Making selections

Praat for Beginners:
Making selections in the Sound editor

  • It is often necessary to select a signal segment, for example in order to magnify some detail, listen to an isolated portion of the signal, copy or cut part of the waveform.
  • There are two methods, mouse-dragging or setting the boundary times.
  • For greater precision when mousing the segment boundaries, expand the waveform by zooming in.
  • For absolute precision, set the boundary times in the Select menu.
  1. Press and drag the mouse
  2. Click and ShiftClick each selection boundary
  3. Adjusting the selection boundaries
  4. Setting the boundary times
  5. Deselecting a selected signal segment


1. Mouse-dragging

  • Point the mouse in the waveform at one end of the intended segment
  • With the left mouse button pressed, drag over the wave to the other end of the segment
  • Both directions work: drag left to right, or right to left.
  • Release the mouse button where the segment is to end:
  • The selected segment is shaded pink
  • Beware, clicking in the waveform again deselects the segment.
  • Statistiscs on the selection appear above the waveform:
    • In red: the boundary times from the beginning of the signal
    • In black: the selection duration


2. Mouse Click and Shift+Click

  • This is equivalent to press+drag, but breaks the process into two separate actions
  • One use is to give you more time to position the cursor precisely, e.g. by zooming in and out for each boundary
  • Point to one end of the intended selection and left-click, which puts the cursor there
  • Move the pointer to where the selection is to end, press [Shift] and left-click again; Praat completes the selection
  • This works in both directions, do either the left boundary first or the right boundary.


3. Adjusting the selection boundaries

  • Once you have a selection, you can adjust its boundaries, e.g. after zooming to get more precision
  • Press [Shift] and left-click at a new position. The nearest boundary will move to it when the [Shift]-key is released.
  • Press [Shift] and hold the left mouse button down, and you can pull the boundary to and fro until it is in the right place. Be careful, if you forget to press [Shift], you will simply drag a completely new selection.


4. Setting the boundary times

  • Open the Select menu and choose Select ….
  • A dialog box opens that lets you enter the precise times of the beginning and end of the intended selection:
  • The dialog opens with the current cursor position times
  • Replace them with your own intended selection boundary times
  • There are other useful adjustments in the Select menu, such as moving boundaries to the nearest zero-crossing in the signal. This is useful for avoiding spurious clicking sounds when playing back selected segments (clicks are usually due to transient energy debris isolated when the sound wave is left in mid-air at the selection boundaries).


5. Deselecting a selected signal segment

  • A segment is deselected when the cursor is clicked elsewhere in the waveform
  • Alternatively, if you do not want the cursor to be visible, click just outside the waveform to the left or right. Or, open the Select menu and choose Move cursor to; then enter a time point that is beyond the currently visible waveform in the Sound editor.
©Sidney Wood and SWPhonetics, 1994-2012