4. Browsers in Bitwig Studio

In some ways, the best analogy for a digital audio workstation is a traffic cop. A primary task of the modern DAW is getting your computer and software to play well with everyone, including any controllers, plug-ins, and audio equipment you may have. The hardware side of this is a bit more obvious and flashy — working with MPE controllers and their fluid note streams; offering our controller API for dynamic and customized interactions between hardware and software; multitouch support, including alternate workflows for editing, mixing, and performing; various playback sync options; specialized display profiles for two or three monitor setups; and natively speaking control voltage (CV) for Eurorack modules and beyond.

While the software side might seem like the easier part of the equation, it includes all of your files. And the list of file formats you might browse is only growing. As of today, it includes: WAV, AIFF, MP3, FLAC, OGG, OPUS audio files (and more); WT wavetable files; MULTISAMPLE, SFZ, and SoundFont 2 (SF2) multisample files; CLAP, VST 2, and even VST3 plug-ins; BWPRESETS, H2P, as well as FXP, FXB, VSTPRESET, and any vendor-specific formats that CLAP preset discovery offers; BWIMPULSE files and any other audio for use as convolution impulse files; BWCLIP files, MIDI files, DAWPROJECT files (for project interchange with other music programs; more information here), and other sequence formats with some import support (FLP and ALS), as well as BWPROJECT and BWTEMPLATE files; and Bitwig's internal devices, modulators, and modules.

The purpose of Bitwig Studio's browsers is to connect your current idea to a relevant musical materials from that mountain of files and formats. This means providing clear ways to narrow a large pile of results, and also nudging you back on track when you might be looking for something in the wrong place. And as with any search, you will find a great sound at the wrong time so making it easy to file things away for later is important too. In short, it's better to save time each day, both for today and tomorrow.

We say "browsers" plural because there is the omnipresent Browser Panel anchored to the right side of the window, as well as the dynamic Pop-up Browser that appears when a plus icon (+) or folder button is clicked. Their structures are largely identical, and their few differences will be noted.

One procedural note: key commands will be mentioned all thru this chapter, and they reference Bitwig's Default keyboard mappings. If you are working with your own key commands, most functions can be found and mapped as you like (see Shortcuts Settings).

So let's dive into browsing. We'll generally look at features in isolation — sources, filters, key commands, autocomplete suggestions, customization options, and more — but when working on music, you will use these tools together. Which is great because then you'll spend less time selecting sounds and more time bringing them to life.

All Sources

Browsing in Bitwig Studio is centered around sources. Each source is just a way to group searchable content, providing windows thru which you can approach your files. When any browser is loaded, a source is selected.

In the Browser Panel, the current source is shown by the title above the various filters. In this image, Samples + Clips is the selected source.

And in any variation of the Pop-up Browser, the area above the filters also shows the current source along with its icon. Shown here is the All Instruments source and its keyboard icon, hinting that note input will be required.

In both of these views, the top left corner holds a button (with an icon of four little squares) for switching to the All Sources page, where all available sources can be seen. Clicking on any source returns to the browser with that source selected, so every available source can be browsed from the All Sources page. Or press CTL+0 (CMD+0 on Mac) to toggle between the All Sources page and the regular browser view.

We will look at each of the four tabs in order. And for now we will use the perspective of the Browser Panel, where having no context means that everything is always available.

Just know that each source only appears once, so knowing the concept of each tab will help you know where to look later.

Packages Tab

The Packages tab offers a source for each sound package you have from Bitwig, as well as a way to acquire content you haven't installed yet.

Unique to the Packages tab is a row of view and sort options, all shown as small text buttons just above where the packages start. They are identical to those in the Packages tab of the Dashboard (see Packages Tab).

Collections Tab

The Collections tab displays all user-saved groups. This definitely includes Favorites, which contains every item you have marked as a favorite. And any fixed collections (with the colorful grid icons) of yours will be here too, as well as dynamic smart collections (with the magnifying glass icons) that you might have created.

Right-clicking on any collection or smart collection provides a context menu with various options, including to change the color of its icon or to Delete Collection.

To rename a collection or smart collection: click on its name, which will make the text editable.

Both collections and smart collections are ways for you to organize your content. But contrary to their names being so similar, they represent two distinct concepts.

A collection starts empty and waits for you to insert content into it. In this way, the Favorites source is a special collection. For some users, this single collection will be enough, but you can create others.

To create a collection from the All Sources page: on the Collections tab, click the Create Collection… button in the bottom right corner of the window. Then choose a name and color for the collection.

Items can be added to the collection either from the results list (see Results List), from the file area (see File Area), or from the Quick Sources (see Quick Sources).

A smart collection is a saved set of filters that can be viewed as a source. As it doesn't contain individual items but rather search parameters, its content will be dynamic (see Smart Collections).

by Kind Tab

The by Kind tab offers sources organized by file type — and sometimes by category as well. Since these sources are always available, this list is the longest to start with.

All Instruments contains all instrument devices, plug-ins, and presets. It is the parent source of these individual sound-descriptive sources:

  • Drum Presets contains devices, plug-ins, and presets in known drum/percussion categories (including Clap, Cymbal, Drum Kit, Hi-hat, Kick, Percussion, Snare, and Tom).

  • Basses contains devices, plug-ins, and presets in known bass categories (including Bass and Synth Bass).

  • Keys contains devices, plug-ins, and presets in known keyboard categories (including Electric Piano, Organ, and Piano).

  • Synths contains devices, plug-ins, and presets in various synthesizer-type categories (including Bell, Chip, Drone, Ensemble, Lead, Monosynth, Pad, Pipe, Plucks, Sound FX, Synth, and Synth Bass).

  • Other Instruments contains devices, plug-ins, and presets in other various categories (including Brass, Ethnic, Guitar, Mallet, Orchestral, Strings, Vocal, and Winds).

Drum Hits is a hybrid source comprising e-drum instruments, drum sound presets, and sample files identified as individual drums.

Audio FX contains all audio FX devices, plug-ins, and presets.

Note FX contains all note FX devices, plug-ins, and presets.

Music contains all audio files from your chosen music locations.

Multi-samples contains all MULTISAMPLE, SFZ, and SF2 files (available to both the Sampler device and Grid module), either in the Bitwig library or from your chosen sound content locations.

Impulses contains all BWIMPULSE files (used by the Convolution device), either in the Bitwig library or from your chosen sound content locations.

Wavetables contains all WT files (used by the Grid/Polymer Wavetable module and also the Wavetable LFO modulator & Grid module), either in the Bitwig library or from your chosen sound content locations.

Curves contains all BWCURVE files (used by any of the various "curve"-based devices, modulators, and modules), either in the Bitwig library or from your chosen sound content locations.

Utility contains devices and presets in the Utility categories, as well as devices in other special function categories (Analysis, Container, Hardware, MIDI, and Routing).

All Presets is the parent source of these sources:

  • Bitwig Presets, for BWPRESET files in the Bitwig library or from your chosen sound content locations.

  • Plug-in Presets, for H2P files, as well as FXP, FXB, VSTPRESET, and any vendor-specific formats that CLAP preset discovery offers.

All Devices is the parent source of these sources:

  • Bitwig Devices, for our internal devices within the Bitwig Studio application.

  • Plug-ins, for CLAP, VST 2, and VST3 plug-ins, installed in one of your chosen plug-in locations.

Modulators are available in the Browser Panel for loading Bitwig's internal modulators. It allows dragging one or more modulators into a device's modulator pane.

Modules are available in the Browser Panel for loading Bitwig's internal modules. It allows dragging one or more modules into a Grid device's editor window (see'.

Samples + Clips is a parent source for all audio and timeline materials, including these sources:

  • Samples, for all audio files, either in the Bitwig library or from one of your chosen sound content locations.

  • Note Clips, for all note-based BWCLIP files as well as MIDI files, either in the Bitwig library or from one of your chosen sound content locations.

  • Audio Clips, for all audio-based BWCLIP files, either in the Bitwig library or from one of your chosen sound content locations.

Templates is available in the Browser Panel for loading BWTEMPLATE files, either in the Bitwig library or from one of your chosen sound content locations.

Locations Tab

The Locations tab combines sources tied to particular disk locations and a few special sources.

Everything is a catch-all source that is the first available source in all browsers. It is useful for searching across all applicable items at once.

My Library contains files found in your local Bitwig user library.

Each of your chosen sound content, music, and plug-in location folders appear as individual sources here. Both sound content and plug-in locations are shown with a folder icon, and music locations appear as vinyl records. You can right-click any of these sources to Remove the location, and you can click any of the bottom three Add buttons to create a new location and source.

And the File Browser is available in the Browser Panel as a view for browsing your files and computer generally.

A word on each top-level entry.

  • Current Project allows you to unfold the file structure of the current project, giving access to any of the contained files (as shown above).

  • Bookmarks is a place for any disk folder locations you have saved from within this File Browser view.

    To add a bookmark a folder for the File Browser source: navigate to the folder via the File Browser, then right-click on the folder and select Add as Bookmark.

  • My Library provides access to your local Bitwig user library folder.

  • Library Locations contains all folders added as sound content, music, and plug-in locations.

  • My Files provides access to your computer user's home folder.

  • Computer provides access to all disks attached to your computer.

  • Recent Projects offers recently opened projects in order, starting with the one currently open.

Finally, the File Browser has two super powers when it comes to Bitwig project files. The first is that you can drag a full project from the File Browser into your current project. This will create a group track for that project's master track, with all possible content being inserted within it.

Second and unique to the File Browser is that projects can be unfolded here to see the individual tracks (and group tracks can be further unfolded as well).

To import one or more tracks from another project: locate the project from the File Browser (in the Browser Panel). Then unfold the project, select one or more tracks, and drag them into the current project.

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