Common Editing Commands

Common Commands

The common editing commands (cut, copy, paste, delete, undo and redo) are probably already familiar to you from Office or other applications. It may be surprising to you that these same functions are available in Audacity. The rest of this section is a brief description of how each function works in Audacity. Copy, paste, cut and delete are all described with pictures. If you want to see the effects of undo, then undo any cut, paste or delete. A redo can of course follow any undo.

To start with, let's introduce the location of each of the common editing commands. The image below has red text under each of the buttons associated with an editing command. All commands but edit have an associated button. They also all have menu items and keyboard commands. The common keyboard shortcuts are used- cut: Cmd-X, copy: Cmd-C, paste: Cmd-V, delete: Delete, undo: Cmd-Z and redo: Cmd-Shift-Z. On a PC, Cmd is the Control key and on a Mac, the Open Apple key.

Editing command buttons (Cut, Copy, Paste, Trim, Silence, Undo, and Redo) are located in the editing toolbar which sits inside the main audacity control panel.

You also have a selection and a insertion marker in Audacity just like you do in Office. The insertion marker is a thin vertical line which runs across your sound track. To change the cursor's position click on the track or on the two purple buttons which will take you to the beginning or end of the track. Selection can be done by dragging along a track. The selected portion of the sound track will appear highlighted and darkened.


We will start discussing the commands by looking at delete. The image below is a screenshot with a portion of the beginning selected. The darkened region at the end of the track (righthand side) is selected.

Illustration image

By pressing the delete key, the selected portion of the track is deleted. It can be retrieved by undoing using either the button, menu or keyboard shortcut Cmd-Z. If you are following along using Audacity, try deleting something and then undoing, so that you have confidence. Undo can remember a fair number of changes but is not unlimited. You cannot undo more than 5 or 6 commands. Of course if you have reached the end of the undo memory you can just reload the audio from file. If you are planning on reloading the file, don't save it.

Copy and Paste

Just like with word processing, neither copy nor paste will delete or remove any part of your audio track. Our screenshot below shows a region of the audio track selected for copying. By using the keyboard shortcut Cmd-C, the selected portion of the track is copied. The paste command inserts the copied sound at the insertion marker, which in the case of a selection is at the end of the track.

The copied portion of the track is been inserted into the track. Notice that the segment of sound which was selected at the beginning is now duplicated at the end. You can also view the effects of undo and redo by undoing and then redoing the paste operation.


Cutting is like doing a copy followed by a delete. The cut portion of the audio track is copied to the clipboard, which means that you can proceed to paste the cut audio somewhere else. The same segment which was copied before is now being cut from the track using the Cmd-X keyboard shortcut.

To demonstrate that the sound segment cut from the track is not completely gone, the cut segment was pasted back into the audio track at the end. The begining segment has been removed from the track and pasted onto the end of the track.

As shown, the basic editing commands are available to you in Audacity just like in Office. In particular, the undo and redo commands can help you if you make mistakes with editing commands or other more advanced features. Your familiarity with the basic editing commands in Office helps in becoming familiar with editing sound files in Audacity too.