One Window

Today’s announcement from Musikmesse about PreSonus’ DAW Studio One brings to light some design elements that can officially be called a trend.

When Apple released GarageBand in 2004, they started off a trend in DAW design: the one window interface, which eventually was integrated into the ‘big boy’ app Logic.  Prior to this idea, most DAW’s followed the example of Pro Tools and the like by breaking the mixer view, arrangement view, and other views into separate windows.

Let’s look at a few examples.  Logic is obviously hacked to look the way it does now.  Take the mixer for example: it barely fits half of it on screen, even when viewing on a 20″ (or larger) monitor.  This used to be its own window, but has now been made into a quasi-sliding panel as part of the main window.

The editor is another example of a tacked together window in Logic.  Compare how Logic’s window works to GarageBand.  It’s as if GB was designed to make visual sense (especially to a beginner) but Logic was designed to display as much on screen at a time, all the time as it possibly could.  Ableton Live is another good example of a DAW that was designed from the ground up as a one-window environment.

Although I initially panned the concept of Studio One as being another DAW in a sea of confusion, it looks like it might bring some subtle, but useful improvements to the table.

First off, from the little I can see on the PreSonus website about the main window, it looks like the mixer fits.  It seems instead of a too-tall scrolling pane, the channel strips appear to fold out to reveal more settings/inserts.  This is a nice innovation.  Logic’s attached bus panels don’t count – this type of non-scrolling mixer should be the standard.

Another design concept PreSonus brings to the DAW table is simplicity.  Not in the main interface, but in the plugin design.  Most plugins either look one of two ways: it either is a very dry, boring UI box with sliders, or it tries to mimic the look of a physical device.  Let’s compare a couple compressors: Logic 2, Waves SSL.   Now look at the Studio One equivalent: Not so bad! It’s got a certain friendliness to it that I like, not unlike the new guitar effects panel in GarageBand 09.

Also, bonus points to PreSonus for putting a screenshot of EVERY PLUGIN included on their website.  This type of transparency would help sell a lot more DAWs from any company, especially if they’re as well-designed as these.

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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