The creator of the original Cool Edit, Dave Johnston, is an computer programming whiz who began writing programs for his Atari 800, then started writing software for Microsoft, working there when he was still in college. The Cool Edit shareware was his hobby/labor-of-love at home. That's when I first found it (my modem motto: download everything, delete later). Version 1 looked like some kind of scientist's sound analyzing tool, something you would see at the National Transportation Safety Board labs-—even in its earliest incantations, Cool Edit was extremely capable. The adjustments that could be made to any sound file covered the gamut of everything you could do in a studio, full of equipment. It had "synthesizer-type" controls (envelopes, processing, echoes, reverbs) as well as other controls (EQ, filtering, flangers, noise reduction) to affect and effect very long sound samples, showing it all with a "zoomable" waveform display. Very much to his credit, Johnston was sponge-like in listening to the input of the users, and, rebuilding the program in subsequent versions, sometimes in major jumps, answered their requests and suggestions, always adding more features, and making them even more advanced. By doing so, the interface for the program (the way it looks, behaves, and is worked by the user) that ran all this became incredibly simple to use, despite the exponentially increasing complexity of what it did.

That's what the cool stands for in Cool Edit.

Pro calls itself a "full-featured digital audio editor for Windows95 and WindowsNT." As an audio professional, the most important word in my book is: features. Cool Edit Pro is now a multitrack editor and, I dare say, has almost all the features available today. Its ability to "work" with sound rivals the editing workstations that cost tens of thousands of dollars, yet you have the ability to control the cost of your system by how many computer things you want to buy.

We took an IBM/Cyrix 686 P166+ on a Triton II motherboard with 512K of pipelined burst cache, 32 megs of EDO RAM, a Western Digital 5200 rpm hard drive, and a 2-channel Turtle Beach sound card to perform the review (Cool Edit Pro will also handle 8-in/8-out sound cards). The IBM/Cyrix chip is similar to a Pentium Pro chip but crunches numbers a little faster-—something digital audio editors do a lot. The 5200 rpm speed of the WD hard drive gives it an 8.23 millisecond access time. But, we were skimpy on the memory, just to make it work a little harder. It's important to realize the configuration of the computer can be greatly enhanced, such as adding more, or much more, memory. Outfitting a computer with a bunch of memory and assigning the memory itself as a "virtual drive" would allow a computer to perform without any disk caching, eliminating reading and writing to a hard drive (be sure to save your work to a physical drive before you quit the program!). Likewise, increasing the speed of the hard drive, such as using a SCSI drive instead of an EIDE drive like the one we used would speed things up. Also, purchasing a pen-type "artist's slate" increases the speed of the operator's clicks and drags by hundreds, if not thousands, of percent. (Why are we still using mice?)

Now, the cool stuff

Cool Edit Pro consists of two basic "screens:" a 2-track editor and a multitrack view. A large button in the upper left hand corner switches between them. The remaining buttons across the top of the customizable button bars are all of the other processing and computing controls, like an advanced word processor. A thin indicator of the entire wave (or the section of the entire wave you are viewing on the waveform display) is just underneath. The waveform display is as big as your monitor screen can go. On the lower left are the "transport" controls and the waveform display controls. On the lower right are time displays. Stereo peak and hold VU metering with "over" indicators runs across the bottom of the entire screen; on a 17" monitor, you can see them from fifty feet away! The Windows "information bar" below the meters shows information about the sound file itself, as well as the recording space left on your hard disk at all times. In the 2-track display (see figure 1), there is an indicator on the right side of the screen showing level percentage, sample values, or normalized values. In the multitrack view (see figure 2), there are individual track controls on the left of the multiple-waveform display, and global track display controls on the right.

Upon starting (quite quickly, I might add; just over 2 seconds), the two track editor is displayed. Almost everything in Cool Edit Pro is negotiable. Presets are everywhere, and you can add your own. The "settings," as well, shouldn't be taken lightly. You can set the number of "undo" levels, up to 999 if you have the disk space. Choose any of your waveform display-function colors. Determine the measurement method used to display the waveform drawn on the screen (all are incredibly accurate, right down the sample). Show a spectral view of what frequencies are present, instead of a waveform display. Adjust SMPTE response time. Pick which soundcard you want to use (should you have more than one). Change the pixel height of each track. There are literally scores of other settings in "settings" alone, including the ability to adjust the program to your computer's capabilities.

"Keyboard shortcuts" allows you to program almost every function to any keystroke on the keyboard, including all the combinations of a single keystroke, CTRL+, ALT+, and/or SHIFT+.

"Cool scripts" remember everything you've done to anything and can be used again and again--and that's even if you didn't make any presets of your own. To make the same changes to a number of different sound files, Cool Edit Pro will handle those automatically, using its "batch processor."

There's MIDI triggering of any shortcut, and Cool Edit Pro is an impressive sampler, as well. SMPTE controls offer frame accuracy when synched with other devices, giving the audio-for-video producer one cool tool to work with.

Of course, you can "left click" all over. But, since this is a Windows95/NT program, you can also "right click" all over. Menu "pop-ups" are everywhere.

The flexibility to set any preference in Cool Edit Pro is staggering. Yet, the learning curve is virtually flat. Everything is just as it looks-—graphical bliss. If you know how to click and drag and you've ever worked an analog multitrack recorder, you're producing in minutes.


Now, the really cool stuff