chapter 9 Editing

In this chapter we’ll discuss edit modes and take a closer look at editing and trimming clips using keyboard shortcuts. We’ll examine the grid and nudge features and explain how to set and use them. We’ll cover the ways you can add fade-ins, fade-outs and crossfades. Finally, we’ll show how to undo multiple actions as well as restore your work from backups.

Selecting Playback Options

Before getting into editing, it might be helpful to quickly mention Loop Playback in case you’ll want to experiment with loops while learning about edit modes or nudging and trimming.

Loop Playback

When the Loop Playback feature is engaged, playback loops around from the end of the selected range back to the beginning seamlessly and continues the cycle until playback is stopped. This applies to either timeline or edit selections. Since the two are virtually always linked, the audible result is the same. While editing clips, however, changing the boundaries affects the length of the selection and, therefore, the playback range. This can be especially helpful when editing material like drum loops. To enter Loop Playback mode, choose OPTIONS > LOOP PLAYBACK or press Command+Shift+L.

for the following demonstration, use any session file or refer to the “Chemical Reaction stem edits.ptx” session. Note: Before opening the “Chemical Reaction stem edits.ptx” session file, make sure you decompress the “Audio” archive.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Toggle Loop Playback Mode: Command+Shift+L
  • Toggle Loop Playback Mode (with Flo Tools): Double-tap Command+Shift+L

Using the Edit Modes

As mentioned earlier, there are 4 edit modes in Pro Tools: Shuffle, Slip, Spot and Grid. Virtually all of the time, a blind user will use either Shuffle or Slip mode. That said, we’ll discuss each a little more in depth. Each mode is easy to understand visually because a lot of information is conveyed in the process of editing in each mode. We’ll cover the modes from the perspective of non-visual access.

Editing in Shuffle Mode

In Shuffle mode, Clips to the right of the insertion cursor get shuffled over when pasting a new clip. When deleting, all material located later in the timeline moves to the left, leaving no gap.

For the following demonstrations, refer to the “Using the Edit Modes.ptx” session.

Editing in Slip Mode

In Slip mode, clips are not constrained and can move freely across the timeline. When material is deleted, a gap remains where there was previously data.

Editing in Spot Mode

Spot Mode is used when dragging clips from the Clips List to the timeline or from within the timeline from one location to another. The Spot Dialog appears with a prompt for the exact location where the clip will be positioned. As clips within the timeline are currently not visible to VoiceOver and the process of dragging is not yet accessible, we won’t cover this editing mode.

Editing in Grid Mode

In grid Mode, clips that are dragged either to or from within the timeline are constrained to a grid to land either on or relative to bars, beats and ticks, depending upon the grid value. Grid Mode can be set to either Absolute or Relative. Much like the previous mode, Grid Mode is highly visual in nature and, since a screen reader user doesn’t use the mouse to drag and position clips, Grid Mode isn’t of much use. That said, Relative Grid Mode can sometimes be of use since it works both when dragging and when copying and pasting.

for the following demonstrations, use any session or refer to the “Chemical Reaction stem edits.ptx” session. Make sure the “Audio” archive has been decompressed before opening the session file.

Configuring the Grid

If you need to change the grid value, you can select a preset from the Grid Value pop-up button within the Grid/Nudge cluster in the Edit window toolbar. You can also use Shift+Hyphen/Equals on the qwerty keyboard or Control+Option+Hyphen/Plus on the numeric keypad to cycle through preset grid values or use the Flo Tools Command+F8 shortcut to hear the current value and Command+Option+F8 to choose a preset value.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Decrease/Increase Grid Value: Control+Option+Hyphen/Plus on the numeric keypad
  • Decrease/Increase Grid Value: Shift+Hyphen/Equals
  • Speak Grid Value (with flo Tools): Command+F8
  • Select Grid Value (with Flo Tools): Command+Option+F8

Shuffle Lock

Some workflows require that Shuffle mode be disabled to ensure that clips don’t inadvertently get moved around while editing. Pro Tools provides a “Shuffle lock” feature that suspends any editing behaviors seen in shuffle mode like clips moving over after edits or pastes. With the edit mode set to anything other than Shuffle, Command-clicking the Shuffle Mode button in the Edit window will engage Shuffle Lock mode. In this mode, the Shuffle button will appear to be selected in addition to one of the other edit mode buttons. To turn Shuffle Lock off, Command-click the Shuffle button again. It’s worth noting that an alternative means of engaging Shuffle Lock is by pressing Command+F1. If you’re using Flo Tools, this particular shortcut is used to speak the current value of the Start Counter. It also ends up being a popular shortcut when testing to see if Flo Tools is working. As a result, if the Keyboard Maestro Engine isn’t running for any reason, pressing Command+F1 might possibly engage shuffle Lock. Since there’s no feedback from Pro Tools itself, it would be easy to carry on without knowing that Shuffle Lock is engaged. If you find that you’re in such a situation, probably the quickest and easiest way of getting out of Shuffle Lock is to turn off VoiceOver with Command+F5, press Command+F1 then relaunch VoiceOver with Command+F5.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Toggle Shuffle Lock Mode: Command+F1

Editing Clips

Pro Tools offers basic editing commands such as cut, copy and paste as well as more specific commands like “Separate” and “Heal Separation.” These operations can apply to a single selected clip, a series of clips on a single track or across multiple tracks. Let’s take a look at some of these commands and functions.

Basic Editing Commands

The most basic edit functions of cut, copy, paste and Clear (or Delete) behave exactly as they do in any other DAW. Of course, as mentioned earlier, the results of such operations will vary depending upon which edit mode is active but the essential functions are exactly what one would expect from a workstation. There are two more functions we’ll cover here which also appear in other DAWs, perhaps by a different name.

The Duplicate Command

The Duplicate command places a copy of the selected material immediately following the selection. It’s faster than using standard navigation and pasting commands. To use the Duplicate command, make a selection and choose EDIT > DUPLICATE or press Command+D.

The Repeat Command

The Repeat command is similar to the Duplicate command but offers the option to specify the number of repeats of the selected material. To use the Repeat command, make a selection and choose EDIT > REPEAT or press Option+R then enter the desired number of repeats.

For the following demonstrations, refer to the “Chemical Reaction stem edits.ptx” session.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Duplicate selected Clip: Command+D
  • Repeat Selected Clip: Option +R

Special-Purpose Editing Commands

The Separate Command

The Separate command splits a clip at the insertion point or at either end of a selection, adding the newly created subclips to the Clips List. To separate a clip at the insertion cursor, press Command+E. To separate a selection into a new clip, use the same shortcut.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Separate clip at Edit Selection: Command+E

The Heal Separation Command

To heal a separation within a clip, Tab to the separation point and choose EDIT > HEAL SEPARATION or press Command+H. Providing the clips haven’t been moved relative to one another or otherwise edited, the separation will “heal” and the two adjacent clips will combine into a single clip.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Heal Separation: Command+H

Trimming and Moving Clips

Let’s take a look at two more methods for editing Clips: trimming and nudging.

Using the Trim Functions

The trim functions allow you to shorten or lengthen the heads or tails of a clip from the insertion cursor or to and from a selection.

Trimming from Start or End to Insertion or to Selection

To trim from the start of a clip to the insertion cursor, choose EDIT > TRIM CLIP > START TO INSERTION or press Shift+Option+7 on the numbers row. You can also use the Control+A shortcut for the same function. To trim from the end of a clip to the insertion cursor, choose EDIT > TRIM CLIP > END TO INSERTION or press Shift+Option+8 on the numbers row. You can also use the Control+S shortcut for the same function. To trim from both the start and end of a clip to a selection within the clip boundaries, choose EDIT > TRIM CLIP > TO SELECTION or press Command+T.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Trim Clip Start to Edit Insertion: Shift+Option+7 or Control+A
  • Trim Clip End to Edit Insertion: Shift+Option+8 or Control+S
  • Trim Clip to Edit Selection: Command+T

Trimming to File Start or End or to File Boundaries

The trim functions mentioned above serve to shorten clips. Let’s take a look at trim commands that lengthen (or extend) clips. These refer to “File Start,” “File End” or “File Boundaries” but apply to either parent clips or subclips, depending on which is selected and whether or not there are clips adjacent or close by.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Trim to File Start: Command+Control+R
  • Trim to file End: Command+Control+Y
  • Trim to File Boundaries: Command+Control+T

The Nudge Function

The nudge function of Pro Tools allows you to move the playback location, insertion cursor, a selection range or selected clips by values as little as a single sample to virtually any amount. Like the grid feature, the nudge feature has preset values but also offers a custom value option. With a clip selected, the nudge functions will always move the clip with no constraints no matter which edit mode is selected.

Setting the Nudge Value

The Nudge Value display can be found within the Grid/Nudge Cluster in the Edit window toolbar. Selecting a preset nudge value with a keyboard shortcut is faster than navigating to the Nudge Value pop-up button. Press Command+Option+Plus/Minus (Hyphen) on the numeric keypad to step through the preset nudge values. From the QWERTY keyboard on a laptop, press Option+Shift+Equals/Hyphen to access the same preset values. With Flo Tools, you can press Command+F7 to speak the current nudge value and double-tap the same shortcut to bring up the Nudge Value options menu.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Decrease/Increase Nudge Value: Command+Option+Hyphen/Plus on the numeric keypad
  • Decrease/Increase Nudge Value: Option+Shift+Hyphen/Equals on the qwerty keyboard
  • Speak Nudge Value (with flo Tools): Command+F7
  • Edit Nudge Value (with flo tools): Double-tap Command+F7

The Nudge Command

With no selection or insertion cursor in the timeline, pressing Plus or Minus on the numeric keypad will move the playback position later or earlier (respectively) in the timeline by the nudge value. If there’s an insertion cursor present, this same command will also move it later or earlier by the nudge value. When there’s a clip selected, using the same shortcuts will move the clip in the same manner as with the previous examples. If multiple clips within a track are fully contained within a selection range, they will all move together. Any clips selected across multiple tracks also move with the nudge commands. As an alternative to the numeric keypad shortcuts, you can use Control+Comma and Control+Period to nudge earlier and later respectively.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Move Left/Right by Nudge Value: Hyphen/Plus on the numeric kepad
  • Move Left/Right by Nudge Value: Control+Comma/Period
  • Move Left/Right by Next Greater Nudge value: Control+M/Forward Slash
  • Move Selection Left/Right by Nudge Value: Shift+Hyphen/Plus on the numeric keypad

Creating Fade Effects

Fade-ins, fade-outs and crossfades in Pro Tools are changes in volume that are applied and connected to clips. This differs from using automation to change a track’s volume level over time. Fades are most often used to smooth out edits, crossfade between clips and to fade in or out audio clips like final mixes or masters.

Applying Fade-Ins and Fade-Outs

Fades can be generated to the start or end of a clip from an insertion point or across any selection that touches or exceeds a clip boundary. To fade from the insertion to the start of a clip, choose EDIT > FADES > FADE TO START or press Control+D. To fade from insertion to end, choose EDIT > FADES > FADE TO END or press Control+G. With a selection that reaches one boundary of a clip, you can apply a fade to the selected area by choosing EDIT > FADES > cREATE… or by pressing Command+F to bring up the Fades dialog.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Fade to Start: Control+D
  • Fade to End: Control+G
  • Open Fade Window: Command+F when there’s an edit selection
  • Apply Default Fade Shape: Command+Control+F when there’s an edit selection

Fade Shapes

Pro Tools offers 7 preset fade curve shapes from which to choose. The curve shapes in fade-ins and fade-outs are the same shape while being mirror images of each other. The shapes, when they’re displayed, are easily understood by sighted users. In addition to being visual in nature, the shape choices in the pop-up menu are not labelled within the Fades dialog, making it more challenging for blind users. Fortunately, there are dedicated keyboard shortcuts to step through the shapes and there’s an audition feature which makes it easy to verify what the end result of the chosen fade shape will be. In the Fades dialog, use the left and right arrow keys along with the Command modifier to step through fade-out shapes and the Option modifier for fade-in shapes.

Despite currently having generic names, the available Fade-in and fade-out curves are listed below with some description of their qualities.

Fade-In Curve Shapes

  1. Fade In shape 1: Full Volume from Start
  2. Fade In Shape 2: Fastest Start with Slowest End
  3. Fade In shape 3: Faster Start with Slower End
  4. Fade In Shape 4: Linear Fade-In
  5. Fade In Shape 5: Slower Start with Faster End
  6. Fade In Shape 6: Slowest Start with Fastest End
  7. Fade In Shape 7: No Volume from Start

Fade-Out Curve shapes

  1. Fade Out Shape 1: No Volume from Start
  2. Fade Out Shape 2: Fastest Start with Slowest End
  3. Fade Out Shape 3: Faster Start with Slower End
  4. Fade Out Shape 4: Linear Fade-Out
  5. Fade Out Shape 5: Slower Start with Faster End
  6. Fade Out Shape 6: Slowest Start with Fastest End
  7. Fade Out Shape 7: Full Volume to End

For the following demonstrations, refer to the “Fades and Crossfades.ptx” session.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Move Through Preset Fade-In Shapes: Option+Left/Right Arrows
  • Move Through Preset Fade-Out Shapes: Command+Left/Right Arrows


When a selection includes a range between two adjacent clips with sufficient underlying audio, Pro Tools can create a crossfade that will fade out the end of the first clip while simultaneously fading in the second clip over the course of the selected range in the timeline.

Equal Power vs. Equal Gain Crossfades

The two most common types of crossfades are equal power and equal gain. As simple as these are, they’re often confused and, without a visual reference, it’s easy for a blind user to forget which is which.

An equal gain crossfade visually resembles the letter X. As the first clip is being faded out linearly, the second clip is being faded in linearly. At the mid point of the crossfade, each clip is at the halfway point of its gain. An equal power crossfade includes two convex curves (as discussed earlier in the demonstration of fade shapes). A fade-out shape with a slower curve is paired with a fade-in shape with a faster curve resulting in a mid point whose volume is higher than the mid point of an equal gain crossfade. Regarding which crossfade type to use in a given situation, the rule of thumb is to use equal gain crossfades when fading between two sounds coming from the same source and equal power crossfades when fading between different sound sources.

Applying Crossfades

To apply a crossfade across two adjacent clips, make a selection across the clips’ common boundary and choose EDIT > FADES > CREATE… or press Command+F to open the Crossfade dialog. The crossfade dialog displays a number of choices including presets, a preset librarian menu as well as options for fade shapes and linking options. You can audition the selected settings and either choose the OK button or press Return. If there is insufficient data to support a crossfade, Pro Tools prompts you to either cancel, skip the invalid fade or adjust the bounds if possible.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Select Link Out/In Type: Up/Down Arrows

Undoing Your Work

Pro Tools offers several ways of undoing or backing out of changes and even reverting to earlier versions of a session file.

Undo, Redo and the Undo History Window

The easiest way to undo an action is to press Command+z. The default setting is for a maximum of 64 levels of “undo.” Pressing Command+Shift+Z will redo the undone action. If you need to undo multiple actions, it might make sense to use the Undo History window.

For the following demonstrations, use any session file or refer to the “Chemical Reaction stem edits.ptx” session.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Undo: Command+Z
  • Redo: Command+Shift+Z

Using Restore Last Selection

Selections are not stored in the Undo queue. If you happen to lose a selection, Pro Tools has a dedicated command to reinstate the selection providing you haven’t made another selection or moved the insertion cursor. To restore a selection, choose EDIT > RESTORE LAST SELECTION or press Command+Option+Z.

Key Shortcuts:
  • Restore Last Selection: Command+Option+Z

Using Revert to Saved

If you’ve made more changes than the undo queue can hold and would like to revert to the previously saved state of the session, you can use the “Revert to Saved” feature. Choose FILE > REVERT TO SAVED… and, in the resulting dialog, press either the Revert button or Cancel. Using this feature is the equivalent of closing the session without saving and opening the original session file again.

Restoring from Session Backups

When trying to revert to an earlier version of a session, sometimes the best option is to use an auto-saved session backup file. Pro Tools will open a session with a “.recovered” appended to the name. To open a session backup file, choose FILE > OPEN SESSION… or press Command+O and navigate to the Session File Backups folder within your session’s main folder and select a session file based on its creation date.

Written on January 1, 2022