“Logic is clunky!”, “I wouldn’t use Logic if I had a paying client in my studio!, “I don’t believe this is so hard to do in Logic!”. Is this you? To tell you the truth, this is probably all of us at one time or another. But why is this? Is Logic genuinely clunky? It’s my contention that, far from being clunky, Logic is a well-oiled machine. The problem, more often than not, is that we have violated one or more of the 3 immutable laws of using Logic with VoiceOver.
This article will hopefully get you well on the way to mastering the laws, enabling you to work with Logic rather than against it to get your project completed. “But what are these laws you speak of?” glad you asked. Here they are:
- Know your Screenreader
- Know your product
- practice common tasks until you can do them on auto-pilot
In the rest of this article, we’re going to unpack these laws in a Logic context and you’ll soon see the clutter beginning to clear.
Know your Screenreader
How well do you know VoiceOver? I remember once, sitting in on a user trial of a website where someone was asked to carry out some tasks using his mac with VoiceOver. We said to him “OK Please would you search the site for this keyword?”. To my horror,he pressed VO+left arrow repeatedly until he got as far left as he could go and then he pressed VO+right arrow and listened step by step until he found the search text box. I wanted to scream at him “No, press VO+command+j to move through just the form controls” but I had to bite my tongue and suffer in silence along with him.
We can do way better than this in Logic, but it’s going to require us going beyond the basics in our VoiceOver knowledge. Here are 3 VoiceOver facilities that help me race through the Logic user interface.
The Item Chooser
The Item Chooser enables you to quickly get to an item on the screen by choosing it from a list. You bring up the Item Chooser by pressing VO+i and then you can scroll through the items in the list or type the one you want if you know it.
Once you get to the item you want, you press Return to dismiss the list and plop the VoiceOver Cursor down on your selected item, wherever it happens to be on the screen – marvelous, and I’m sure this isn’t news to most of us reading this article.
However, I want to draw your attention to how you make selections from the list. When you type characters to narrow down the list, VoiceOver will only show items which contain the characters that you’ve typed. Now, read the last sentence again and then rejoice with me! This means that you don’t need to type whole words, you just need to type enough characters that uniquely identify the item you’re looking for.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say you’re anywhere in the main window, but you want to change the volume of the selected track.
By default, the Inspector is open. Press VO+i and then type the letter v, press a space and type the letter f. You immediately get to the Volume Fader item and you can press Return and interact to change it.
So, why does that work? because Volume Fader is the only item on screen which contain a letter v, a space and a letter f in its name. You don’t even need to type the characters in order, try it with f space v, same result.
Want to know if you’ve got the Inspector open? Open the Item Chooser and type the word spec. If you don’t land on the Inspector group option, then it’s closed. The key command to open or close it is the letter I.
Streamlining the use of the Item Chooser is one of the foundations of my strategy for finding things quickly in Logic, it eliminates most of the hunting and interacting which I think gives rise to the accusations of clunkiness.
The NumPad Commander and QuickNav
Let’s face it, using VoiceOver is about moving the VoiceOver Cursor around, and then interacting with, selecting or working with the item in the VoiceOver Cursor. So, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do all of those operations with single keypresses? Well you can and it’s called the NumPad Commander.
You’ll need a full Apple keyboard to take advantage of this – not essential but recommended for use with Logic.
You can turn the NumPad Commander on by pressing VO+Clear, the clear key is the one beyond the 7 on the Numeric keypad. Then you can open the wonderful Item Chooser simply by pressing 1. 4 and 6 move you left and right and 8 and 2 move you up and down. 5 is the equivalent of pressing VO+space and 7 and 9 interact and uninteract respectively.
So, if you’re finding that holding down the VO keys is getting really old for you, try the NumPad commander – Why press 3 keys when 1 will do the job!
But, what if you don’t have a full Apple keyboard? Then I often find that QuickNav is helpful. Turn it on with Left+Right arrows and then use the arrow keys to move the VoiceOver cursor around without holding the VO keys. Down+Right arrows interact, Down+Left arrows uninteract and Up+Down arrows are the equivalent of pressing VO+Space. Turn QuickNav back off with Left+Right arrows.
The TrackPad Commander
If you’ve got a TrackPad as part of your system and particularly if you’re used to using an iPhone, this one could be for you. Imagine your TrackPad was the screen of an iPhone, showing you what was on your Mac and that’s the TrackPad Commander, Cool huh?
It’s beyond the scope of this article to fully explain it here but for you iPhone users, you turn it on by VO+Rotor Clockwise – yep, the exact rotor gesture you use on your iPhone.
Now, explore your TrackPad and you’ll be able to explore the Logic screen with your fingers.
Double-tap something to activate it, no surprise there , and a 2-finger swipe to the right interacts with an item whereas a 2-fingered swipe to the left uninteracts.
Using the TrackPad commander enables you to quickly get to items and as you learn how the screens are laid out in Logic, you might find this to be invaluable. I particularly like using this in the mixer to quickly get to channel strips and interact with them. You’ve definitely got to give this one a try.
Know your Product
We’re all learning how to tame the beast that is Logic, but as a VoiceOver user, knowing your product means that as well as learning scads of key commands, it really helps to know how the screens are laid out. It will take time, but it saves us from crawling around with the VoiceOver Cursor.
So, , now that we’ve honed our VoiceOver chops, let’s see how they make it easy for us to fly around Logic once we add our knowledge of screen layout into the mix.
Working with Tracks
I find that a good chunk of my time in Logic is spent dealing with tracks, and Channel strips. Let’s take tracks in the first instance.
I know it’s basic, but I’m going to assume that we’re all giving our tracks a short name describing what’s recorded on the track. Adding and Naming tracks is covered in my Projects and Tracks article if you need any further info on how to do that.
Next, keep similar instruments together. You’ll find it much easier to remember where things are and work with instrument groups if you do that. If I’ve got several instruments in my project and I want to record another electric guitar, I’m getting to my first electric guitar track and then pressing Command+Option+A to add my second electric guitar audio track just below the first one. Finally, I’m coming down to the track and naming it EG double” or something similar.
Now that we’ve got our tracks named and organised well, how do we quickly find the track we want? the VoiceOver find facility is just the ticket for this. , press VO+F, type the name of your track, press enter and boom you’re already interacted with the track group! So, please, no more finding the track headers group, interacting, cursoring up or down. to find the track you want and then interacting with the track group once you land on it, that’s the slow train. If you know the name of the track you want use VO+f – slightly quicker than using the Item chooser although that works as well.
One gotcha with this method though. It doesn’t work if you are currently inside the Inspector, so if you are, uninteract with it, press i to close it, or just find your track using the item Chooser.
If you don’t know the name of the track you want, then you will need to take the slow train and go through the track names in the track headers group. So, what’s the quickest way to get to the track headers group?
The answer to this question is to use VoiceOver’s Item chooser. You can’t use find because find searches for text that is actually on the screen. The track headers group is essentially a VoiceOver container which it uses to help us make sense of how screen objects are organised so the words track headers group do not appear on the screen anywhere.
Bottom line, the way to do this is to bring up the VoiceOver Item chooser by pressing VO+i and then typing the word header. You’ll land on the Track Headers Group option. Next, press Return to select it which will take you to the right spot on the screen and interact. Then you can use VO+Up/Down arrows to navigate the list of track groups, interracting with the one you want. You can do this very quickly, but it’s still quicker to know what your tracks
Handling Channel Strips
Even though you can almost think of tracks and channel strips interchangeably, When you record something or edit a region, you’re changing a track. when you change how a track sounds or how loud it is, you’re changing a channel strip, even though, for convenience, you can change some channel strip parameters such as muting and soloing from the track header.
There are 4 places from which you can change channel strip parameters: The track header, the Inspector, the Mixer pane and the Mixer window. My current thinking here is to simply use the Inspector. This is because it always shows the channel strip for the selected track, no need to open the mixer pane or mixer window unless you’re mixing and needing to tweak things on many different channel strips and even here, I still find the inspector hard to beat for convenience.
Remember that I is the key command that will open and close the Inspector pane. it’s open by default and we talked earlier how to check to see if it’s open using the Item Chooser, so you’ll need it open for the following moves.
Muting and soloing the selected track is handled by the m and s key commands respectively, so I never VO across to the checkboxes and check or uncheck them in the track header or in the Inspector’s channel strip area.
Again, we talked earlier about my method for changing the volume of a track – Item Chooser V F, return Interact and change it.
How about changing the pan? Now here is what I mean about knowing how the screens are laid out. Using the Item Chooser here doesn’t help me because when I type the word pan in my 5 track project, I see 7 pan controls in the list, so which is the one I want?
No, I’ve found that the quickest way to get to the pan control for the selected track from anywhere is to use VO+F and search for the word clip. That will take you to the clip indicator in the channel strip then VO left once and you’re on the pan control which you can interact with and change.
OK, what about a little EQ and compression? There is a handy EQ button that exists in the channel strip in the mixer but which does not show up by default in the Inspector. However you can configure the Inspector so that it does show up.
To do this, find the volume fader in the Inspector and right-click it with a physical mouse. Alternatively, you can hold ctrl and Click. Using the right-mouse click in the VO commands menu doesn’t work. If you don’t have a mouse or TrackPad, then there is a key command called Show EQ Thumbnails. This is not set by default so you’ll need to map it to a key of your choosing.
Once you’ve right-Clicked the volume fader, come down to channel strip components and choose EQ Thumbnails.
Now that you’ve done that,you can quickly get to the EQ for the selected track by doing a VoiceOver find for the text EQ. Doing this will take you to the EQ button and pressing it will add a channel EQ to your channel strip if you’ve not yet added one and then open the EQ window to let you tweak it.
Likewise with compression, do a VoiceOver find for the text “Gain red”. That will drop you on the Gain Reduction button within your channel strip and pressing it will add a compressor if you’ve not already added one and open its associated window.
Logic 10.2 does however have some accessibility bugs. For example, even though you can see your audio FX group in the item chooser, selecting it does not take you to the group within your channel strip. likewise with the Send group and plugin names. Even trying to tag these with Hotspots doesn’t appear to work. The quickest way I’ve found of getting to your audio fx group is to get to your EQ button as described above and then VO to the right a few times until you get to the group and interact, admittedly not optimal, but still achievable in a trice with practice.
Practice common tasks until you can do them on auto-pilot
I hope from reading the above that you’ve found some ways to streamline your time with the Logic User Interface. This is not an exhaustive list of tips and tricks and I’m sure there will be others that you use that we’re not aware of, so be sure to share them on the list. I find that most of my time is spent changing tracks and changing channel strip parameters, so that’s why I’ve focussed on that here. I also find that practicing things like getting to a specific track or reopening my EQ have enabled me to do these common tasks almost in my sleep now.
So remember the 3 immutable laws of using Logic with VoiceOver – know your screenreader, know your product and practice the things that you do most often. Master them and you’ll find Logic a breeze, violate them at your peril!