User Guide








Design Manifesto

The overall goal is that Cacophony should feel as close as possible to improvising on an actual instrument and writing notes on physical paper with a physical pencil. There should be as little as possible between you and writing music.

Cacophony should be useable by amateurs who just want to make something simple and don't want to learn professional software.

1. Clean Interface

Cacophony looks like a TUI because I think it's a good design constraint. If everything has to be rendered as an ASCII grid, then the app's UI always has to be clean. Any superfluous information will take up precious space.

Every DAW I've seen seems, by design, to embrace a cluterred interface. I'm a programmer and I routinely use incredibly complex IDEs but DAWs have me stumped. I wanted to make something that is much, much easier on the eyes.

2. Accessibility

As it turns out, making an app accessible is another great way to ensure that the interface is clean. Cacophony by default uses a font that by design is easy on the eyes and can support a lot of languages and a high-contrast color scheme. And, almost everything on-screen can be described by an external text-to-speech engine. Audio-only tooltips are usually frowned upon because there's no way to know if the user has audio on. However, this is a music-making program so we *do* know that the user has audio on.

I anticipate one major downside of making screen readers a primary part of the overall UX: the text-to-speech engine is external, which makes Cacophony more susceptible to bitrot. However, this is probably true of many other accessibility decisions in many other apps.

3. Ergonomic UX

Cacophony is qwerty-and-MIDI input *only*. Between this an the helpful screen-reader, the best-case scenario for Cacophony is that it reaches a state at which experienced users hardly ever need to look at the screen.

Cacophony doesn't offer mouse support because it feels very awakware to me to have to shift between my MIDI controller, my computer keyboard, and my mouse. I feel like I can handle two input devices at a time, so I opted for qwerty and MIDI.

4. Limited Goals

Many DAWs are attempting to simulate actual studio setups or synthesizers. That's probably useful if you want to actually make a career out of making music, but I don't want to make a career out of making music, I just want to make music. So, Cacophony doesn't make any attempt to emulate any "real-world" audio production verbs.

5. Music Notation Input

I really like how music notation programs such as MuseScore handle note input so Cacophony handles note input similarly, despite being a MIDI sequencer.

6. Open Source

I'm wary of ever adapting to a closed-source DAW that I subscribe to rather than actually own. I want to know that if I make some music, I can edit it whenever I want. In five years, on a different computer, I want to be able to open up the same file. Most DAWs just don't seem optimized for that kind of long-term workflow. I also want to know that if I ever need to drop this project, anyone can fork the repo and no one will need to lose access to their music.

7. Rust

Rust felt like a good choice for this project because I wanted a language that was fast with excellent threading support that wouldn't let me make dumb memory management mistakes.

8. Privacy

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