automation panel UI design issues - current location, zoom, mappabilit

Few things that are perplexing to me about the automation panel UI design:

  • Why isn’t editing position (dotted yellow line) coupled to pattern position (white line)? This would seem more natural and would make it easier to see where the song is for the automation point being edited. I don’t see any advantage to having two “current locations” in automation and it would be helpful to see the notes corresponding to the automation position.

  • Likewise, it would be nice for the selection in the pattern to mirror the selection in the automation window (across all tracks) , but this isn’t as critical as the position issue.

  • Clicking on / adding a point moves the editing position (dotted yellow line) to the beginning of the pattern. I can’t think of why this should ever be the preferred behavior - why would selecting/adding a point imply that I’d want to edit something at the beginning of the pattern? It would be preferable to move the cursor to the point that was clicked (like a word processor) or at least leave the cursor where it is (I’d prefer the former behavior though).

  • Shouldn’t zooming in (either via trackpad or dropdown) zoom to the editing position, rather than the beginning of the pattern? I can’t think of any use cases where you wouldn’t want to zoom to where you’re currently at. Design-wise it should behave similarly to the sample editor. (hmm this seems to be a bit of a theme… too many behaviors jump to the beginning of the pattern)

  • Maybe I’m blind, but it looks like both automation zoom level (either as increment/decrement or specific zoom levels) and edit-as “points/linear/curve” are missing from being keyboard mappable.

Try enabling Pattern Follow in the Transport Panel, or with the default key Scroll Lock.

This is indeed a little bit strange and could be tweaked in the future. In the meantime, you can easily avoid this by not clicking on the points directly, but instead click above or below them at that particular point in time. This will effectively select the point itself, and also move the edit position to that point in time.

When the Lock feature is enabled, the zooming will lock to pattern boundaries. When Lock is disabled, it will behave as you want it to.

Thanks for the quick response.

I think I was unclear by referring to the “white” and “dotted yellow” cursors, as I forgot that the colors are unique to the ableton live theme I’m using. By dotted yellow line, I was referring to the edit position when the automation panel is focused (that you move around with left/right keys). By the white line, I’m referring to the solid line which marks the position corresponding to the pattern location.

I don’t think this does the behavior I meant to describe. Pattern lock makes it so the automation window follows the pattern position. I’m referring to having the pattern position slaved to the edit position (dotted line) when the automation window is in focus. I don’t see why the concept of position isn’t more unified here since I can’t think of a use case where I’d want to be doing editing on the automation points but maintain a retain pattern position independently - it seems like a superfluous degree of freedom. There are benefits to unifying them - having pattern position follow the position I’m editing in the automation panel gets me the benefit of entering automation data within the pattern using the effects columns while allowing the flexibility of the automation panel (interpolated points, zooming, etc) - you can see the notes that are associated with an automation value as you’re editing them.

Ah I see, I like using “single click to create new points” as it feels more fluid than the default. I’m used to shift-dragging selections from other UIs (browsers, word processors, etc). Since shift-dragging doesn’t slow me down for selections and double clicking to create new points does slow things down, I usually stay in "“single click to create new points” mode. Anyway, I can get the same behavior as you describe by doing shift-single-click.

I still find this to be a weird asymmetry in behavior though - as I move the edit cursor around (using the keyboard) automation points are “focused” (with a circle around them) depending on where the cursor is, but using the mouse to “focus” automation points or create them resets the edit cursor.

Thanks I wasn’t aware of what the lock button meant there. I just realized the sample editor behavior isn’t to zoom in centered on the cursor position (dotted line) but rather the mouse position. I might be wrong, but I think zooming in most apps often uses the cursor position as a centerpoint (reaper does this and I vaguely recall that soundforge does this as well). I think the cursor position-centered zooming works slightly better for both keyboard navigation and working with selections (in sample and automation editing), although this isn’t a huge deal.

What about keyboard mappability of the zoom level and point/line/curve mode? Perhaps I should look into whether that’s scriptable if it’s not currently possible.

I get what you mean.
Tried to see if this was tool-wise solvable somehow, but the edit position in the automation window is not available in the API else it would have been easy to sync the automation edit position with the current pattern position (and perhaps vice versa if it also had a notifier).