Handy DAW Tip: Cascading Plugin GUIs

So this one is super simple, but definitely helpful as a workflow enhancer. Applies to any VST-capable DAW.

It’s always annoying when bringing one plugin GUI into focus obscures another GUI and then you have to shuffle things about.

This tip applies when you have too many plugins open to fit them all onscreen without overlapping or when you’re not sure how many more plugins you might need to add in a project; it’s not needed when you have few plugins and enough screen space to comfortably them fit all.

plugin GUI cascading (stairstep).PNG

So here’s the juicy tip: Start at the top right, cascade down-leftwards.

You’ll want to create a stair-step pattern with the top-left corners of the plugin windows.
Each time you add a new plugin, add it to the bottom left, leaving space for the title bar of the previous.

By following this method, the top-left corner of every plugin will always be available to grab, making it super easy to switch between them at any time. Clicking to focus on one plugin will never fully cover up any of the others. Yay!

Note: on Windows, the down-leftward direction seems best by default due to the names appearing on the left of the title bars; however, on mac, the names appear in the middle, so it’s more of an ambiguous choice and you could cascade them down-rightwards instead. It’s up to you!

Remember that in Ableton Live, CMD/CTRL-Alt-P will instantly hide or show all plugin windows, which is very useful in order to go back and forth from working in the DAW interface to working with plugin GUIs.

You’ll save lots of time if you set up your gooeys once and then hide/show them as a batch as needed instead of fiddling around with their positions constantly while you work.

Good night/day!

P.S. bonus secrets!

You may remember that some years back i sampled all 88 keys of every single patch from my PX-300 Digital Piano, did massive research on the real-world instruments represented, crafted them into sweet “PMX” instrument racks, and released freebie sample instruments at various sites across the web.

The full PMX instrument packs for Ableton Live 9+ are now available again over at The PerforModule Legacy Shop (for the very affordable prices of $1 per instrument). Giving the instruments a once-over to verify and update them reminded me of how nice they are, with crisp, cutting tones that stand out in mixes well. In particular, i love the way the macro controls are set up to emulate various functions of the physical instrument counterparts. If there’s a certain instrument type you’d like to boost representation of in your composition toolkit (perhaps pads, mallets, or organs, for example), grabbing a PMX pack will provide some sweet and highly usable instrumentation to your library. Browse The PerforModule Legacy Shop for more info and links to audio demos, etc. Enter the code “consumerism” for 50% off!

Want some taste tests? Freebie PMX instruments you can freely grab for free:
PMX Brass Synth via AfroDJMac
PMX Koto via Sonic Bloom
PMX Glockenspiel via Bedroom Producers Blog
PMX Drawbar Organ via Subaqueous
PMX Tremolo Strings via Audiobombs

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