How to Become Faster in Pro Tools with Keyboard Shortcuts
Whether you're mixing tracks for the next great album or you're laying audio down for your self-produced podcast, Pro Tools gives you the most powerful software audio system in the world. It's also pretty complex, which means if you don't know the system you can spend more time digging through tool listing and self-help books trying to identify control features.
You don't have time for all that. The less time you spend sifting through varying control panels in the software the more time you'll spend actually editing and cutting your audio production. The best way to improve productivity is to take advantage of hotkeys in Pro Tools.
The great thing about these hotkeys is the buttons remain consistent not only from Mac to PC but between software versions and updates.
A Note For Mac Users
The modern Mac has different functions for the "F" keys (such as F2 or F5, for example). When the hotkey requires the use of one of these "F" buttons, you'll need to hold down the Function (fn) key and then push down on the designated "F" button. The "fn" key is found in the lower left corner of your Mac keyboard.
For Mac and Windows Users
The hotkey commands are similar between Mac and Windows computers. However, with a Mac computer, you'll hold down "Command" while with a Windows computer you'll hold down the "Ctrl" button instead. The other combination keys are all the same.
For Mac and Windows Users
The basic function hotkeys are those commands you'll only need to use one or two buttons to perform. These are also likely some of the more common commands and functions you use throughout the course of your audio editing.
- Save: Command/Ctrl + S
- Start Recording or Punch In: Command/Ctrl + Spacebar (you can also do this with the F12 button or the 3 key if you have a numeric keypad on your computer).
- Import audio into project: Command/Ctrl + Shift + I
- Stop current recording and discard recording (once you discard the recording you can not undo this, so make sure you're sure before pressing the hotkey): Command/Ctrl + period button (.).
- Set a current track to record safe and prevent it from being easily deleted: Command/Ctrl + clicking on the Record Enable button within Pro Tools.
- Add an open fade dialog box to a selected clip in Pro Tools: Command/Ctrl + F.
- Create a group track: Command/Ctrl + G
- Heal a separated/cut track: Command/Ctrl + H
- Separate a selected portion of the audio track: Command/Ctrl + E
These are the basic hotkeys you'll want to learn first. There are literally hundreds of hotkey combinations within Pro Tools, so attempting to learn all of the hotkeys at once will make it challenging to remember anything and it may end up causing you to drop in productivity instead of gain time back in the production process.
Once you have these particular hotkeys down then you can move on to more complex hotkeys.
With the previous hotkeys mastered, you'll now be able to start adding in these second-tier hotkeys. Depending on what kind of audio production you do, you may find you use these multiple times throughout a single track, or you may never use them at all.
- Consolidate Clip: on a Mac you'll click Option + Shift + 3. In Windows, you'll click Alt + Shift + 3.
- Horizontal zoom: Command/Ctrl + [ or ] (depending on if you want to zoom in or out).
- Amplitude zoom: Command/Ctrl + [ or ].
- Bring up a New Track dialog box: Command/Ctrl + Shift + N.
- Adjust track height/size: Control on a Mac/Start in Windows + the up or down button.
- Adjust track height/size for all tracks: Control/Start + Option + up or down button.
- Place a marker on the timeline during recording or playback: Press "Enter" on the numeric keypad.
- Toggle Edit (Window Modes) Push F1-F4, or press Option/Alt + 1 through 4.
- Toggle Edit (Window Tools) Push F5-F10, or press Command/Ctrl + 1 through 6.
The more advanced hotkeys are those hotkeys you'll likely only use when you really get in deep with Pro Tools.
Outside of advanced audio mixing, you may never need to know these hotkeys, or you may only perform the action once in a while. Additionally, on top of these hotkeys, there are dozens of more options, so if you master these advanced hotkeys and want to know more, you can turn to the (extremely large) instructional book that comes with Pro Tools.
There are also three and four button hotkeys, some of which differ between Mac and Windows. In the instructions, the first listed button is for Mac while the second listed is for Windows (such as Command/Ctrl is Mac/Windows).
- Bounce content to disk: Command/Ctrl + Option/Alt + B
- Bounce single Track: Command/Ctrl + Option/Alt + Shift + B
- Import an entire session data: Shift + Option/Alt + I
- Set all waveform overviews back to the original size: Control + Option + Command + [ (on a Mac), or CTRL + Alt + Start + [ (in Windows)
- Open the Tempo Operation Window: Option/Alt + 2 (on numeric keypad)
- Reset the zoom for an entire song to fit it on screen: Option/Alt + A
- Cascade Inputs: Select the track grouping, then on a Mac click: Shift + Option + Command + select input on first track. In Windows click: Shift + Alt + Ctrl + click on first track.
The fast you memorize these hotkeys, the more time you’ll save producing your audio files. If you find yourself struggling to remember the keys, you can purchase hotkey stickers for your computer.
These are button overlays that go right over your keyword keys. It retains the letter/symbol of the key but also indicates the Pro Tools symbol as well (for one-key hotkeys).
However, you decide to go about it, start using these hotkeys in your daily audio production. You’ll find you finish more in the same amount of time.