On Dec 8, 2010 the newest version of Cakewalk SONAR will be available. SONAR X1 is a digital audio workstation application, designed for making music including audio sources and MIDI instruments. I’ve been using SONAR 8 Producer for a while and I have been amazed at what my computer can do with this software. But using SONAR has always been a bit like studying advanced flight training. There’s typically 3 or 4 ways to do what you want, if you can find them somewhere among the toolbars, buttons, keyboard shortcuts and menus. Now with SONAR X1, that looks to be changing. Cakewalk has abandoned their usual expansion of the complexity of the user interface and is starting from scratch with X1. Now, windows and tools will work more like I’m accustomed to seeing in Microsoft Visual Studio, with docking, dropping to tabbed collections and spreading across multiple monitors. That alone is a fantastic (and long wished for) change. New “smart tools” change their function based on the context of the objects they hover over like they do in sophisticated graphics editors, and if you need to refine the context you can right-click where you are to do it in a small pop-up pane. The main toolbar has been replaced with a sleek and customizable command bar. Just about everything can be dragged-and-dropped. Of course, there are many other improvements, that I’m not mentioning. I think that this interface promises to bring some fun and “Wow” to home music production.
Update – Dec. 17: Now that I’ve tried it, I really like the new smart tool (usable across many windows) and the “screensets” that let you arrange and jump to different screen views (including screens across multiple monitors) — these are very useful. FX chains can now be saved/loaded/named and each fx retains its own settings. Fonts are bigger (good for me – my eyes aren’t what they used to be) so using “friendly names” to shorten port and instrument descriptions is recommended. Overall, an unexpectedly great version of SONAR.