In this tutorial, aimed at both Pro Tools and Pro Tools First users, we are going to look at a special kind of Pro Tools window, the "Target Window". What is it - how does it works - how it is different from other windows and especially: How does it help me to speed up my Pro Tools workflow?
We cannot talk about the Target Window without the understanding of the so-called "Inspector". A quick check at Wikipedia tells us the following: "The graphical control element inspector window is a type of dialog window that shows a list of the current attributes of a selected object and allows these parameters to be changed on the fly" ... Let me elaborate on that one.
Here is the problem:
- Main Window ➊: A Main Window is typically the one that you are working in. For example, your Edit Window or Mix Window in Pro Tools. That window contains the various objects that you edit.
- Objects ➋: In a word processor, these objects can be the individual words that you format (bold, italic, size, etc.). In a graphics application, the objects can be the various images, and in a DAW like Pro Tools, the objects are the individual clips, tracks, or elements on a channel strip.
- Attributes (Main Window): Each of those objects has co-called attributes (aka properties or parameters). For example, you can change the parameters of a clip by trimming its length and, therefore, changing those parameters directly in that Main Window. Or by moving the volume fader up, you change that parameter right in the Main Window.
- Attributes (Inceptor Window): An object can often have so many parameters that it is not practical to place all the controls that edit those parameters ➌ (sliders, checkboxes, radio buttons, menus, etc.) on each object. Instead, the trick is to "outsource"them.
Here is the solution:
- Inspector Window ➍: Most content-creation applications use the concept of the Inspector Window. It is usually a floating window that stays on top of any other window so you always have access to it (see it, edit it).
- View Content ➎: Whenever you select an object in the Main Window, the Inspector Window displays all the properties for that specific (currently selected) object. Selecting a different object in the Main Window and the Inspector now shows the parameters of that object.
- Edit Content ➏: The Inspector Window is always linked to a specific object (the last selected object in the Main Window). That means, when you adjust the parameters ➌ in the Inspector Window, you adjust the parameters of the currently selected object ➋. This requires special attention when making changes in an Inspector Window. You have to make sure what object it displays, so you know which object you are editing.
- Contextual Content: Inspector Windows are often context-sensitive. That means, their appearance, the amount and type of available controls, depends on what object is currently selected.
Inspector Window in Pro Tools
Most applications that use the concept of the Inspector Window, also use that term "Inspector". You will find a command that says "Open Inspector" or "New Inspector" to do exactly that.
In Pro Tool, there is no such thing as an Inspector, instead, there is a functionality called "Target Window", which is basically the same. It wouldn't be the first time that manufacturers trying to re-invent the wheel by using their own terminology despite the existence of well established terminology that users are already familiar with. But to be fair, the concept of a "Target Window" in Pro Tools has a few functionalities that go beyond a typical Inspector Window.
Here are three of those Inspector Windows, I mean "Target Windows" in Pro Tools, each one with its own specialty:
- AudioSuite Window
- Plugin Window
- Output Window
- The AudioSuite Window ➊ opens by selecting an AudioSuite Plugin from the AudioSuite Main Menu. Selecting a different AudioSuite Plugin will not open another window, it will use that same window and just changes its interface to show that specific Plugin in that same window.
- The linked object here, the target, is an Audio Clip ➋ in the Edit Window. Any effect setup in that AudioSuite Window will be applied to the currently selected Clip(s) in the Edit Window.
- The specialty with this window is that it is a "one-way street". The AudioSuite Window only sends commands to the selected Clip(s), but doesn't receive anything from the selected Clip. It doesn't display any parameters of the selected object, the Clip as an Inspector Window would do.
- The objects in this case are the various Plugin Slots on the Insert View of a Track. When you load a Plugin, the Plugin Window ➌ will automatically open, showing the interface, the controls for that Plugin.
- Clicking on any Plugin Button ➍ (a loaded Plugin Slot) will open the Plugin Window and if the Plugin Window is already open, then it will switch to show the interface of that Plugin.
- This is a perfect example of an Inspector functionality. You don't need to display all the Plugin controls on the Track, just a button to choose which Plugin to display in that single window.
- The Plugin Window works in both direction like a real Inspector. When you select a Plugin Button, it displays the values for that Plugin loaded on that Track (view) and adjusting the controls will change those parameter (edit).
- The Plugin Button turns white to indicate that this is the one the Plugin Window is currently "representing". Clicking on a white button closes the Plugin Window.
- There are two types of objects with the Output Window. You can either select any of the Sends Path Buttons ➎ or any of the Output Path Buttons ➏ of a Track. Either one will open the Output Window ➐.
- The controls on the Output Window are slightly different when displaying the Sends Path or the Output Path.
- The Output Window also works in both directions. Selecting a Send or an Output will show its controls (view) and you can also adjust them (edit).
- The Send Button or the Output Button turns white to indicate that this is the one the Output Window is currently "representing". Clicking on a white button closes the Plugin Window.
- There is a little inconsistency with the Output Path Button. To select the Plugin Window or the Output Window you click directly on the Plugin Button or Send Button. On the Output Button, on the other hand, you have to click on that tiny fader icon ➑ on the right edge of the button.
A Target Window can easily be identified by its red Target Button ➊ in the upper-right corner of the window. This is an active button that can be toggled between red (targeted window) and gray (un-targeted window).
Here is how that works:
- A Target Window automatically opens with the Target Button enabled (red) to indicate that this is a Target Window with the functionality we just discussed.
- You can click on the red button to make that window an un-targeted window (gray button) ➋. That means, that window now remains "linked" to its current object until you click the Target Button again or close the window.
- If you have, for example, only an untargeted Plugin Window open, then clicking on the Plugin Button of a Track will open a new Plugin Window as a Target Window. Making that also an untargeted window, will open yet another Target Window when you click on another button, and so on.
- With multiple Plugin Windows open, only one can be the Target Window. Enabling the Target Button on one window will disable the Target Button on another window that had it enabled.
Target Window vs. Untargeted Window
To make a window an untargeted window is useful when you have the Plugin Window for a few Plugins open all the time (until you close them), for example to keep an eye on the Limiter or Compressor of a Track. Now you can use a targeted Plugin Window as the "Inspector" window that shows whatever Plugin Button you currently click on. However, there are few things to consider to avoid any confusion:
- Here is an example with three Plugin Windows open. One is a Target Window (with the red button ➊) and the other two are untargeted windows (gray buttons ➋).
- The problem is that every Plugin Button on a Track that has an open Plugin Window, displays its button in white ➌, so you don't know which open Plugin Window "belongs" to which Plugin Button.
- To identify the corresponding Plugin Window, click-hold a Plugin Button and its corresponding Plugin Window will display the Target Button in blue ➍.
- You can directly open a Target Window as an untargeted window by holding down the shift key when clicking on a button.
Here are the two types of Target Windows, the Plugin Window ➊ and the Output Window ➋.
- The Output Window can have two appearances, showing either the "Main Output" ➌ or a "Send Output" ➍.
- A Target Window can be opened as a "targeted" window by clicking on the corresponding button ➎ or it can be opened as an "untargeted" window by shift+clicking on that button ➏.
- You can open as many untargeted windows as you want ➐, but there can only be one targeted Plugin Window ➊ and one targeted Output Window ➋ open.
- The targeted Plugin Window and targeted Output Window function as two independent Inspector windows ➑. That means, those open windows display the controls of the currently selected button on the Track (representing a Plugin, a Send, or an Output). In other words, those windows are linked ➒, they are the "target", showing the controls of the currently selected item on a Track.
- You can toggle the mode of any open Target Window between targeted and untargeted mode ➓ by clicking on its Target Button in the upper-right corner.
More Target Windows?
Here are three more Target Windows in Pro Tools that function a little bit different.
- The MIDI Editor ➊, the MIDI Event List ➋, and the Score Editor ➌ are also Target Windows indicated by their red Target Button.
- The linked objects that they display are the selected MIDI Tracks (or Instrument Tracks) ➍ in the Edit Window.
- You open those Target Windows from the Main Menu "Window" ➎ where it also lists their Key Commands.
- You can click the Target Button to toggle the window mode between targeted and untargeted. In untargeted mode, you can "remain" on that Track without being controlled by what is selected in the Edit Window.
- Even in untargeted mode, each of the three editor windows can have only a single window open.
- BTW, those three Target Window are not floating windows, they can be covered by other windows.
That is it for the quick tour about the Target Windows in Pro Tools. If you haven't done so, play around with them a little to get used to the interface and the various commands and then decide if you want to incorporate them into your workflow.
Wait ... after you wrapped your head around the Target Windows, those "pseudo" Inspector Windows, I will tell you that Pro Tools also has "real" Inspector Windows, like the "Real-Time Properties" window or the "Elastic Properties" window. A different topic for a different tutorial.
What Is This Series About?
In this series of tutorials, I will pick individual topics to demonstrate basic concepts, functionalities, and workflows in Pro Tools. It is not a step-by step-instruction to learn Pro Tools, instead, by focusing on important aspects, I hope to provide a better understanding of how to use Pro Tools. The discussion and the screenshots are based on the free version "Pro Tools | First", but they also apply to the standard or HD version of Pro Tools. This makes these articles suitable for new Pro Tools users who are starting to learn the app, as well as for existing users who want to improve their understanding and knowledge of Pro Tools.
Graphically Enhanced Manuals
I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Pro Tools, check out my book “Pro Tools | First 12 - How it Works” or any other title in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)" series. All the books are available as PDFs from my website, printed books on Amazon, and interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple’s iBooks Store. Thanks for your time and interest, Edgar Rothermich.