The Workspace Browser is a file browser with enhanced search capabilities. It offers in app asset management with extra features making it more useful to musicians. A tool which allows quick, meaningful searches of a sample library is of course essential in post production and the best of the third party alternatives are very capable. A well organised sample library represents a significant investment in terms of time so choosing which management tool to use is an important decision. If you haven’t checked out the Workspace Browser here are some things to be aware of:
Its An Exercise In Filing
If you are one of those rare people who actually enjoys filing then you’re going to love this. If you are like the rest of us then what you are doing is organising and managing files and while the tools we have to help us get more powerful all the time, there still isn’t any substitute for spending some time organising your files, the catalogs they belong to and the metadata they contain. You are unlikely to find your first experience of using the Workspace Browser much fun but you are investing time and effort now to save yourself time and effort later. Like so many things, you get out of it what you put into it and the best sample collection in the world is no use to you if you can’t find anything.
Catalogs And Presets
To get the most out of the Workspace Browser you should build calatogs of related samples. Catalogs are collections of files which belong together in some way (you choose how) and crucially, unlike sorting files into folders, in catalogs the files themselves don’t need to be moved. The advantage of using catalogs as opposed to traditional, folder-based file management is that a single copy of a file can be in more than one catalog but it can ever only be in one folder.
When I started using the Workspace Browser I quickly realised that I needed a way to quickly navigate to my samples folder (I don’t have a huge collection of samples and they all reside in a single folder). Navigating from the root of the drive every time is a waste of time and I had spotted the five preset buttons at the top left. Assuming that I could navigate to my samples folder and store the preset to be able to go straight there I thought the presets feature didn’t work for a long time until I realised that presets store the window layout, things like window size and which columns are visible but not the contents of the folders being viewed. For that you need a catalog.
Conform to Session Tempo
My favourite feature of the Workspace Browser for music production is the ability to preview loops at the session tempo. Rather than importing loops to audition them, if the conform to tempo button is enabled then a loop can be previewed with elastic audio timestretching it to the session tempo. The system is smart enough to begin playback on the downbeat and with Loop Preview or Auto Preview switched in it is possible to audition many loops in context very quickly. The big limitation of this feature is that while rhythmic content can be auditioned very effectively, the lack of any conform to pitch features makes the auditioning of pitched content in key with the session less viable. A pity as this would be a very powerful feature.
Separate Transport Controls
When auditioning loops in the Workspace Browser it makes sense to use the options available in the drop down menu in the browser. I would tend to leave loop preview and auto preview switched on. Loop preview is of course only relevant if you work mostly with loops. Auto preview starts playback automatically if a new sample is selected. This behaviour also happens when a new sample is selected when in loop preview even when auto preview isn’t selected. The default setting is for both of these to be off but spacebar toggles preview is on by default. Spacebar toggles preview is a very useful setting which allows the spacebar to control playback in the Workspace Browser but 0 on the numeric keypad stays available to control playback of the session itself when a browser window is active - really useful.
Since the new Workspace Browser there is no longer a Project Browser. The Project browser was a browser specifically for the current project. It always struck me as unnecessary. The only thing I ever used it for was relinking to offline media. Relinking is now done in the Workspace Browser too. To relink Offline media simply right-click on the offline file (italicised) and select relink offline, select the volumes and locations you wish to search, search by name, unique ID or both and relink to the correct candidate in the search results (although in my experience, if its offline it's because it isn’t there at all)!
The Workspace: Its a pain to set up and a few things make it a pain to use even after you have set it up but the fact remains its better than relying exclusively on Finder or Windows Explorer to manage your files. For music I think the lack of a conform to pitch function limits its usefulness. The post community are displeased at the changes which have been made to the search function as since a change to the algorithm it now returns too many results. This has been discussed on the DUC. Apparently the default search has been changed from an “and” to an “or”, widening the search results from any given terms. The Workspace Browser frustrates me as it could be so good but isn’t quite there yet. That being said, although third party alternatives exist, if you have Pro Tools you already have the Workspace Browser and if you haven’t put some time into trying it you really should as I meet so many Pro Tools users who do all of their asset management using Finder. Workspace isn’t perfect but its better than Spotlight and Finder.