Logic Pro X
So, let's have a look at a few of my favourite workflow features in Logic.
(There are plenty of others, of course, but these are the ones I choose to highlight here - in no particular order.)
1: Track Assignment
Logic has an unusually flexible track assignment concept, which differs from most other DAWs, and even many Logic users don't quite get the concept.
In most DAWs, when you add a track, say an audio track, the track appears in the arrangement view, and a channel strip for that track appears in the mixer.
Logic isn't limited to this fixed 1:1 relationship. When you create a new audio track, usually it's assigned to the next free audio object, which is also displayed as a channel strip in the mixer - so far, so normal.
But you can have multiple arrange tracks, all with the *same* object assigned. So you can have ten tracks, all playing to your audio channel 1 object, which is very flexible when in comes to editing. Or five different tracks, all feeding the *same* software instrument, maybe with some tracks on different MIDI channels.
In fact, "tracks" in the arrange window are themselves dumb, and it's the playback object assigned to them that gives them their identity (audio track, MIDI track, software instrument track etc), and this can be *any environment object* (which is how you connect the arrange page to the environment if required.)
This also is why some people get confused with the difference between the two "duplicate track" commands - "Create track with same object" (which creates a new track, assigned to the same channel strip object as the selected track) vs "Create track with next object" (which creates a new track, and duplicates the existing object - eg a software instrument channel, with a second independent instance of all the plugins.)
2: Window Handling
Ever since Logic 1.x, Logic has the concept of Screensets, which let you position and save any combination of windows, and switch between them. While many people just use a single screen environment, and open, move and close windows constantly while working, this is really slow, inefficient and clunky.
(I used to watch people in horror as they'd double click a MIDI region to open up an editor, reposition and size the window on the screen to not overlap some important content, set the zoom to where they wanted it to be, edit a few notes, close the window, then select the next region and go through the whole thing again...)
The newer consolidated/integrated window approach added in Logic 8+ was an attempt to help streamline window handling for typical users - so you have one Main window, and can make the bottom section be various different editing windows, pop in other panels on the left and right side etc, which works for many people and can be convenient - but misses some of the power of Logic's window handling approach.
When using Logic, I'm usually in one of a few different "modes' of working - I might be recording/playing, or doing detailed audio editing, or detailed MIDI editing, or doing mixing/automation etc. Of course, we all flit between things as required. But rather than constantly opening, positioning windows or panels to fit the task I'm doing, I have different Screensets set up for just those tasks, which I switch to (top row of the number keys, eg 1-9).
And this means I can use *multiple windows* on those tasks. My MIDI editing screenshot for example opens up multiple editing windows, floating panels and so, in the arrangement I like, so I can use the most appropriate tools from any of the windows to most efficiently make the necessary edits - and this can include multiple windows with the same editor open, with different setings - say zoom settings (having two arrangement windows open, one zoomed out for overview, and one zoomed in for detail, is useful).
To edit, I just select the region I want to edit, press "2", and Logic gives me my complete personalised multi-window editing environment. When done, "1" and I'm back to my default working screen.
Using multiple windows, Screensets, Link modes (which determines what content windows display) and various related features makes Logic a really flexible working enviornment, which can be configured in the way that works best for your needs - without you having to worry about tedious window maintenance.
3: Mackie Control Support
The Logic Control debuted with Logic 5, and it was remarkably well designed, and is still the only fairly universally supported controller standard that offers the majority of things you need to do with a controller, that requires *no mapping*, and just works.
Controller handling is a bugbear of mine. Generic controllers, that require mapping, are so unwieldy to use no one really bothers, and in this regard Logic is generally less good than other DAWs that handle generic controllers a little better (Live does a fairly good job with this, for example.)
Logic added "Smart Controls" to help, but this is only pre-mapped with factory content, and for your own uses, you're back to manual mapping. I don't use them at all (and generally they look pretty cheesy too)
(Ok, in some cases, the ability to manually map a set of controls on an important sound or plugin can be useful, but no one wants to have to map on a regular basis - it's just tedious busy work that interferes with creative work.)
Despite having an MCU+XT system, it's large, and in some ways isn't ideal for my uses (eg a portable laptop system), so I developed a custom controller scheme, based around the MCU standard, as all the MIDI mappings for the MCU are completely open and editable - so you can change how it works if necessary. So I have a little controller that's portable, set up to my (specific) requirements that can do mixing, synth editing, and plugin editing in a really simple and accessible way.
You can even tell Logic to generate parameter listing text files for each plugin, and then go and change the order those parameters are called up on the controls, letting you define consistant handling for all your plugins.
So, the MCU is a great controller, the spec is supported by many hardware boxes and DAWs, it requires no mapping from the user, is well integrated into Logic, but it also sufficiently editable to change the behaviour enough to develop custom controller schemes to help you connect your hardware to your software in a way that's empowering, not frustrating.
4: Plugin Management
With a hardware studio, it's common sense to put the instruments and effects you use all the time within easy reach, the things you use a bit less frequently maybe off to the side, and the things you break out only occasionally can go back in the cupboard out of view.
For a long time (*years*!), Logic made all plugins only accessible with a trawl through large, long-winded multi-level menus, organised by manufacturer only (which doesn't make sense when you want to maybe try out a few compressor choices), and it used to drive me nuts.
After many years, I decided to start developing my own solution to this, as it seemed it would never change within Logic. My app was coming along nicely - and then Apple of course released a Logic update with the Plugin Manager.
But at last you can organise plugins how you like - put in top level menus of "Compressors", "Reverbs", "Delays", and so on, create folders, even rename plugins.
I have categories for selected virtual instrument plugins for example, like:
Synths -> Classic Analog
Synths -> Classic Digital
Synths -> Modern Digital
Drums -> Acoustic
Drums -> Beats
I can put my most used/favourite tools at the top level, and then put in some less commonly used items a level down, and keep the stuff I rarely use out of eyesight and not clutter up my choices.
This was a feature I was waiting a very long time for, and it's *most* welcome.
(You still can't select plugins via the keyboard though. Maybe if I restart development on my app, they'll add it in the meantime...)
5: Region/MIDI Thru Parameters
Last up, another long time feature that originated with C-Lab's Creator/Notator, but was good enough to make it through to Logic too.
In Logic, when you have a MIDI region selected, there are a bunch of parameters displayed in the region Inspector panel that let you adjust, non-destructively (they are calculated in real-time on playback), parameters such as quantisation, transposition, velocity modification and so on.
When you don't have a region selected, this panel instead displays the MIDI Thru parameters, which are applied in realtime to the incoming MIDI data as you play. This lets you transpose, shift and compress velocities, compensate for keyboard limitations, limit the keyboard, change MIDI channel all on the fly.
Any recordings you make with those parameters have those same parameters copied to the MIDI regions, so the original played data is still intact, and any modifications to the MIDI data are again just applied on playback.
This is a really fast, flexible approach to making typical MIDI data modifications in a transparent, non-destructive and easily managed way.