Library: Controlled by a Tiny, Mysterious Triangle
Thursday, June 26, 2014 22:17
The Library Window got a big promotion in Logic Pro X. While in Logic Pro 9 it had to share its window with three other windows under the Media tab, now it moved to its own place, the prime location on the West side of the Main WIndow. It even got its own Library Button. However, with all that excitement, there is one important little thing that can be easily overlooked, a tiny mysterious triangle. You have to understand the purpose and functionality of this triangle in order to understand the Library itself. So let’s find out.
Library Window: The Mechanics
Before I explain that little triangle, I want to have a look at the Library Window itself.
First of all, the Library Window is not a static window, it is highly dynamic. To better understand the constant changing content that is displayed in that window, you have to be aware that the Library combines two functionalities. It is like a Browser window and an Inspector window at the same time.
What is a Browser?
- A browser window displays a specific content (the search result ➊) based on a specific search criteria (the search query ➋). Therefore, if the search criteria changes, the content changes accordingly. For example, the Loop Browser displays only the Apple Loops that match the search criteria that you entered.
What is an Inspector?
- An Inspector is a so-called auxiliary window. It displays its content (mostly parameter values) based on what object is selected in the main window. For example, the Main Inspector in Logic displays the parameters ➌ of the selected object in the Tracks Window (i.e. Track ➍, Region ➎, Event).
Library Window: The Content
Now the next question is, what type of content is displayed in the Library Window?
A web browser displays HTML pages and the Loop Browser in Logic Pro X displays Apple Loops, but what is the Library Window displaying? The answer is: “Settings Files”. That means two things:
- Files: What you see in the Library Window ➊ are the representation of actual files that exist on your hard drive ➋. The Library Window is just a browser, like a special Finder Window that displays those files.
- Settings: Unlike the Loop Browser that displays audio files that you can import to your Project, the files displayed in the Library Window are Settings Files. These files contain a set of parameters that can be loaded to configure a specific component, i.e. a Plugin or a Channel Strip. Please note that you can also use the Library to create new Settings Files and store them on your drive.
A “Patch”, a “Preset”, a “Setting”, or a “Program” are all terms that are used to describe a set of parameters. Different applications or hardware devices choose one or the other term and, in the case of Logic Pro X, it uses all of them. You, the user, have to know what their difference is to avoid any potential confusion.
Here are three types of Settings that are relevant in the Library Window. They form a special hierarchy.
- ➊ Plug-in Settings: This set contains all the parameter values for an individual Plugin. This can be an Instrument Plugin, an Audio FX Plugin, or a MIDI FX Plugin.
- ➋ Channel Strip Settings: This is the next higher level in the hierarchy. The set contains the parameters for all the Plugins used on a Channel Strip (which Plugins and their individual settings). Please note that Aux Sends, Volume, and Pan values are not saved with Channel Strip Settings.
- ➌ Patches: A Patch is a new setting introduced in Logic Pro X. It represents the top level of the hierarchy. This set can contain the configuration of a single Channel Strip Setting plus all the Channel Strips that are part of its “signal flow”. That means, all the Aux Channels that the Channel Strip is routing its signal to, via its Aux Sends. Of course, all the Plugins of those Aux Channel Strips are also included. This is a very powerful Settings File that lets you create, save, and later load very complex setups and configurations.
The Friendly Librarian
Now, with this basic understanding of the Library Window, let’s finally unravel the mystery of that little blue triangle. First of all, it has no specific name (that I could find in the official documentation). I named it “Display Indicator” in my manual and you will see in a minute why.
To explain the functionality of the triangle, let me introduce the following analogy: A Book Library in your city or school vs. the Library Window in Logic Pro X.
- In a Book Library, there are different types of books like Fiction, Children, Science, etc. In the Logic Pro X Library, there are different types of Settings Files like Patches, Channel Strip Settings, Plugin Settings.
- In a Book Library, the different book genres are organized in separate aisles and rows. In the Logic Pro X Library, the different Settings Files are organized on different pages and categories (displayed in a column view).
- When you go to a Book Library to find a specific book, you can go to the librarian at the front desk to point you to the right aisle that contains the books you are looking for. In the Logic Pro X Library you will use the blue triangle as a your “friendly librarian” to find the Settings you are looking for.
Where is the Blue Display Indicator?
The blue triangle, the Display Indicator ➊, is visible on the Inspector Channel Strip ➋ of the Main Inspector ➌ right on the Divider Line of the Library Window ➍. That perfectly makes sense from an interface point of view. The Library Window points at a specific component on the Channel Strip (a button/slot) to indicate what is displayed in the Library Window (hence my term “Display Indicator”). Hiding the Library Window will also hide the blue Display Indicator. It is only visible when the Library Window and the Main Inspector both are visible in Logic Pro X’s Main Window.
How to Position the Blue Display Indicator
Let’s look at the following four types of buttons/slots on the Channel Strip. You click to the left of any of those buttons to move the Display Indicator there. By positioning the Display Indicator next to a specific button, you tell the Library what to display, and the Library Window will show only those settings that are relevant. It is like asking the friendly librarian that you are looking for science-fiction books and she/he sends you to that specific aisle.
Here is what will be displayed depending on where you position the Display Indicator:
- ➊ Settings Button: The Library Window displays all Patches and Channel Strip Settings for the currently selected Channel Strip. Please note that different Channel Strip Types (Audio, Instrument, Aux, etc.) have their individual Patches and Channel Strips, and therefore, show different content in the Library Window.
- ➋ MIDI FX Plugin Slot: The Library Window displays all the available Plugin Settings for the currently selected MIDI FX Plugin in that slot.
- ➌ Instrument Plugin Button: The Library Window displays all the available Plugin Settings for the currently selected Instrument Plugin in that slot. Please note that, when an EXS 24 Instrument is selected, the Library will display the EXS24 Instrument files (.exs) and not the EXS24 Plugin Settings!
- ➍ Audio FX Plugin Button: The Library Window displays all the available Plugin Settings for the currently selected Audio FX Plugin in that slot. This is the same content that is displayed in the Plugin Settings Menu of the Plugin Window.
Here are a few things to be aware of:
- The Display Indicator will jump back to the Settings Button position on top when selecting a different Track in the Tracks Window.
- When the Library Window is visible but not the Main Inspector (and therefore, there is no visible Display Indicator), then the Library Window displays the content of the Settings Button (Patches and Channel Strip Settings).
- Because, when selecting the Settings Button, the Library Window displays Patches and Channel Strip Settings, make sure that you know which item is which.
- The Library Window will highlight the Setting that was loaded into a a specific slot. However, there is no indication if you have changed the parameters in the Plugin since then.
- The Library Window is always “hot”. Clicking on an item in the window will immediately load that setting and potentially overwrite the existing setting on the Channel Strip.
- A Search Field in the Library Window lets you restrict the displayed items to those that match the search term.
- Some Channel Strip Types don’t display the blue Display Indicator (i.e. the External MIDI Channel Strip), but they still display items in the Library Window. These can be objects like MIDI Devices or Rewire Channels.
This was just a glimpse into the highly dynamic Library Window and its blue Display Indicator that determines what is displayed in the window.
I go into much more detail in my book “Logic Pro X – How it Works” to show you the Finder locations of the various Settings files and their file extension, how to manage the Settings Files, compare the content of the Library Window to the Plug-In Settings Menu, and the unconventional implementation of the EXS24 Instrument Settings. Needless to say, the Library Window, although looking easy on the outside, goes very deep, and you have to dive into it to explore its features and functionalities. But once you understand it, it becomes extremely powerful.
Here are three screenshots from my book that show the content of the Library Window compared to other other popup menus of related components.
Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)
Please check out the other books in my best-selling series “Graphically Enhanced Manuals” (GEM) , available as PDF files, interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple’s iBooks Store, or as printed books on Amazon.
Thanks for your time and interest,