Taming the Lion - Workflows in Apple's newest OS - Part 1

I am a bleeding edge kind of guy. I like having the latest system and discovering it’s quirks and more than that discovering how to fix or work around the issues that it brings with it. 

Lion (10.7) is the latest OS from Apple and I have been running it in some degree since it was released. There are things that I love and things that I hate, they are mostly covered on other sites and if you are considering it for any of your systems I’d recommend reading around and seeing what of your workflows may or may not work. This article is about things I’ve discovered that hindered my workflows and the resolutions to them. 

1 - File management (part 1)

If you install Lion onto a fresh system or buy a new system running it then you will find that the Finder is vastly changed. Visually it’s greyer but deeper than that scrollbars are gone, the dividers in column view are practically indistinguishable. Most irritating of all is the new organisation of the sidebar. 

“All my Files” is the first addition you will see. I can see the use case for this, it’s for people who are used to storing things on their desktop or just all within a single folder somewhere.
Most people reading this particular post won’t do that, audio professionals are generally quite organised about their filing and if you use Pro Tools then the system itself guides you to maintaining some form of hierarchy by default. Command Click and drag on this to remove it from the sidebar would be my recommendation and replace it with:

2 - Add your Hard Drive back to the sidebar.

Shift-Command-C will bring up the Computer view. From here I’d recommend dragging at least your work drives into the Favorites section of the sidebar otherwise you will spend a lot of time scrolling to the bottom of the sidebar which is where apple has deemed to be the place to store Disks of all varieties. 

3 - File Management (part 2)

With the advent of Versioning in the OS Apple rather irritatingly hid the “Don’t Replace” option from the Copy menu. No idea what I mean? On a preLion system if you were to try to copy the contents of your Audio Files folder to a server copy of the same Audio Files folder in order to update the server copy of the session you would be presented with a dialog box with a few options.

  • Apply to All (a checkbox)
  • Don’t Replace
  • Replace
  • Stop

If you do the same process in Lion you will find no option to “Don’t Replace” and it’s place has been taken by “Keep Both Files”. This might be okay if you are moving Word documents around but start updating mix stems in a similar way and you’ll find yourself with duplicate files, longer copies and rapidly filled storage. 

Thankfully it is not gone, but it is well hidden. I tried every combination of shift, control, option trying to get the “Keep Both Files” to change to no avail. The solution was to not drag the Files but to drag the containing folder at which point the OS recognises that the folder/directory exists and will merge the folders. It does this without any further interaction which is kind of nice but scary the first, second and third time you do it. It does work though. 

4 - Dedicated Desktops

Take some time to set up dedicated desktops, these are much like Spaces in Snow Leopard but can be customised with seperate artwork for each Desktop. To lock an application to a specific desktop you can either:

  • Drag the Applications window to a Desktop whilst in “Mission Control” view then right click on the applications Dock icon to bring up the Options menu. From here select the option to ‘Assign to’ This Desktop
  • Navigate to a new Desktop and then open the application and follow the second half of previous option (right click on the applications Dock icon to bring up the Options menu. From here select the option to ‘Assign to’ This Desktop)

I have a Pro Tools background image on my Pro tools Desktop because unless a session is open then all you get when switching to the Desktop is the Menu bar and I like the reassurance that the switch has occurred.

As with spaces this is not foolproof and occasionally the OS won’t switch to the correct Desktop when you open a new window. The most frequent example of this is double clicking on a Pro tools file in Finder, the file will open but Lion won’t switch to the Pro tools desktop. Either bring up Mission Control and switch manually or click the Pro Tools Dock icon and it normally switches. 

I will write a part two very soon but these are just a few irritations and tips to get you started.

Cracks in the system?

So having just regained some time to look around and see what’s been happening in the world of technology and audio it seems that there was some kind of ‘crack’ released to allow Pro Tools HD to run without HD hardware. 

Russ at the Air Users Blog has already written a series of articles to both point out the existence of the crack and indeed to tear down the fact that this doesn’t appear to be a true ‘capable’ crack. 

Software cracking has been around for as long as people have charged for software. In fact before that they would take open license to adapt previously written code. The most widely distributed software of all time was itself basically a crack/adaptation of another program. (That would be Windows by the way). Bill Gates took software written by Xerox and adapted it to serve his purposes. Of course he did it with permission from the programmers wife but it was still not wholly completed by Mr. Microsoft…

I’m not in anyway suggesting that what happened in the early 80’s was illegal. Just that it represents an example of someone taking existing software and adding to it, changing it and redistributing it as something else. 

Where the illegality come into software cracking then?

In the case of Pro Tools’ latest crack it comes from a direct decision of the programmer to circumvent both the hardware requirements and anti-piracy devices put in place by Avid (formerly Digidesign) to protect their intellectual property. That is illegal. 

What will Avid’s response be? Will it change their plans? Does it matter?

I would doubt that Avid will change their plans over this. I wouldn’t think that they even care that much that this has happened. In my opinion Pro Tools is the DAW of choice for a reason, that being that it has the most complete and easy to use feature set for it’s given customer base. While there are alternatives on the market they are all compared to Pro Tools and strive to as far as possible maintain some form of interoperability with Pro Tools. 

Avid are market leaders in both picture and audio NLE systems and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Anyone who has tried to do feature post work in Final Cut/Soundtrack Pro or Logic will tell you how far behind Apple is. Steinberg have just shipped Nuendo 5 which has some really nice features. It always has had some really nice features, but still in their advertising literature for the program they point out how much more compatible it is with Pro Tools. 

Native only software 

Computer systems are getting faster and more powerful with every month. Mac’s slightly slower than every month but still with frequent updates… This is a great thing, without a shadow of a doubt. Where Pro Tools has the advantage is it can utilise large amounts of that power and also have all of the processing capability and reduced latency of their own TDM processing power. 

As long as they utilise this advantage they will never be left behind. Native systems maybe able to have 200+ D-Verbs on the channels where HD can only have 12 (or whatever the numbers are) but have you heard D-verb? It’s horrible. Revibe, TL Space, Altiverb. Three reverbs that sound infinitely better than d-verb, and two of which require an Accel processing card. 

I’m sure at some point that Avid will follow the path that they have with Media Composer and make a software version of HD but why would they shoot themselves in the foot and drop their HD processing cards? What advantage would that allow them?

Why the interest in this crack then?

Well to be honest it represents a remarkable achievement and shows that there is some interest (if not a lot of interest) in a version of Pro Tools HD that can run without needing to have a full HD system in tow. For a start those rigs get very heavy :). I’d love the ability to build mix setups on the train using my laptop or quickly check back through versions for a specific change. LE doesn’t really cut it for doing the job that I used to do. It has too many oddities with 5.0 automation and plugin data to be relied upon to not mess them up. Full PT HD even without the Audio Engine would be great to have. Make it run off an iLok authorisation for all I care.


This crack exists. I won’t use it. I have no interest in a compromised version of a great package. I think that all Avid should take from it however is the fact that people are interested in an untethered version of their software.

Frankly I’d like certain parts of the program to be made available outside of the software even. I’d love a Digibase application as a standalone; an offline IO Setup that would allow you to drag 192’s etc onto it to build a mix stage setup and create routing paths without the need to be attached to the hardware itself. 

Not sure it will ever happen but those are my desires. For what it’s worth.