input.

A week or two later, perhaps I would get a message that said:

Hey Troy, We read your input. We understand that you’ve submitted a feature request about our support for Dvorak-Qwerty. It may be part of a future Adobe release, but we can’t make any promises. We’ll do our best. We’re considering it. Really. Please understand that we have a bazillion other feature requests already in the queue, so your input will be addressed in the order it was received since we’ve determined that it’s not a critical application error.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see a response like that. To be fair, perhaps the response I received wasn’t automated. Perhaps Victor M. used creative cut-n-paste to respond to my query. Still, it seemed disingenuous; it seemed like a cookie-cutter response cloaked in a ‘personalized’ message. It seemed, in other words, automated in the worst way.

If any of you reading this are Dvorak typists who use QWERTY shortcuts (and use Adobe apps), please consider dropping them a note. Maybe all ten of us will get them to consider updating their software…