Reaper plus! the power of sws extensions

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The Power of SWS Extensions 


Geoffrey Francis

Version 1.7.1

April 2010

This guide will be updated regularly as the software itself is further improved and developed.

Check for updates and other information at

This document has been produced, compiled and rendered to PDF format using the wonderful

OpenOffice Writer software.

For more information about OpenOffice go to

© April 2010

ReaRead: REAPER books and training manuals printed and spiral bound are now available from

Up and Running: A REAPER User Guide

The essential and definitive guide to recording, editing and mixing with REAPER. Now fully updated for version

3.0. Includes sample project files and step by step examples to help you learn how to use the many features of REAPER

Includes special sections on key REAPER features such as routing and audio channel splitting, as well as numerous examples of how to use and apply many of the supplied FX plug-ins.

"Up and Running is not only a comprehensive guide to using REAPER, it's also full of an amazing amount of information on audio recording and engineering. I simply cannot recommend it enough!" - Justin Frankel (COCKOS Inc and REAPER Developer).

ReaMix: Breaking the Barriers with REAPER

This book does much more than just teaching you how to use basic tools (such as volume, panning, EQ, gates, compressors, delay, reverb etc.) to get an OK mix. It also guides you thru the relationships -“ some simple, some complex -“ that exist between the dimensions of sound and the dimensions of space. It gives you the confidence to use this knowledge to transform your OK mixes into great mixes.

Although not light on theory, it has a definite practical emphasis, with links to archives containing some 40 or so project files, with step by step examples. These help you put your knowledge into practice.

"Wow! So much good stuff - from mindbending advanced techniques to solid sensible advice, this guide should have a positive effect on just about anybody interested in mixing (and especially those using REAPER)!" - Justin Frankel, Cockos Inc, developer of REAPER.

And from -¦



Takes you beyond the User Guide (which focuses mostly on how to do things) and places more of an emphasis on the when and the why. It's also designed to help you understand how REAPER's various components, tools, bits and pieces work together. The book is comprehensive and includes a CD with more than 100 project files which demonstrate the various features of REAPER in action. It also contains sample custom actions, FX chains, track templates, and much more.

If you're an experienced user of another product (perhaps Cubase, Sonar or Pro Tools) and are making the jump to REAPER then this book should give help fast-tracking you into REAPER's design philosophy and ways of working, which often are significantly different from what you're used to.

Foreword, Acknowledgements and Preamble

If you're reading this it should be safe to assume that you're already familiar with REAPER, and that you've had some experience of using that program for recording, editing and mixing music.

One of the great things about REAPER is the way it lets you customize the program to suit your own requirements. It does this with its skinable GUI, its custom actions, keyboard shortcuts, macros and scripting support, its menus and its toolbars, and much more. And on top of all this we have the SWS and Xenakios extensions.

These bring to REAPER whole new layers and levels of which I suspect the average user may be largely unaware. Up until now these have been largely undocumented. This guide is intended as far as possible to fill that gap.

I say "as far as possible" because there are literally hundreds and hundreds of these extensions. They range from being almost substantial applications in their own right to being minor little features, and everything in between. To document every one in detail would take much, much longer than the amount of time this author has available.

What I have aimed to do here is to take you on a guided tour of this world of extensions and actions, showing you dozens and dozens of examples of ways in which these extensions can be applied to enhance your REAPER experience. You should think of these as being your first steps into this world. You should also develop the knowledge and confidence to go on from there to grow in knowledge and take whatever further steps will benefit you the most.

You see, that's the thing about customization. By definition, it will be different for everyone. That's mighty powerful -“ but with power comes responsibility. In this case, each and every one of us has to take responsibility for how we as individuals want REAPER to work!

Thank you to Anne Parsell and Mathew Woolley (Tasmania's very own Twice Bitten) for their permission to use their song Stay With Me for the sample exercises and tutorials.

I'd like to acknowledge here of course the work of Justin, Christophe, Schwa and all others who have helped make REAPER what it is. I'd also like to especially acknowledge the work of Tim Payne at Standing Water Studios and Xenakios for their incredible efforts in developing these extension sets. Also, a special mention for Jean-François Bédague from the REAPER forum (Jeffos) for his work on the SWS/SM extensions and actions, and to Pascal Bourdon (Padre) for his contributions, including an LFO generator.

Last but definitely by no means least a huge thank you to Spike Mullings for the many painstaking hours he has spent tracking down and correcting my numerous typos.

- Geoffrey Francis, April 2010

SWS Web Resources

In order to access the SWS Extensions, you will need to visit the Standing Water Studios web site, located at

Download details can be found in Section 1.2. There is just one point I would like to make here. These extensions which are generously made freely available to you represent the product of literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of work by the developers. They are made freely available but this does not mean they cost nothing to produce. Next to the download links you will see a Donate button. If you're not sure how much to give, try $10. It won't hurt you, really!

Contributions from Developers Most Welcome 

Contributions to the SWS Extension pack in the form of coded extensions by other developers are also strongly encouraged and welcomed. In many respects these are even more welcome than cash! If you think you might be interested, please contact [email protected]

Bug Reporting and Feature Requests

If you come across any suspected bugs in any of the extensions or wish to make a feature request, please do so on the official site, not on the REAPER forum. This URL will take you to the corrects site: This URL will take you to the SWS tracker:

Sample Project Files

This User Guide includes a number of examples and step by step tutorials designed to help you to understand the various SWS extensions and to get the most from them. The sample files used in these tutorials can be downloaded from: If typing this URL, note that it is case sensitive.

After downloading the file, you should unzip its contents (using a program such as WinZip or ALZip) and copy its contents to suitable location on your hard disk.

About This Guide

This user guide is made freely available as a non-printable PDF download. That doesn't mean that it hasn't cost anything to produce. Literally hundreds of hours goes in to the production of a document such as this.

If you find it useful and would like me to be able to continue to spend the time necessary to keep it up to date and to expand its contents, please do the right thing and purchase either a printable PDF edition, or purchase a spiral bound hard copy.

To purchase your authorized PDF or hard copy, follow this link:

Setting Up and Getting Started

Introducing the SWS Extensions

The SWS extensions are a collection of items that individually and together add amazingly to the functionality and capabilities of REAPER. They not only serve to improve your productivity and workflow, they also give you features and capabilities that would otherwise not be available to you. Some of these are small but nevertheless useful items. Others should be regarded as major features in their own right.Some examples of the capabilities that the SWS extensions put at your disposal are:* The ability to quickly create and recall multiple loops and time selections within a project file.* The ability to create and use different sets of markers for use with different tracks (or groups of tracks) within a project.* The ability to automate playback so that the cursor will automatically jump over those passages that at any point in time you do not need to audition.* The ability to set up, use and maintain a color management system for use with your project files. (See below)* The ability to store and recall together several project files as a group.* The ability to create, use and recall mixing snapshots.* More power in the way you can manage views and windows.This is just a small selection of the topics that you will learn from working thru this User Guide. Even if you have used some of the SWS extensions before, you will get the most out of this book if you work your way thru from the beginning and omit nothing. You just might get more than a few pleasant surprises along the way.The name of Xenakios has already been mentioned in the acknowledgements, but his contribution to the development of these snapshots has been so enormous that it is only fitting that he should get another mention here. Many of the fine extensions, actions and commands that are now included in the SWS extension set were originally developed by Xenakios.

Downloading the SWS Extensions

The SWS extensions have been developed by Tim Payne of Standing Water Studios. For more information about Tim and Standing Water Studios, visit http://www.standingwaterstudios.comYou will need to go to that web site in order to download the latest copy of the SWS Extension pack.Use the links near the bottom right corner of the screen to obtain the correct version for your system -“ Windows 32, Windows 64, or OSX. Just like REAPER itself, because these extensions have been efficiently coded the file size has been kept to a minimum. For example, for the 32 bit Windows version this is no ore than about 400 kb. The extensions are updated regularly and frequently, so you should check for regular updates.Thanks to Tim's generosity, the SWS Extensions are distributed free of charge. This does not mean, however, that they are produced without cost. Please observe the "Donate" button in the lower right corner of the screen and be prepared to use it. Unless you are genuinely unable to afford it, a suggested suitable amount to donate would be at least $10.00.

Downloading the Sample Project Files

In addition to the SWS Extension Pack, you should also download the sample project files that are used in the various examples used in this guide. You will need these if you are to be able to work thru the various step by step tutorials that accompany each chapter.Download information for these is included in the introductory section of this guide, just before the Table of Contents. After downloading, you should unzip and copy the files to your usual REAPER projects folder. You should also keep a spare copy of these files in case the need should arise for you to recover them to their original state.

Installing the SWS Extensions

Before you can install the SWS Extensions on to your computer, you must first have REAPER v 3.4 or higher installed on your computer. However, it is strongly recommended that you should use the most recent version of REAPERthat is available. Otherwise you might not be able to complete some of the tutorials in this user guide. You should also check the SWS web site regularly for more information and later releases.

Installing on a PC

If you are using a PC with Windows, then you can simply double click on the SWS install file to begin the install process.You will be presented with a license agreement (see right). If you are unwillingto accept this agreement you will not be able to install the SW S Extensions. If you do consent to this agreement, follow the prompts to install the SWS Extensions automatically into your \REAPER\Plugins folder.After installation, you will have the file reaper_sws.dll in this directory. This will ensure that the extensions will automatically be available to you next time you start REAPER. After installation, you should find that your REAPER main menu will include an extra command -“ Extensions. We'll get round to exploring this shortly.

Installing on a Mac

If you are using a Mac (OSX) then your installation package will consist of two files -“ license.txt and reaper_sws.dylib. If you accept the terms and conditions explained in the license text file, then to install the SWS extensions you should copy or drag and drop the reaper_sws.dylib file into the folder

~/Library/Application Support/REAPER/UserPlugins/.

REAPER Actions, Keymaps and Custom Menus

In the course of working thru the many tutorials that are included with this User Guide, you will probably wish to experiment with setting up various keyboard shortcuts and changes to your toolbars and menus to accommodate many of the SWS commands and actions.If you wish to do this on an experimental basis and without compromising your existing settings in these areas, then before you begin work on these exercises you first should backup and save all your existing menus, toolbars and shortcuts. You can later recall them if you wish. To do this:* Choose from the main REAPER menu Options, Customize Menus/Toolbars. When the Customize window is shown, click on Export then All menus/toolbars to ReaperMenuSet file. When prompted, give the file a name and click on Save. These settings can then be imported back into REAPER at any time. Close the Customize window when finished.* Choose from the main REAPER menu Actions, Action List. When the Actions window is opened, click on Import/Export, then choose Export All. Specify a name for your KeyMap file and click on Save. This file can be imported back into the Actions List at any time. Close the Actions window when finished.Then, as you work thru this User Guide, you can at any time save the toolbars, menus and keymaps that you have created during the tutorials and restore your earlier saved settings if you wish. Switching between the two sets of menus, toolbars and keymaps is a lot quicker and easier than you might think.

Assumed Knowledge

This User Guide is not recommended for complete newcomers either to digital recording or to REAPER. That said, you don't need to be a power user of REAPER to benefit from its contents. However, the better your knowledge and the greater your experience of working with REAPER, the more you will get out of it. This User Guide assumes that you already have a reasonable working knowledge of REAPER and that you are at ease within the REAPER environment. You should at the very least be familiar with basic tasks such as:

  • Creating, naming and saving project files.
  • Creating tracks and recording material.
  • Simple editing tasks, like deleting and copying media items.
  • Simple everyday tasks like starting and stopping playback.
  • Navigating thru a project file.
  • Creating and deleting markers and regions.
  • Selecting and unselecting items.
  • Adding basic effects (such as ReaEQ and ReaComp) to tracks.

To get the best out of this guide, you should also have at least a fundamental grasp of a number of less basic tasks, including:

  • Creating and using folders.
  • Creating and using sends and receives between tracks.
  • Creating and using basic automation envelopes.
  • Simple grouping functions.
  • Assigning shortcut keys and creating custom actions.

You'll find some help here with the less basic topics as and when they arise. However, to understand these features more fully -“ and to get the best out of the SWS Extensions - you should consult the REAPER User Guide and/or REAPER Power!

Simple SWS Actions: Little Things That Mean a Lot

In this chapter you will be introduced to some of the simplest of the SWS extension actions. In doing this, the objectives are that:* You should come to appreciate that even the simplest of actions can be deceptively useful.* The real potential of SWS actions often becomes evident when you collect together a number of them into a group.* If you have not already done so, you will learn how to assign simple actions to REAPER's custom toolbars and menus.

Preferences and Settings

As you are no doubt aware, REAPER's exact behavior will often be in part determined by your options and preferences settings. To ensure that the examples that follow will work successfully, please ensure that the following options are set as specified in the table below.

Option Required Setting

Options menu: Loop points linked to time selection

Set this option Off (unticked).

Options, Preferences, Editing Behavior, Mouse

Set Select both time and items when using right click marquee to On (ticked).

What Are REAPER and SWS Actions?

An action is basically a command that can be executed in REAPER. Whether you are aware of it or not, you use actions every time you use REAPER. For example, every time you press Ctrl+S, or use the File, Save command, or click on the Save icon on the REAPER toolbar you are executing an action. In this case, the action is that of saving your project file.If all REAPER actions were as simple, well-known and frequently used as this one, there would be no need for this User Guide. However, actions go a long way beyond executing simple menu tasks like saving and opening files. It is true that every one of the commands that you see on your REAPER menus is an action. However,it's also true that there are literally hundreds of other actions that do notappear on any menus but which can also be used to make your REAPER experience a faster, happier and more productive ones. These include actions for navigating, editing, customizing the REAPER environment, and much, much more. These actions are initially accessed via the Actions, Show Action List command on the REAPER main menu (see right).Using the Action List Editor, you can chain together whole sequences ofthese actions to create your own custom macros, so that a whole series of half a dozen actions or more can be launched with a single keystroke or click of the mouse. That's what you're going to be doing as you progress further into this guide.We'll start, however, with some quite simple examples, then build up to more complex and powerful custom macros later. Right now, what you need to be aware of is that there are six main ways an action can be executed. You determine yourself which and how many of these are used for any particular action. Keep in mind that these are only examples, designed to help you understand how to use these extensions. It's then up to you to determine for yourself which of the many available SWS extension actions will be most useful to you.The six methods that you can use to execute an action are as follows:

  • Directly from within the Actions list.
  • By displaying it in REAPER's Actions menu.
  • By assigning a shortcut key to the action.
  • By assigning it to an external control surface.
  • By adding the action to any of REAPER's menus.
  • By adding the action to one of REAPER's toolbars.{|

Note:To display (and optionally print) a list of current keyboard shortcut assignments, choose the command Help, HTML Lists (auto-generated), Keyboard Shortcuts from the REAPER menu.To display (and optionally print) a list of all available actions, choose the command Help, HTML Lists (auto-generated), Actions from the REAPER menu.In both cases, the information will be displayed in HTML format using your default web browser.

Zoom, Display and Navigation Actions

In this section, you will be shown how SWS extension actions, integrated with REAPER's own native actions can be used to give you more control -“ and faster control -“ over the navigation and playback of your project files. The examples used in the tutorials are only that -“ examples! They have been selected to help you learn.Beyond that, it's then up to you to apply what you have learnt to suit your own specific priorities.In this section you will be introduced to some of the simpler SWS extensions. In doing so, you will learn how to:* Open and use the Actions List Editor* Assign an action to a keyboard shortcut.* Display actions on the Actions menu.* Assign an action to a custom toolbar.As an existing REAPER user, you're probably aware of a number of keyboard shortcuts that can assist you when you are navigating and viewing your projects. These include using the ` key to toggle between normal track view and minimized track view and the ~ key to toggle between normal track view and maximizing the height of the currently selected tracks. In this tutorial you will discover and use some of the other options that are provided by the SWS extensions.Preparation

  1. Open the sample project file StayWithMe.
  2. Immediately save it as StayWithMe23. This name will enable you to associate the file with this section (2.3) should you wish to examine it again at some future date.


  1. Choose the Actions, Show Actions List command from REAPER's main menu. This opens the Actions Editor window.
  2. This list contains over 1,000 items! Notice that there is a Filter box near the top of this window. We can use this to make it easier to explore the subject area in which we are currently interested.
  3. Type zoom in the filter box. Immediately only those actions which include zoom in their descriptions are shown. Let's restrict the search further.
  4. Add to the filter box the letters sws so that it now displays zoom sws. Now only the SWS zoom actions are shown.
  5. Select the action SWS:Toggle zoom to sel track(s) + time sel
  6. In REAPER's arrangement window, select, say, track 5 in the track control panel, then right click and drag over that track's media item from, say, about 50 sec to about 1 min 45 sec. With this item still selected, and with the zoom action still selectedin the action list, click on Run (not Run/Close) in the Actions editor. Your view of the project will now zoom in to display just the one section of the selected media item.
  7. Click on Run again. The previous view will be restored. Let's now assign a keyboard shortcut. Click on the Add button then type / to assign this key (see right). Click on OK.
  8. You can now experiment with selecting any track, right clicking and dragging to select any portion of that track, then using the / key to zoom in and out.
  9. For the purpose of this exercise, we can now unassign the / key so that it is no longer associated with this action.
  10. With the action still selected, click on the / displayed in the box labelled Shortcuts For Selected Action in the lower left corner of the Actions window, then click on Delete.
  11. Now click on Close to close the Actions window.
  12. Now select the Actions command from REAPER's main menu, and ensure that the item Show Recent Actions is selected (ticked).
  13. You can now make any selection of any portion of any media item (or any number of vertically adjacentmedia items) in your project arrangement then use the command SWS: Toggle Zoom to Sel Track(s) from the Actions menu to zoom in and out of that selection.
  14. Shortly, we'll look at how we can add this action to one of REAPER's toolbars. Take a break first.Note:If you wanted to assign this or any other action to a button on an installed external control device (such as Behringer BCR2000 or a Mackie MCU), you could do so by repeating step 7 above.Instead of pressing a key on the computer keyboard, you should touch the control on the controlling device. This causes a message to be displayed similar (but almost certainly not identical) to that shown on the right.Click OK to confirm your intentions and you can then use the control device to execute this action.TutorialTo complete this exercise, we are going to add an icon to one of the toolbars for executing this action. Full instructions for how to edit the floating toolbar are included in the REAPER User Guide.
  15. If the floating toolbar is not visible, use the View, Floating Toolbar command to display it.
  16. Click on any empty tab on this toolbar, then right click over any blank part of this toolbar to open the Customize Menus/Toolbars editing interface.
  17. Click on Retitle -¦ then type Zoom/Edit (see below). Click OK.
  18. To add an icon, click the Add... button. This causes a list of Actions to be shown, very similar to the Actions Editor that you opened earlier.
  19. In the Filter box type sws zoom to limit the list of actions shown. In the actions list, click on SWS:Toggle Zoom to Sel Track(s) + Time Sel, Minimize Others. This is slightly different from the action we chose earlier.
  20. Click on the Select/Close button. This action is added to the left pane of the Customize Menus/Toolbars Window.
  21. If you wish, you can right click over this text and choose either Change Icon -¦ to select a graphic icon for this item, or Text Icon -¦ to enter a text description (see right). If you choose to enter a text description it will be used as a tooltip for this item.
  22. Click on Save then Close to close the menu/toolbar editor. Your floating toolbar should now be similar tothat shown below. Of course, your other three tabs will probably have different names from those shown here.
  23. Now select any track in the Track Control Panel (TCP), right click and drag over any part of that track's media then click on the Toggle Zoom button. That portion of the media item will be maximized while other tracks are minimized.
  24. Click on the button again to restore all tracks to normal view.
Here is a summary of the main SWS Zoom Actions.



Horizontal zoom to selected item(s)

Zooms horizontally to display the entire length of item(s) selected without changing track height.

Toggle zoom to selected items

Toggles zoom according to the selected media. Variations include the options to hide or minimize all other tracks.

Toggle zoom to selected tracks + time selection

Toggles zoom according to the selected track and time selection. Variations include the options to hide or minimize all other tracks.

Vertical zoom to selected items or tracks

Zoom vertically to the selected item(s) or track(s) without changing horizontal display. A variation is to minimize others. Notice that these actions do not toggle.

Zoom to selected items

Zooms horizontally and vertically to the selected item(s). Optional variation is to also minimize all other. These commands are not toggles.

Don't make the mistake of thinking of the SWS extensions as being a separate self-contained module within REAPER. On the contrary, they are most useful when they are integrated with REAPER's native actions. In the example below, two more actions have been added to our Zoom/Edit toolbar: these are REAPER's native actions View: Toggle Track View to Minimum Height and View: Toggle Track to Maximum Height (see below).