Free Software for Writers: Audacity

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.

4 thoughts on “Free Software for Writers: Audacity

  1. Thanks for the info on “Audacity” and Podiobooks–shall check into them.

    Podcasting is that next step in my evolution as an indie writer and I’m very excited by the worlds it opens up. We’re recording our podcast, due for release in the next ten days or so, using Garageband and that has been working very well. We’ve added theme and incidental music,
    can easily trim out flubbed lines and the sound quality is very clear.

    Each new segment of SO DARK THE NIGHT we add fills me with renewed appreciation for the technology, the promise it offers writers.

    Thanks for this…

    Jim says: I recently used Garageband on my wife’s iBook to create a medley CD for her school. It’s a very nice piece of software. Hope you have great success with your podcast, I will be checking it out when it’s available!


  2. i love your free software posts, and actually have a question regarding “for anybody”:
    in your free software discoveries….have you found a good one for amateur video editing??
    i was given a video recorder and have no editing program…

    Jim says: I’ve used Cinelerra and Kino for this, but these are Linux-only applications. I’ve heard of VirtualDub and Avid Free DV but have never used them. I will do a little research and post my findings!


  3. Audacity is a great piece of software, however I have found as a seller of public domain audio books that it can be very time consuming when I need to edit a large number of files. I use mp3directcut and it works great and is fast it does not convert the mp3 file at all. you cannot get down to editing out all the glips and glups (technical term!) but it can really speed up things. I then use audacity for fine tuning when needed.




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