A Word about Windows

Monday, May 11, 2015 10:56

Logic Pro has so many features and functions, it can be overwhelming at times and it is almost impossible to know them all. Different users use different subsets of Logic. Some users live in the Score Editor, others might never have opened it. Some users love the Drummer and use it in every project, but others might think of it as a toy. However, regardless of their personal preferences, all Logic users rely on one aspect in Logic all the time – the various windows.

Opening, closing, selecting, clicking on them and interacting with them as the main interface – “the window into Logic”. Do you know three window-related Key Commands: ⌘ tab (command-tab), ⇧ tab (shift-tab), and ⌘ ` (command-tilde)? If you haven’t incorporated them in your Logic workflow yet, then read on to see why it might be a good idea to do so.

Windows Management

One important aspect that is often overlooked when using Logic is the “Art of Windows Management”. This is a crucial part of your workflow, meaning “how efficient are you using Logic”. The bigger the screens on your computer and the more monitors connected to your computer, the more Logic windows (and other application windows) might be open at any given time. But no matter if you use Logic on a laptop with a small screen or have a big setup with multiple computer displays, the first step in your workflow is the windows management. Before you can do anything in Logic, you have to find and open the right window.

In this article, I’m not talking about how to open the various windows. This is another aspect of your workflow, where you have to know the Key Commands or know the buttons to quickly open the windows you use the most. What I want to concentrate on is the management of already open windows.

More Window Management

Whenever you are working in a specific Logic window or move windows around, you have to be aware of what type of window that is. This is very critical, because those windows behave quite differently as we will see. Be aware of their special powers, but also their limitations.

Standard Windows

All the different windows that you can open in Logic can be grouped into two main types of windows, regular windows and floating windows. This is actually OSX-specific and applies to other apps too. I’m sure that I’m not telling anything new that a standard window will be covered if you open another window on top of it. That new window again will be covered by the next window you open, or when you select the previous window. This follows the basic concept of “layers”, and OSX uses different terms like “Main Window”, “Active Window” and “Inactive Window” to describe their behavior. I explain those important fundamentals and how they affect Logic in my book “Logic Pro X – How it Works”.

Floating Windows

Floating Windows, on the other hand, stay on top and will NOT be be covered by any standard windows. They need to stay visible for specific workflows. Here are a few examples:

  • Plugin Window ➊: Plugin Windows need to stay on top to quickly have access to their controls. However, it is a typical mistake to have too many Plugin Windows open that quickly clutter your screen. Activate the Link Button ➋ in the upper right corner of the Plugin Window. Now, selecting the next Plugin will use that window to open it. If you need a Plugin to be visible all the time, open it and disable its Link Button
  • Region Inspector Float ➌: The Region Inspector is part of the Main Inspector in Logic’s Main Window. If you are editing and need constant access/visibility of that window, then you don’t want it to be hidden by another window. You can use the Menu Command or Key Command to open the Region Inspector as a floating window (called “Region Inspector Float”). As a little trick, you can drag the Header of the Region Inspector away from the Main Inspector to “tear it off” as a separate “Region Inspector Float”
  • Transport Float ➍: The Control Bar with the transport controls and the Control Bar Display is also part of the Main Window which can be covered by other window. The Transport Float lets you open just the Control Bar as a separate Floating window. You can open multiple Transport Float and configure them yo display only the buttons and displays you need – always visible.
  • Environment Window ➎: Advanced users who are brave enough to hang out in the Environment Window might know the command that converts any Environment window into a Floating Window.
  • One potential problem is that if you have too many Floating Windows open, then they cover each other, defeating their intended purpose. So use them in moderation or place them well.

Window Panes

A Window Pane is basically a “window in a window”. That means, “opening” and “closing” such a window will “show” and “hide” it inside a standard window. This “Single Window” concept is used by Apple in many applications. It enables the user to stay mainly on one Window (maybe in Full Screen mode) and show specific Window Panes and their content only if needed. In addition, those Window Panes can display different content. For example, the Window Pane on the bottom of Logic’s Main Window can display various Editors, the Mixer, and the Smart Controls. This is a very efficient and ergonomic solution, not only on small computer screens.

If you are not a big fan of that “Single Window” concept, then Logic still lets you open the content of most of the Window Panes as standard windows that you can place and resize the way you want it.

Please Note: Logic’s Window Menu lists the commands that let you open Standard Windows and the View Menu lists mainly the commands to Show/Hide the various Window Panes in Logic’s Main Window.

Key Focus (Key Window)

Key Focus is one of the most important concepts when it comes to working and editing in a multi-window application like Logic. Usually, when you use the mouse, you make a change right there on an object on a specific window, so you know what the target is. However, if you use your keyboard to send a Key Command or type any text and enter number values, you have to make sure which window is the “target”, the recipient of those keys you are typing. The “target” window is the window that has “key focus”, also referred to as the “Key Window”. So before you hit any key on your computer keyboard, you need that “visual feedback” to recognize the current Key Window, and that can be very subtle.

  • A Standard Window with Key Focus has its Title Bar Buttons colored ➊ instead of grayed out ➋.
  • The Plugin Window has a white window frame ➌ instead of gray one ➍.
  • A Window Pane that has Key Focus has a blue frame ➎ around it.
  • Any Text entry field with Key Focus also has a blue frame ➏ around it.

Cycle Through Windows

The easiest step to speed up your workflow is using Key Commands whenever possible. It often takes too much time to “travel around” with the mouse to find and click the right menu item or object. The same is true for selecting windows to bring a specific window to the foreground and make it the Key Window. Sometimes, you cannot even click on a window to select it if it is hidden behind other windows.

Think of three levels that let you cycle through open windows, each with its own Key Command. If you practice a little, you can get really up to speed to access/select the right window without taking your hands from the keyboard.

Cycle through Apps

⌘ tab is an OSX Key Command. It cycles through the different apps that are currently open. A centered strip appears on top of everything displaying the icons of the available apps you can select. The visual strip with the app icons stays visible as long as you keep on holding the command key down. Every time you hit the tab key, you move the selection to the next icon to the right. Hitting the tilde key (above the tab key) will select the icon to the left. Once you release the command key, the currently selected app will be in the foreground and the visible strip disappears.

Cycle through Windows

Now once we have selected Logic, then the next level is to cycle through the open windows in Logic.

⌘ ` (the tilde key above the tab key) is the Key Command for that.

It lets you cycle through all the currently open windows in Logic, bringing them to the front with key focus (this also works for other apps). Please be aware that a window could be in the foreground but still not be visible if it is covered (sometimes fully covered) by a Floating Window. Some Logic windows are excluded from that cycle, for example, the Key Commands Window or the Musical Typing Window. All the currently open windows are also listed at the bottom of Logic’s Window Menu (with a dot), even if you have multiple Projects open. The active window (key focus) has a check mark.

Cycle through Window Panes

Here is a limitation with the “Cycle through Window” command. For example, if you have the Main Window ➊, a standalone Mixer Window ➋, and a Plugin Window ➌ open, then the previous command will cycle through the three windows. However, if you have three Window Panes visible in the Main Window (Tracks Window ➍, Library Window ➎, Editor Window ➏), then the “Cycle through Windows” command selects the Main Window with whatever Window Pane has Key Focus (indicated by the blue frame) and then goes to the next window.

In order to cycle through the different Window Panes inside the Main Window you need a different command: “Cycle through Window Panes” ⇧ tab (shift+tab).

More Window Management

Once you incorporate those Key Commands into your workflow, you will see a dramatic increase in speed when working in Logic because you don’t have to constantly “travel” with your mouse to a specific window to select it. This is especially important for some Key Commands that require a specific window to have key focus. To keep the window management manageable, close any window that you might not need for a while. Some use the esc key or the key command ⌘ W.

Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)

Please check out the other books in my best-selling “Graphically Enhanced Manuals” (GEM) series, 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,

Edgar Rothermich