Zooming Overview

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If you want to carefully inspect a small portion of your audio, or have an overview of your project, you will want to use one of these Zoom methods.

The figure above shows Audacity's view of an entire song, zoomed all the way out. It's really useful to get an idea of the whole piece from start to finish, but it's hard to see much detail - like a forest with no individual trees.

Zooming the time scale, or zooming "horizontally", is something you'll do all the time. It lets you focus on the first 15 seconds, for example:


or the last 15 seconds:


or even a tiny fraction of a second, where you can see the individual audio samples as small dots:


Occasionally you may want to zoom "vertically", so that you see only a portion of the waveform from top to bottom, but in greater detail:

If you get lost, refer to the Timeline at the top of the window. It always shows you exactly where you are in time, in hours:minutes:seconds.

Time Scale Zooming (Horizontally)

See the View > Zoom page for limitations of the zoom commands when zooming in or out near the beginning or end of a track.

There are five ways to zoom horizontally:

Menu Commands

View > Zoom submenu: use the four commands in this submenu to;

  • View > Zoom > Zoom In: double the current zoom level.
  • View > Zoom > Zoom Normal: reverts back to Audacity's default zoom, where you can see 5 - 10 seconds at a time.
  • View > Zoom > Zoom Out: cuts the current zoom level in half
  • View > Zoom > Zoom to Selection: zooms and scroll so that the selection just fits in the window.

View > Track Size submenu: use the first two commands in this submenu to;

  • View > Track Size > Fit to Width: zoom out just enough so that you can see the entire project
  • View > Track Size > Fit to Height: resize all the tracks so they fit in the window vertically without scrolling. If you have more than about ten tracks, some scrolling up and down will still be needed, because there is a minimum track height beyond which reduction is impossible.

Edit Toolbar

Four of the view commands have equivalent buttons on the right of the Edit Toolbar:

ZoomToolbar - click on the image to see this toolbar displayed in the default context of the upper tooldock layout
  • ZoomIn.png Zoom In
  • ZoomOut.png Zoom Out
  • ZoomSel.png Zoom to Selection
  • ZoomFit.png Fit Project in Window

Keyboard shortcuts

All six zoom commands have keyboard shortcut equivalents:

Zoom action Keyboard shortcut
Zoom In Ctrl + 1
Zoom Normal Ctrl + 2
Zoom Out Ctrl + 3
Fit to Width Ctrl + F
Fit To Height Ctrl + Shift + F
Zoom to Selection Ctrl + E

Mac users: Use instead of Ctrl.

Zoom Tool

You can also zoom in and out using the zoom tool Zoom Tool.

Zoom In or Out on the Mouse Pointer using the Scroll Wheel

If your mouse has a scroll wheel or ball, you can zoom in or out centered on the position of the mouse pointer, instead of centered on the selection or editing cursor.

When extremely zoomed out, or when zooming in or out near the beginning or end of the track, it may not be possible to keep the audio centered on the mouse pointer position.

Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard then scroll up to zoom in, or scroll down to zoom out. For example. you can zoom in at or near the start or end of a selection by placing the pointer there.

Mac users: Hold down both and Ctrl while using the scroll wheel.
To zoom the waveform in Audacity without using the Ctrl key, look in these places, depending on which version of macOS/Mac OS X you are using:
  • in the System "Mouse" Preferences (in older versions of Mac OS X before the Magic Mouse), disable "Zoom using scroll ball while holding Command" (or similar).
  • in the System "Universal Access" Preferences, the "Seeing" tab, then in the "Zoom" section click the "Options" button - uncheck "Use scroll wheel with modifier keys to zoom"
  • in the System "Accessibility" Preferences, click on "Zoom" in the left panel, then uncheck "Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom".

Note: When Scrubbing or Seeking, the zoom buttons in Edit Toolbar and the zoom items in View Menu (or their shortcuts) also zoom at the mouse pointer and not at the selection or editing cursor.

Vertical zooming

Vertical zooming can be useful on occasions. You can zoom vertically whichever of the tools in Tools Toolbar are selected. Hover the mouse over the vertical scale of a track, and the pointer changes to a magnifying glass, indicating you can zoom vertically:

  • Left-click once to zoom in at the position on the vertical scale you are interested in. This point will then be centered on the vertical scale.
  • Hold Shift then left-click (or just right-click) to zoom out incrementally.
  • Hold Shift then right-click to zoom out immediately to normal zoom level.
    • Ctrl + Shift with left-click can also be used to zoom out to normal on Mac.

Alternatively, click once and hold down the mouse button, then drag to select a vertical region:


When you release the mouse button, exactly the range you selected will be zoomed in so as to fit vertically inside the track height:


If you commence a drag to zoom in by mistake, you can press Esc before releasing the mouse to cancel the zoom operation.

In default Waveform view set in the Track Dropdown Menu you can zoom in to a minimum display range of 0.001 linear extending from top to bottom of the scale.