Background Information for the Media

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Audacity is one of the most frequently downloaded digital audio editors in the world. Tens of millions of people have used it to record a podcast, create a demo CD of their garage band, transfer old vinyl records to CD, or just have fun with audio. Of course there are dozens of other software programs with similar capabilities. So why should someone choose Audacity, why is it free to obtain and even more, its programming code made open to all?

Why Audacity?

The simplest reason? Because it's free.

Audacity is developed by a team of volunteers and released under an open-source license (more on this below). What that means for the user is that they don't have to pay for Audacity - it's freely downloadable from the Internet with no limitations or restrictions. We hope Audacity is an enormously useful and fun tool that puts the user in control of their digital audio files. Even if Audacity lacks some particular advanced feature that an individual needs, it can still be used alongside other audio software - perhaps even expensive commercial software. As long as Audacity is free and has some unique capabilities, or is better at some tasks than other software, it can always be part of a digital audio toolbox.

Another reason to choose Audacity is that it's the only audio editing software that runs on Windows®, Mac and Linux computers. Every other piece of software out there only works on one, or maybe two of these platforms. Why does this matter? Most of us only have one type of computer, most likely a typical PC running Microsoft Windows, or maybe a Macintosh which we've had for years. But friends or co-workers may well use many different sorts of computer, and Audacity enables everyone to use the same audio software, sharing tips and resources with one another. Users can even share their Audacity project file with those on other operating systems, as long as the project is complete with all its audio data, so doesn't depend on files only on one computer.

Audacity has been translated into more than 30 languages and has large user communities in countries around the world. Business partners, friends or family in another part of the world can use Audacity too.

Finally, many people simply find Audacity the easiest to use. That's not to say that everything will be obvious or easy at first - editing audio is not usually as easy as editing an e-mail. Audacity was written with the average user in mind. We don't assume that users have been in a recording studio or to know what is a "mixer bus" or an "edit decision list". Whenever possible, Audacity lets the user do what they want to do without worrying about how it works internally. There may still be some new terminology to learn along the way where it really is necessary, but that's what this Manual is for.

Why free?

Why is Audacity given away for free like this? First, free, open source software is more common than many realize - the popular Firefox, BitTorrent or applications are all open-source software. More than half of the web sites on the Internet are powered by Apache, another open-source software program, and many of these run on Linux, an entirely open-source operating system. Sometimes open-source developers are paid by major corporations who benefit from the software; in other cases they survive on donations, a small amount of relevant advertising or on individual contributors doing paid consultancy. Audacity is a case of the latter.

Audacity's team of about a dozen regular developers around the world are thus volunteers for the most part, developing Audacity in their spare time because they love it. But we always need more help. Besides more programmers with C++ knowledge, we need ordinary users to help the project in many ways. There is always work to be done keeping documentation up-to-date, translating Audacity into new languages, testing development versions of the program or answering user queries on our Forum. If you would like to contribute to or publicize Audacity, don't hesitate to e-mail us.

Open-Source Software

Open-source software means that all of the programming source code is distributed free along with the software. Usually, source code is kept secret, meaning that the person or organization that created the software is the only one with the power to change it. By this means they control the software, charging whatever price they want, or can throw away the source code at any time and discontinue the software altogether. With open-source software, the source code is licensed to the world so that anyone can see how the program works, and even modify it if they so choose. In the case of Audacity, the source code is provided under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL allows you to do whatever you want with Audacity, including modify it and redistribute it, providing you offer it under the same license and make its source code available. For more details, see the full text of our License.

Why would a user rather than a programmer care that they can modify Audacity? Well, the fact that anyone can download the Audacity source code and modify it means that Audacity is not likely to die. Even if the original developers move on to something else, it's always possible for another developer to come along and continue where they left off. In fact, this is almost certain to happen given the many millions of Audacity users, providing only that a very small proportion of them are willing to chip in a little.

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