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Joe Dun

Make Cakewalk easy

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The entire premise for the Cakewalk name, was that the program should be easy to use.  I started another thread, that is asking for recommendations, for a Bandlab or 3rd party program to do fairly simple MIDI edits. 

 

My suggestion is to make Cakewalk a truly easy to use program.  This requires both simplifying the program, and making sure you have an accurate, and complete, user manual.   Perhaps release a different version that omits a lot of the features, or have a "simple"mode that is on by default, and has an easy to find toggle. 

The Simplify window may have options to turn on/off certain features. For example, I suspect a lot of users may not actually use separate MIDI sound modules or external synths.  So, turning off all the features related to external sound modules and synths, should be an option in the "simplify" window. With those options removed, you can perhaps have the program set to work without the user knowing things like that they must add one of those mysterious, ever multiplying, TTS tracks in order to hear the music, or export an audio file.

-Joe

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Doing the basics on Cakewalk is easy. There is just a slight learning curve.  Arming a track and pressing record is very easy. Creating new tracks is very easy.

Making things easier and dumbing down software is something that is infuriating to power users. 

If people want very very basic there are options, like Audacity. 

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"Making things easier and dumbing down software is something that is infuriating to power users. "

But, the whole idea of the word "cakewalk" is from the phrase, "Easy as a cakewalk".  This is a game at a home-town fair, that purely a game of chance, and winning the cake, requires no skill.  It would be great if there were an easier on-ramp to get into MIDI work.

I purchased Cakewalk perhaps 15 or so years ago, and every few years I would have a project I would like to use it for, and start with the tutorials, but eventually would hit some sort of hurdle that blocked my efforts, and after many hours of effort would give up.  I think the user manual was part of the problem at the time.

Sometimes a  task that is easy for one novice doesn't work well for another, just because they may start with varying assumptions.  One happens to guess the right direction to go, and the other tries something else that doesn't.

-Joe

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13 hours ago, Francois van der Merwe said:

Doing the basics on Cakewalk is easy. There is just a slight learning curve.  Arming a track and pressing record is very easy. Creating new tracks is very easy.

Making things easier and dumbing down software is something that is infuriating to power users. 

If people want very very basic there are options, like Audacity. 

Making software intuitive doesn't mean you're dumbing it down.

And making something easy to use doesn't mean you're stripping functionality out of it.

You guys need to stop coupling things that don't have anything to do with each other for the sake of being contrarian.

Audacity is an audio editor comparable to Adobe Audition.  It is not a DAW designed for music production, so you're comparing software from different categories, aimed at different user markets.  This makes no sense  There are F/OSS packages for that compete with CbB (Ardour, LMMS, etc.).  Audacity isn't one of them.

I think this Review gives a pretty good rundown on many of the issues:  https://www.admiralbumblebee.com/music/2018/12/22/Cakewalk-Part-1-Almost-Everything.html

Edited by Some Guy
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I do think that software like Cakewalk does need to be simplified for the beginner.  There are just too many ways for things to not work.   If you limit the choice of synth sound to one software synth, with the General Midi sounds, and will work with MIDI files that you download, you have eliminated a lot of extra stuff that can cause problems if they are set correctly.  

The Lens feature is one thing that was suggested. But, what is needed t is more than just hiding some of the features. Since some of those settings can create problems.  Rather, the software needs to start with a lot of the settings already pre-set to make it work.  No more trying to play a MIDI file, and then have to somehow discover that a TTS track is needed, what it is, and how to create it.

-Joe

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25 minutes ago, Joe Dun said:

If you limit the choice of synth sound to one software synth, with the General Midi sounds, and will work with MIDI files that you download, you have eliminated a lot of extra stuff that can cause problems if they are set correctly.

With no MIDI output device selected in preferences, this is how CbB works. Open a midi file and CbB automatically adds TTS-1 and sets up the MIDI file to play through TTS-1.

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There is also pretty thorough documentation, and tutorials, and lots and lots of YouTube videos that cover just about everything from basics to advanced explanations of doing things.

I am not trying to be a wise guy with the above - I am just saying there are accessible ways of learning how to accomplish things, like working with midi, and performing audio exports - most of the dialog box windows that open up for functionality like the export audio options, have context-sensitive help available, just by hitting F1 once the dialog box opens, and there often additional links presented in the help info to take you to additional explanations of things that are related.

There are also lots of folks in the forums, that will try to help answer questions about things folks may be struggling with, so if you have specific questions, folks are generally quite good about trying to help explain things to those that are struggling with particular functions.

Bob Bone

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2 hours ago, Robert Bone said:

There is also pretty thorough documentation, and tutorials, and lots and lots of YouTube videos that cover just about everything from basics to advanced explanations of doing things.

I am not trying to be a wise guy with the above - I am just saying there are accessible ways of learning how to accomplish things, like working with midi, and performing audio exports - most of the dialog box windows that open up for functionality like the export audio options, have context-sensitive help available, just by hitting F1 once the dialog box opens, and there often additional links presented in the help info to take you to additional explanations of things that are related.

There are also lots of folks in the forums, that will try to help answer questions about things folks may be struggling with, so if you have specific questions, folks are generally quite good about trying to help explain things to those that are struggling with particular functions.

Bob Bone

An existence of documentation and tutorials does not excuse a lack of intuitiveness or ease-of-use.

That's a completely separate facet.

Bless the forum users, but the whole point of good UI/UX design is to require users to ask less questions, because the software is made more accessible and more intuitive.  Most people only post on forums when they have a problem.  It seems like those who like to hang out on them would rather keep the software more opaque to channel more users here (so they can feel the "community" is growing and active) than give people less reason to need to do so.

This isn't about adding or removing features.  It's about better organizing the functionality that already exists for better usability and a faster workflow.

Intuitive:  The marker module has a button to add markers, and a button to delete markers.

Not Intuitive:  The button to delete a marker is non-existent in the marker module.

Intuitive:  Click on any empty space in a track header to select the track, and then Shift Click across tracks to select multiple tracks.

Not Intuitive:  You can only select tracks by clicking and dragging across the Track Numbers.

Yes, you can read the manual and ask questions, but that doesn't change the fact that the UI/UX is set up in a way that jebaits users - in countless areas.

For a "power user," using the DAW becomes more and more recalling a stack of exceptions, instead of doing the obvious thing and having it work as expected (as in... intuitive).  Long Time users underestimate just how bad this feels to users who are less versed with the software, because they have simply become accustomed to it. 

Edited by Some Guy
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4 hours ago, scook said:

With no MIDI output device selected in preferences, this is how CbB works. Open a midi file and CbB automatically adds TTS-1 and sets up the MIDI file to play through TTS-1.

If you have any Insturments in the Rack, then CbB will automatically select that Synth when  you import MIDI or Drag and Drop it into a new Arranger Track.

This only works with bare projects.  Like a new Blank Project without any Instruments already loaded up.

Generally I audition play MIDI files in WMP if that's all I want to do.  No need to use a full DAW for that.  Windows has a GM player built in, with a full set of GM Sounds.  GM is nice to audition MIDI files, but almost no one renders anything from that... Just don't associate MIDI with Cakewalk, and double click it to play it in WMP 🙂

If I were going to use this MIDI in a project, then I probably already have my Instruments\Synths loaded in the Synth Rack, anyways.

 

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10 hours ago, Some Guy said:

Bless the forum users, but the whole point of good UI/UX design is to require users to ask less questions, because the software is made more accessible and more intuitive

Even when you use Microsoft Word, you need to have a basic understanding of basic controls, features and direction. It requires some learning.

I personally feel like adding an "Easy Button" to cakewalk might help bring in new users and help with users becoming newly acquainted with DAW software but you cant expect to open a software and immediately become familiar.  

I might even argue that if the developers can take the time to do this, wouldn't it be better spent on fixing bugs or adding in more in-depth features ? Especially when one can study up on Lenses and learn to create a partial "easy mode" environment.

I cant argue with the OP's request, nor disrespect it (or dis respect your ideas) because who am I to say my ideas are better or should be put first.

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Not sure what is on the development drawing board - if you were not using Sonar (Cakewalk by Bandlab's predecessor), version 8.5.3 was chocked full of all kinds of keyboard shortcuts that required a great deal of remembering and learning - folks that were experienced with it could fly through things, but it made it VERY difficult to get up to speed.

SO, way back when, the Sonar developers invested a great deal of time and effort, completely redesigning the user interface of Sonar, beginning with Sonar X1, then more was done for Sonar X2, then Sonar X3, and its culmination at Sonar Platinum.  Each of those versions built on the user interface design, hoping to improve work flow for existing users, while also attracting new users, who could be productive without having to learn the dark arts of the older ways of doing things - from Sonar 8.5.3

The point of the above, is to indicate that the developers take GREAT interest in continuing to improve usability, as well as balancing that with two other factors - those being added functionality/features, and cleaning up bugs.

Those balanced factors ARE how they have approached it all, going back to that massive internal change to redesign the UI starting with Sonar X1, and that balancing act is continuing today, and for the foreseeable future.

Things that folks would like to see - listed in the Feedback forum, DO get looked at, and if enough interest is shown, and I am sure additional factors considered, some of those ideas DO end up incorporated into the product.

So - even if things take a while, it is helpful to post the ideas for new or improved functionality in the Feedback forum.  :)

Bob Bone

 

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16 hours ago, Some Guy said:

There are F/OSS packages for that compete with CbB (Ardour, LMMS, etc.).

@Some Guy Please describe what "F/OSS package" means.  I am not familiar with the abbreviation and am unable to figure out the meaning in context.  I really don't know.  Thank you in advance.

@Joe Dun, I agree with your thought in principle.  However some issues are:  how to simplify and the definition of simple is different for each potential user.

There are solutions to how to simplify and, as suggested earlier, lenses is one tool available.  Another idea is to expand Preferences to enable or disable features but each opens another rabbit hole.  Lens are not intuitive but are a feature to new users must recognize to use.  Expanding Preferences means  someone must decide the defaults.  Other tools that can be used to simplify each have their own obstacles.

The second issue is more problematic though.  What is simple?  It greatly depends on the intent, knowledge, skill and experience of the user.  Here are some examples:  A person familiar with live sound likely would have a high comfort level using the console view and possibly using some effects but may not have a clue about what the matrix view or how to use the piano roll view.  On the other hand for three middle school students that want to record some tracks to place on YouTube everything is new.

Another thought.  What kind of knowledge and how much knowledge is needed to create simple lenses?  While the steps to perform the task is pretty straight forward how does anyone decide what to leave out and what to leave in?  I don't know enough about Cakewalk by BandLab features  to know what is simple, what is intermediate and what is advanced.

I think the video tutorials show us a good path to follow.  First come up with multiple intents, starting points,  or objectives like: what's needed to record and playback audio, what's needed to record and playback midi, what's needed to create and playback beats, what's needed to add features back into Cakewalk by BandLab.  Strip down the GUI to whatever it takes to answer each question.  Create videos and sample content new users can use to learn how to use the software. 

Simple is difficult to define and will prove hard to achieve.  What I'd like to see is a group discussion that will agree on a limited number of how-to-use the software objectives.  I think everyone will be surprised at how spirited the discussion will be.

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3 hours ago, scook said:

This is the idea behind Lenses. There are several included with CbB.

I agree!!  Perhaps like Themes, users could make Lenses/Workspaces (from basic to complex), with sample screenshots and descriptions so other users can just drop the *.lns file (or whatever the extension will be for Workspaces) into the user Lens/Workspace folder.

However, mastering lenses/workspaces is not a simple task and I believe it is asking too much to expect new users to learn how to create customized/simple UIs when trying to wrap their heads around Cakewalk basics. The basic lens/workspace is one option; I am suggesting that perhaps other users (more experienced with lens/workspace design) can offer a wider range of basic and advanced options with a screenshot so users can see what they look like before trying them.

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Jim Fogle said:

@Joe Dun, I agree with your thought in principle.  However some issues are:  how to simplify and the definition of simple is different for each potential user.

There are solutions to how to simplify and, as suggested earlier, lenses is one tool available. ..

The second issue is more problematic though.  What is simple?  It greatly depends on the intent, knowledge, skill and experience of the user.  Here are some examples: 

Agreed.  Perhaps to make this idea viable, a theoretical new user must be chosen, and make the program a "cakewalk" to use for at least those users.  Perhaps it would be possible to create a few different starting points.  Or even a "Newbe Options" window, that perhaps had a few check marks, to allow the person to get the program set up to work for them, with a lot of the program options hidden.  Below is a possible set of options. (The capital "O" indicates a radio button).  I emphasize that these settings would do more than hide some settings, it would pre-set a lot of those hidden settings to make the program work for the targeted user.

Common to all users. Open and edit downloaded MIDI files. Export Audio. Record and playback Audio tracks using Windows audio interface.

O-Basic MIDI user-.
         O- Level 1 -  Only internal software General MIDI synth.
         O- Level 2 - Add External MIDI keyboard.

O-Basic Audio User
         O-Level 1 - ?
         O-Level 2- ?

0-Advanced User.

In regards to my prior comment that was critical about the user manual.  This was actually many years ago that I came to that conclusion.  In fact, I eventually stopped bothering to even check the help file when I ran into an issue. In general, the quality of  user manuals for software is not what it was in the late 80's early 90's. But, perhaps Cakewalks' manual has improved.

And while the number of tutorials and videos has exploded , that is also a bit of a problem.  A lot seem to be about a program called Sonar, and some of those help, but others don't.  And with a program that has decades of history, the various versions start to be a problem.  The tutorial may or may not apply to the current versions.  Is there a particular series of tutorials you all would recommend?  Is there an official one that is considered to be of good quality?

-Joe

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13 hours ago, Some Guy said:

An existence of documentation and tutorials does not excuse a lack of intuitiveness or ease-of-use.

@Some Guy, right on!

 

13 hours ago, Some Guy said:

the whole point of good UI/UX design is to require users to ask less questions, because the software is made more accessible and more intuitive.

Agree again!  Spot on.

 

13 hours ago, Some Guy said:

This isn't about adding or removing features.  It's about better organizing the functionality that already exists for better usability and a faster workflow.

Disagree a little.  With the Start Window enabled, the first step is to load, or not load a project template.  The default template selections are  "Empty Project", "4-Track", "Basic", "16 Track", "Guitar Amps" and "Vocals".  No project templates for midi, loops, mixing, introduction or tutorials.  What's a beginner to choose?  When you do not load a template the next step is a blank page, menu bar and control bar.  For a new user or a beginner what's next?  If you load any template how does a newbie know where to start?

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14 hours ago, Some Guy said:

This isn't about adding or removing features.

I disagree.  If someone never uses an external MIDI keyboard or synth, and those settings can mess-up using the internal, General MIDI software synth, then yes, it is best to remove the option to change the output to go to the nonexistent external synth.  Perhaps ghosting those options, and if they click on it, another window pops up saying "this feature was disabled because you chose a beginner's mode that does not permit it.  Click "change level" to switch to another level to permit you to change these things".

I just thought of what might happen if someone tries the Advanced User mode, but later regrets it. If they change back to a simpler mode, then what happens to the settings they tweaked under the Advanced mode.  Rather than just reset all of them, I would prefer that you inform the users what is going to be reset to the default settings for the basic user mode they choose.

-Joe

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What about this idea, modify the program so the Start window can present a selection of lens in addition to a selection of project templates?  As I understand it, lens display or hide global features like control bar modules.  How about an "Explore Audio" lens, "Explore MIDI" lens, "Explore Loops" lens, "Explore More Features" lens.

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18 hours ago, scook said:

With no MIDI output device selected in preferences, this is how CbB works.

What is CbD?  Looking up 3 letter abbreviations on the internet is a useless task.

-joe

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