It’s been a while since I did a “free software for writers” entry, mainly because I’m kind of running out of free software that I can label as specifically for writers; I may just switch over to doing “free software for anybody” posts. However, I do have at least one more program to write about, and that’s Audacity. Audacity is an audio recording, editing, and mixing program. I’ve mainly used it to fix glitches in audio files (such as MP3s with a skip in them) or to change sound levels; the local Arthur Murray uses it to change the tempo of songs without introducing distortion so that, for instance, a ridiculously fast samba like “Jazz Machine” can be slowed down so that mere mortals can dance to it. (My wife insists on the full-speed version.)
So now you’re probably thinking, “Well that’s just fascinating, Jim, but what makes Audacity free software for writers?” To which I reply with one word: Podcasting.
Although I don’t do this myself, a number of writers have found success with recording podcasts of their stories or serializations of their novels. Some, like Cliff Burns over at Beautiful Desolation, distribute (or plan to distribute) the podcasts on their own; some go through clearinghouses such as Podiobooks; some go through “audio magazines” such as Bound Off. Even traditional dead-tree publications like The New Yorker are doing fiction podcasts (although, as a longtime subscriber, I can state without reservation that The New Yorker is anything but a run-of-the-mill dead-tree publication). No matter how a podcast is distributed, though, it first has to be created; something has to turn the analog spoken words into digital bits. That’s where Audacity comes in. Its features are too exhaustive to delineate in this post, but a full accounting can be had here.
As I mentioned, I have never used Audacity to record a podcast, but people do it; in fact, Audacity comes bundled with a number of different hardware packages, including microphones, USB turntables, and other audio capture devices. So if you’ve got the itch to podcast, give Audacity a try before paying for one the more expensive audio editors. You may find that it does the job for free.
Audacity is available for OS X, Linux, OS/2 (!!!!), and Windows, as well as FreeBSD and probably other BSDs as well.