Audio Engineer’s Toolkit: 10 Free Productivity Apps You Must Try

Today, being productive is imperative. Fortunately, it is also easily doable, with the proper planning and the right tools. Batch processing, automation and accessible recall are all extremely important and can save you a lot of time and headaches.

But after working in the audio industry over the past few years, I’ve found that a handful of free third-party applications that exist outside the DAW are now crucial to my daily workflow as well. And I’m sure that if you try them out, you will begin to integrate them into your workflow too.

1. MediaHuman Converter

MediaHuman Converter provides one of the fastest and most intuitive ways to convert between audio formats, without even opening iTunes or firing up your DAW.

Media Human Converter is an application for OSX and Windows that converts your audio files to pretty much any file type you want: WAV, AIFF, WMA, MP3, FLAC, OGG, and more.

The interface is extremely simple and the functionality is completely intuitive. Just drag your files in, select the file output type, hit “convert” and boom: You’re done!

Some of the bells and whistles include the ability to send files directly to your iTunes library, perform built-in searches of Discogs, Last.fm, and Google Images for cover art and track details, as well as a take advantage of Cue Sheet export options for those who might be working in audio post.

I use this app on a daily basis, whether it’s converting tracks to Apple Lossless to send clients my progress on their mix, converting WAVs to 320kbps mp3 to fit a large number of files on my phone for the road, or for converting WMA files to anything else if I’m working with someone who uses Windows. MediaHuman Converter is probably the best one-trick pony you’ll find on this farm.

2. Disk Inventory X

Disk Inventory provides a free and effective way to organize your sessions and sound libraries.

In the course of turning out project after project, it is easy to become inundated with incredible numbers of files.

Whether its sample libraries for composers, music libraries for DJs or sound effects libraries for post-production houses, these are the digital filing cabinets we strive to keep organized in order to maintain a steady workflow.

But what happens when your hard drive runs out of space and you can’t seem to find what’s taking up all the room? You download Disk Inventory X, a German program that displays your files and folders in a novel geographical format called “treemaps”. You can quickly and easily sort files by their type or size, and even by how many files are inside of them, or you can simply click to see what your largest or smallest files are.

3. Google Drive

Cloud storage quickly developed into a force to be reckoned with when it finally became easy to access in the mid 2000s.

There are dozens of great cloud storage applications out there—Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, iCloud, etc—and at the root, they all do the same thing. Whichever you choose to use all comes down to personal preference. I personally prefer Google Drive for a few reasons:

First, they offer 15GB free, which is a lot when you’re dealing with audio. If, for whatever reason, you need more than 15GB, they offer a variety of cloud size options that other cloud storage apps don’t such as 1TB for $1.99 a month.

In my cloud, I have client folders that are easily accessible as long as I provide an unlisted link, plus my Pro Tools Templates, PDF Manuals, and a discography of every commercially-available recording I’ve worked on.

Not only does Google Drive let me access these files from the cloud, but it also acts as another form of backup for some of my most important files, which never hurts to have. In today’s age, it is important to be able to access certain files from anywhere in the world and Google Drive does that flawlessly and securely.

4. Evernote

Evernote is an ideal solution for making notes on mixes, keeping lists of production tasks, and saving ideas when creativity strikes.

Another form of cloud storage, but centered moreso around text, is Evernote.

Evernote (which is available for both desktop and mobile) allows you to create “books” of notes, keeping them organized and easily accessible. It’s a fairly simple concept but super-helpful if you make a lot of notes.

I have found it to be great for keeping track of what deliverables which record labels usually ask for (a TV mix, a vocal +1db and the like) which deliverables TV networks ask for (dialogue split, MnE, SoT, etc). I also use it to make quick notes-to-self if a friend tells me a cool plugin to check out, or if I’m listening to a mix while traveling and hear something I want to tweak. The search functionality is also a huge help when you need to find what you’re looking for.

5. f.lux

f.lux keeps you from screwing up your eyes and your body clock when you’re working late in the studio. Do yourself a favor and try it out.

If you’ve ever been up all night recording or mixing, you’ve felt the strain on your eyes. It’s painful. It burns. Is that bright light the computer screen, or death at the end of a console?

Once you’re done, you’ve probably experienced just how hard it can be to unwind and get to sleep after a late night of staring into a screen that’s brighter than some lightbulbs.

Either way, f.lux is here to save you! The company’s slogan is “software to make your life better” and that’s exactly what it does.

f.lux adjusts the halogen settings on your computer screen based on the time of day by removing blue light, which prevents your eyes from tiring out and also helps you avoid screwing up your body clock by keeping you from bombarding yourself with daylight-like cues at midnight.

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  • I would not recommend using f. lux while you are doing any audio work as it is known to cause issues.

    Check out this reddit post with 600+ upvotes,
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audioengineering/comments/5va2ub/flux_may_be_causing_your_audio_glitches/?utm_content=title&utm_medium=browse&utm_source=reddit&utm_name=audioengineering

  • Justin C.

    Interesting. I’ve never experienced that on a Mac myself. Looks like the post confirms that it’s a Windows-only issue, and that putting the app into “safe mode” is a known fix. Good to know. Thanks for the follow-up!

  • DPrty

    Windows?

  • Vinny Alfano

    Wow, that’s so odd, hopefully they resolve that issue soon. Thanks David!

  • Justin C.

    What’s a WindOS? Can I find it on the App Store?

  • DPrty

    Lol. I’m fairly certain it can’t be found at the App Store. Some of us are definitely using Windows for audio production.

  • Justin C.

    True story, and we do try to take that into account, but there does seem to be a tilt toward mac usage in audio, and this may have some effect on availability of software at times.

    That said, a majority of these programs do work on PC, including MediaHuman Converter, Evernote, Google Drive, Pro Tools First and f.lux.

    And like Meatloaf says, “6 out of 10 ain’t bad”. (Or something like that.)