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.
Advice The images on this page have RMS display turned on, the light color in the center of the waveform.


  1. Zoom levels
  2. Time Scale Zooming (Horizontally)
  3. Vertical Zooming

Zoom levels


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

Zooming the time scale, or zooming "horizontally", is something you will 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:

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:

1. Menu Commands

View > Zoom use the 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 > Zoom > Zoom Toggle: toggles between two pre-defined zoom levels, these are user selectable in Tracks Preferences. Defaults are normal Default Zoom level and 4 Pixels per Sample (which shows a fraction of a second of audio as samples)

View > Track Size 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.

2. Edit Toolbar

Five of the View > Zoom commands have equivalent buttons on the top of the Edit Toolbar:

Edit Toolbar 3-6-0.png
  • ZoomIn.png Zoom In
  • ZoomOut.png Zoom Out
  • ZoomSel.png Fit Selection (to Width of the Window). aka 'Zoom to Selection'
  • ZoomFit.png Fit Project (to Width of the Window).
  • ZoomToggle.png Zooms between two preset levels. These can be set using Tracks preferences.

Fit Project to Height and Zoom Normal are not provided as buttons on the Edit Toolbar.

3. Keyboard shortcuts

All zoom commands have keyboard shortcut equivalents:

Zoom action Keyboard shortcut
Zoom In Ctrl + 1
Zoom Normal Ctrl + 2
Zoom Out Ctrl + 3
Zoom Toggle Shift + Z
Fit Project to Width Ctrl + F
Fit Project to Height Ctrl + Shift + F
Zoom to Selection Ctrl + E
Mac users: Use instead of Ctrl.

4. Zoom In or Out using the mouse wheel

If your mouse has a scroll wheel or ball, you can zoom in or out focused on the selection's left or right edge by placing the mouse pointer left of the selection or right of the selection, respectively. If the mouse pointer is inside the selection, or if there is no selection, zoom is focused 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 your cursor position there.

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

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 you are using:
  • in the System "Mouse" Preferences (in older versions of macOS 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".

Vertical Zooming

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.

Vertical Scale

Right-click in the Vertical Scale will bring up the dropdown context menu.

Vertical Scale Waveform context menu 3-5-0.jpg All the zooms here are in the vertical direction, as opposed to a horizontal zoom on the Timeline