SEPTEMBER 21, 2023

New Pro Tools Sketch window and free iPad app

Pro Tools Sketch 1862x1040

Capture and play with ideas anywhere inspiration strikes with Pro Tools Sketch, a new non-linear, clip-based creation window in Pro Tools that’s also available as a free iPad app. Part of the Pro Tools 2023.9 software release, Sketch is a major expansion to the Pro Tools music creation workflow, making it easy for you to experiment with loops and arrangements in totally new ways, while still having access to the world-class recording, editing and mixing tools that Pro Tools is known for.


Every project needs a code-name, and code-names for audio projects at Avid are often chosen from the names or monikers of famous musicians we have lost—a tradition that started back in the days of Digidesign when I first joined the team. When choosing a code-name for this project, I instantly knew the artist I wanted to honor (and channel).

I code-named this effort, ‘SOPHIE’, after Sophie Xeon (September 17, 1986 - January 30, 2021), whose clever and inspirational use (and misuse) of music making tools and process led them to the creation of entirely new and exciting sub-genres of pop and dance music! Having followed SOPHIE’s career, I knew their unusual approach to sonics and creation positioned them as the perfect north star to navigate this journey!


Pro Tools is, in my biased opinion, the most full-featured audio editor on the market. And while the Pro Tools application is incredibly deep with lots of hidden power features, watching an experienced Pro Tools jockey operate is akin to watching a world-class ballet! Recording, editing, mixing, and arranging in Pro Tools is immediate and limitless once you know how to harness the tools. But we were, admittedly, missing one important piece of the ‘complete’ workflow—the one that’s required for creating music and sound and ideas from scratch. The Edit and the Mix windows are getting a new companion!

We needed a playground for ideation. A sandbox and some toys to allow for immediate and non-linear experimentation. To ignite the initial spark of an idea. Somewhere for happy accidents to occur! A place to combine loops and samples and MIDI and effects in a musical context, without needing to commit to an idea until it feels formed. I fantasized about our users, usually working so purposefully, sitting at their computers, and laughing out loud when they stumbled across inspiration!

At first, it might seem like this feature came out of left field, but this is just one (albeit, major) step in a journey that started years ago with many smaller and less obvious steps. We’ve known that we wanted to make an environment to foster creation—an ecosystem for all the phases and stages of production. There have been many updates over the years that helped to pave the way for this moment. From simple, little featurettes to more involved projects like non-stop music creation during playback, pitch-and-time manipulation with the ARA integration of Melodyne, or introducing clip-based workflows with clip effects—all of this groundwork paved the way for an entirely new workflow in Pro Tools. You can now take your music from conception to completion in one application! I am happy to share the next major step on a journey that is far from complete: the Sketch window!

Pro Tools Sketch window
The new Sketch window in Pro Tools


In addition to introducing non-linear, clip-launching workflows to Pro Tools, we also wanted to provide our customers with a mobile creative environment. The approach we took for this project allowed us to achieve both at once. By architecting more platform agnostic and sandboxed design, we were able to build a version of Sketch that runs as a window inside of the Pro Tools process but could also be run separately on an iPad as a stand-alone app! A user can create on the go using the mobile app and/or ideate directly in Pro Tools using the Sketch window. In Pro Tools, there doesn’t even need to be a Session file present to open a Sketch window and start playing!

For users creating on the iPad, enhanced workflows and a bigger audio creation ecosystem only requires bringing their Sketch files into Pro Tools, where they can continue to work with a richer set of tools. The Sketch window is included with our free offering, Pro Tools Intro, so this promise is accessible to anyone. Mobile users will be ready for success because the experience and UX in the new Pro Tools Sketch window and on the mobile app is nearly identical, with the biggest difference being the additional interactions the new window will have with the rest of Pro Tools.

The Sketch documents (.ptsketch file format) are managed separately from the Pro Tools Session files (.ptx), which means that any Sketch document can be opened in any Session, any time. This allows access to the same Sketch file from multiple Sessions. I personally find Sketch windows to be a really great way to organize collections of samples! I am excited to see some of the other handy workflows that users will invent that are made possible by having this window have its own file format.

Check out some of the videos we’ve created to get you started with Sketch: 


…And this is just the first iteration! This initial release is the start of an ongoing development project for both the app and the window! Sketch’s capabilities and feature set will continue to evolve and improve with the addition of more creative and performative capabilities such as sequencers, note generation tools, additional effects, and more instruments. We also plan to bring Sketch to the iPhone and other mobile devices.

And while any new capabilities we develop for the mobile app can also be leveraged by Pro Tools to enhance the Sketch window, we have some serious additional plans for the desktop! We plan to make the Sketch window an AAX host, improve on the ways media can move between the Sketches and Sessions, and much more.

Making this feature has been both hard and wonderful, and I’ve been fortunate to have the most invested and dedicated teams to help build it.


Lead Product Designer


Pro Tools Sketch Window is now available as part of the Pro Tools 2023.9 software release for all Pro Tools customers on an active subscription or perpetual license with current a Software Updates + Support Plan, as well as all Pro Tools Intro users. You can update through Avid Link or find it in your Avid Account. You can download the new Pro Tools Sketch iPad app free here. If you need to renew your Software Updates + Support Plan for Pro Tools or want to get current to the latest version, you can find options to do so here. And if you’re new to Pro Tools, you can try out the latest version with our free 30-day trial.

For more details about this release, please see the new documentation now available in your Avid Account.

ARA and Melodyne are registered trademarks of Celemony Software GmbH.

  • David Cotton of Avid

    David Cotton is a Lead Product Designer at Avid and the Sketch and ARA team lead

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