FAQ:Opening and Saving Files

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How do I save my audio for use in other programs? Does saving a project (AUP file) do that?

An AUP file can only be saved and used in Audacity. It is just a small text file that tells Audacity how to work with the audio you see in the project window. It lets you resume working on that audio in Audacity at a later time if you need to.

Whenever you want to use your audio in other programs, choose the File > Export... commands to export a standard audio format like WAV, AIFF or MP3.

  • WAV and AIFF are lossless files which you can also burn to an audio CD or use again for further editing.
  • MP3 and M4A/MP4 are lossy smaller files that are useful for portable music players or sending over the internet.
Warning icon To export an MP3, add LAME to your computer. To export M4A/MP4, add FFmpeg to your computer.

Before saving the exported file, click Options... in the Export Audio Dialog to see if there are choices for the quality and size of the file.

Tip: If you have already saved an AUP file but now want to export an audio file, reopen that AUP using File > Open.... If you saved the project recently, you can also find the project in the File > Recent Files menu.

To learn more about working with AUP files, please see Audacity Projects.

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Why does Audacity create a folder full of .au files when I save a project?

Audacity breaks long tracks into small pieces so it can edit them more efficiently. When you save an AUP project file, Audacity stores all the pieces in a _data folder that has the same name as the AUP file. For example, "song.aup" will open the pieces inside the "song_data" folder.

To open the project, open the AUP file then Audacity will load the .au files in the correct sequence automatically. A project you saved recently can be opened from File > Recent Files.

Warning icon You should not move, delete or rename the _data folder or any of the .au files inside it.

To learn more about working with Audacity projects, please see Audacity Projects.

See also:

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Audacity crashed! Can I recover any unsaved data?

In the event of a crash while Audacity has unsaved data (such as a recording that has not yet been saved as a project, or an existing project with unsaved changes), Audacity will attempt to recover that data on next launch of Audacity. See Recovery for fuller details.

If you see the Debug report "Audacity" dialog before the crash, please write to us attaching the zipped support data so we can investigate, telling us what you did in Audacity just before the crash.

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Can Audacity import or export formats like WMA, AC3 or iTunes files (M4A/MP4)?

Audacity as shipped can import or export the following audio formats:

You can install the optional FFmpeg library to import and export a much larger range of audio formats including AC3, AMR(NB), M4A, MP4 and WMA (on Mac only, Audacity can import unprotected M4A, MP4 and MOV files without FFmpeg). Audio files that are DRM-protected to work only in particular software cannot be imported. FFmpeg will also import audio from most video files or DVDs that are not DRM-protected.

You can export to iTunes by exporting to any location on your computer then add the file to the iTunes library.

See Importing Audio and the Export Audio Dialog for more help with importing and exporting.

If an audio file you want to import is DRM-protected (for example, an older iTunes M4P file), first burn it to an audio CD in the application that is licensed to play it. Then rip the CD track to WAV or AIFF. You can also record the file as it plays on the computer if your sound device supports this, though this may result in slight loss of quality.

See also:

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How can I export to formats not listed in the Export Audio Dialog?

If you install the optional FFmpeg library you can use the (FFmpeg) choices in the Export Audio Dialog to export M4A (AAC), AC3, AMR (narrow band) and WMA. If you don't see a choice for one of those specific FFmpeg formats, then the build of FFmpeg you are linking to was not compiled to support encoding in that format.

The most flexible method to export to more formats is to choose (external program) in the Export Audio Dialog which opens the dialog for Audacity's command-line encoder. Point your command to an encoder that supports the format you want to write to, which could be FFmpeg or some other encoder (for example, an alternative AAC or MP3 encoder). On Windows, the recommended EXE installer of FFmpeg includes an ffmpeg.exe which you can use for this purpose. On Mac OS X, you can download a standalone "ffmpeg" binary if you search online. Please see formats supported by FFmpeg on the Audacity Wiki.

Alternatively you can export to some additional formats supported by your build of FFmpeg by choosing Custom FFmpeg Export in the Export Audio Dialog.

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Why do exported files not include Album Artist or BPM metadata, Album Art or Lyrics?

When you export a file, by default Metadata Editor pops up where you can add, delete or change embedded information about the file. Metadata is well supported by many audio formats, especially the ID3 tags used by MP3, but less well supported in WAV.

  • Metadata in imported MP2 and MP3 files (except for the default Metadata Editor tags "Artist Name", "Track Title", "Album Title", "Track Number", "Year", "Genre" and "Comments") will be exported as a "custom" ID3 frame. This means that exported custom tags such as "Album Artist", "BPM" or "Composer" will not be seen in Windows Media Player, Windows Explorer, iTunes or other software that ignores custom tags.
  • Relatively few audio programs or players are able to read WAV metadata produced by other programs, for example iTunes cannot do so. For iTunes, you can export to AIFF as an alternative lossless format with metadata support.
  • For WAV files, Audacity exports metadata in a RIFF INFO chunk for all seven default tags plus "Copyright" and "Software". It also exports all the entered tags as ID3 tags. Applications that can read ID3 tags in WAV files can read these tags.
  • Some audio formats supported by the optional FFmpeg library may not export complete metadata.
  • For all formats, Audacity currently discards any existing lyrics or album art when exporting. You can copy the lyrics (or search for them online) then add them back to the exported file in your favorite media player. Extract the album art using a tag editor such as IDTE (or use Windows Media Player or iTunes to search online for the art) then add the art back to the exported file using your media player.

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Why can’t I play MIDI files?

MIDI files are essentially nothing more than a bare set of instructions describing how to play a series of musical notes. They are thus very different to audio files like WAV which are an actual recording of a piece of music.

For now, Audacity cannot play MIDI files or convert them directly to audio files. You can import MIDI files for visual comparison with audio files, and can perform simple cut-and-paste edits on MIDI files then export as a new MIDI. You can read more about working with MIDI files on this Wiki page.

See also:

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How do I import tracks from an audio CD?

Audacity cannot import tracks directly from an audio CD. You must use a separate program like CDex or iTunes® to extract (or "rip") CD tracks into a format that Audacity can read, like WAV or AIFF. Then you can import those WAV or AIFF files into Audacity.

The only exception is that on Mac OS X computers, CD tracks appear in Finder as AIFF files so can be imported directly into Audacity.

For more detail see the tutorial Tutorial - How to import CDs.

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How do I save my recording on an audio CD?

After making a recording or editing a file in Audacity, follow these steps to save your work on an audio CD.

  1. Choose "WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM" or "AIFF (Apple) signed 16-bit PCM" in the Export Audio Dialog "Save as type" dropdown menu to export to an audio file.
  2. Use any CD-burning software (iTunes® or Nero, for example) to burn this file to a CD. If you burn in a program that is also a media player, like iTunes® or Windows Media Player, you may need to drag the files for burning into a playlist or library. If in doubt, see the program's help files.

To make a disc you can play in all CD players, make sure to create a "music" or "audio" CD (not a "data" CD). Use CD-R discs, because some players cannot read CD-RW. You can burn only 74 minutes to an audio CD in most cases, but possibly up to 80 minutes depending on the CD-R. This is a limitation of the audio CD format.

Some CD software will burn only 16-bit, 44100 Hz stereo audio files. If your CD recording software won't open your file, export the file again after choosing the following settings in Audacity:

  1. At the bottom of the Audacity window, set the Project Rate to 44100 Hz.
  2. If your project does not already contain a stereo track, choose Tracks > Add New > Stereo Track. This will make Audacity export a stereo file.

See the Burning music files to a CD Tutorial for tips on CD burning with Windows Media Player or iTunes® and on burning "gapless" CDs or longer "data" CDs.

See also:

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How can I split a long recording into multiple files or CD tracks?

Follow these steps to create a separate audio file for each song or segment of a long recording. This is particularly useful if you are creating an audio CD, since after burning each file to CD there will be a separate CD track for each song which you can skip to in the CD player.

  1. Click to place the cursor at the start of the first song.
  2. Choose Tracks > Add Label at Selection. If you wish, you can type the name of the song in the label.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for each song.
  4. When you are finished, choose File > Export Multiple.... When you click the "Export" button, Audacity will save each song as a separate file, using the format and location you choose.

Alternatively, Audacity can attempt to detect the silences between tracks and label them automatically. See the full instructions at Splitting a recording into separate tracks.

See also:

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Why does Audacity warn about the name or nothing happens when I export or save?

Adding extensions and periods (dots) to names of exported audio files

On Windows and Mac OS X when you export an audio file, Audacity will in most cases add a period (dot) and the appropriate (or most common) extension for your chosen format. So if you want to export a WAV file called "rhythms.wav", all you need to do is type "rhythms" (without quotes). If you type a desired period within the name itself, Audacity will usually add the final period and extension for you.

However Audacity will show a warning if you type a name ending with a period and characters that are the extension for any common media, document or image type and this extension is unexpected for your audio format. Press "Yes" in the warning if you really want to export with this file name, or "No" to return to the export dialog. This gives you the flexibility for example to export an M4A (AAC) (FFmpeg) file with M4B audiobook extension, if that is your explicit requirement.

More Windows and Mac examples (do not type the quotes in the examples given)
  • If you export as a WAV file and type "1.2 hours", the file will export as "1.2 hours.wav" with no warning.
  • If you export as an MP3 file and type "rhythms.jpg", Audacity will show a warning because JPG is an image format. You must type "rhythms.jpg.mp3" to produce a file with that name and extension.
  • If you export as an M4A (AAC) (FFmpeg) file and type "rhythms.mp4" or "rhythms.m4r" (denoting a ringtone in MP4 format), no warning will be shown because these are recognised extensions for the format.
  • If you export as an M4A (AAC) (FFmpeg) file and type "rhythms.mp3", a warning will be shown because you would export a file that Windows would see as an MP3 but contained MP4 audio.

On GNU/Linux if you export an audio file that has any period in the file name, Audacity will warn you (unless the implied extension is a recognised alternative extension for your chosen format). If you answer "Yes" to the warning, Audacity will not add the standard extension for the format. So if you need a period within the file name you must answer "No" to any warning, then add another period followed by the correct extension at the end of the name. Otherwise the file may not be playable.

Characters forbidden by the operating system

When exporting and when saving an Audacity project, Audacity may also warn you (or not respond correctly) if you type a file name that includes characters that are forbidden by the operating system.

Forbidden Characters:
On Windows, all of the following \  /  :  *  ?  "  <  >  |
On Mac OS X, colon only(1) :
On Linux, forward slash only /
(1) "/" in saved file names appears as a colon in Audacity.

Apart from operating system restrictions, Audacity has full support for printable Unicode characters in file names. However, if you want to send your file to someone else, use it on another operating system or make it available on the internet, only use A to Z or a to z characters, whole numbers (0 to 9), underscore or hyphen-minus (or use the NUMPAD_SUBTRACT key). This will ensure the file name will always be compatible.

There may be additional restrictions such as maximum permitted characters in the path to the file, or some file names may be reserved for the operating system. Full details for Windows can be found here.

Showing file extensions on the computer: When you check the file you saved or exported in Windows Explorer or Finder on Mac OS X, you may only be able to see the file name itself (for example, "92.3 FM capture" ) and not the extension following it. This is not an Audacity bug. You will need to set Windows to "Show extensions for known file types", or on Mac OS X, choose Finder > Preferences then under "Advanced", enable "Show all file name extensions".

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Why does my file import with a hatched pattern then slowly change to a waveform?

See this page: On-Demand Loading.

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I copied the .aup file to another computer or sent it by email to a friend; but now when I open it there's no sound, why?

To use a standard Audacity project on another computer, you have to include the _data folder that has the same name as the project. This makes the size very large. The _data folder has the small .au files that contain the uncompressed audio data.

Also if your project contains imported WAV or AIFF files, you must choose File > Check Dependencies... and if necessary copy in those files to the project before using it on another computer.

See Audacity Projects for more about the structure of Audacity projects and why you would probably need to export an MP3 audio file to make your audio small enough to email.

Alternatively, if you have a broadband internet connection and you package your .aup file and _data folder into a zip file, there are many free file transfer services that allow upload and storage of large files. Try for example DropSend or mailbigfile. Audacity also has a feature at File > Save Compressed Copy of Project... to save a much smaller project using OGG files (this will however give you a slightly lossy project).

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How can I backup my Audacity Projects?

Audacity has very robust crash recovery and in many cases can recover most or all of your work in the event of a power failure, computer crash or crash of Audacity itself. However it is a wise precaution to backup the project periodically to separately named AUP files in case Audacity is unable to recover correctly. This also gives you the flexibility to reopen the project as it was at different points in time, because Audacity cannot restore a project's history once that project's session is closed.

The best way to make a copy of an already saved project is to File > Save Project As... and save to a new name. This closes the current project in its last saved state then leaves you working on the newly saved project in its current state. See Audacity Projects for more on how to work with Audacity project files.

Warning icon Do not use the operating system's copy and paste to make a copy of the project AUP file and _data folder in the same folder as the original project.
  • If the project is closed, you can copy the AUP file and _data folder then paste these into a different folder. This ensures the original file and folder names are retained.

Remember that computer hard drives can fail, destroying all data. Therefore regular backups should if possible be made to one or two devices other than the device the current project is stored on. For example, backups could be made to another internal drive on the computer, or ideally to an external USB drive or uploaded to an online (cloud) storage service.

If you have just made a recording it is strongly recommended to File > Export... it immediately to WAV or AIFF (ideally to an external drive) as a safety copy before you start editing the project. If you are recording multi-track overdubs (recording tracks one after the other, such as drums followed by guitar followed by vocals), export each recorded track immediately you stop the recording.


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