How to Hack Ableton to Unlock Hidden Features!!!
Ableton’s developers are bad-ass. Live allows users to take control of the DAW on a level that other DAWs just don’t. That’s why we sound designers, programmers, and creatives love it so much. From Max for Live to Ableton Themes, there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating your optimal Live environment. Ableton’s developers appreciate the collaboration and innovation of its community and encourage people to find ways to add more functionality to an already extremely functional system.
Something I uncovered recently while completing my daily ritual of scouring the dark web of music production blogs is that Ableton’s developers have left a little loophole that allows the unlocking of some unofficial features.
This hack involves adding a plain text file to Ableton’s back-end preferences folder. When Ableton scans this folder and sees that this text file is present, new features are unlocked based on the commands in the text file!
One of the most memorable features that I was able to scrape off the internet pavement was that Ableton actually has a hidden feature that allows you to display plugin titles and on/off buttons on track columns in Session View! I am really hoping Ableton will make this feature official and fix some of the imperfections that come along with it being a hack-activated feature. One of these imperfections is that sometimes you need to make the track wider to be able to see the title of the plugin. Another one is that you can only display the device name, not the preset name. Even so, this additional feature is insanely amazing.
We’ll go over more hackable elements soon, but let’s look at how to create this text file and unlock these hidden features.
To start, simply create a text file with a text editor, title it Options.txt, and be absolutely 100% sure that it is a plain text file, not an rtf or some other editor-specific format.
From here, find the Ableton Preferences folder inside your computer...
Mac OSX: /User/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live x.x.x/
Note: you will need to hold down ctrl while navigating to the Go menu when Finder is open to be able to see the Library folder.
Windows 7, 8 and Vista: C: Users > username > Appdata > Roaming > Ableton > Live x.x.x > Preferences
Simply save the file in the location specified above! Now we can start adding commands to the text file and unlocking hidden features! There are tons of text strings you can add to the text file, but these are some of my favorites that I was able to find and test out! Keep in mind that each string/command needs to be in its own line.
This command will unlock the ability to control the number of breakpoints added to an automation curve when recording automation in real-time. You can control the amount by replacing ‘0.0’ with a decimal number between 0 and 1. The numbers lower than 0.5 will create more breakpoints when recording automation, and those above will decrease the number of breakpoints.
This may seem like such a small detail, but the results of changing the decimal number are actually really significant and noticeable. I am someone who hates having 2 million breakpoints in my automation curves and this feature helps clean up my automation recording so much. If you want more precision and more breakpoints, that’s awesome too.
This one was the one I talked about above- it unlocks the ability to show plugins in track columns in the session view. You can turn this feature on and off by clicking on the little plug icon in the lower right corner by the crossfade toggle button.
This one is definitely only useful for specific situations, but having this in your Options.txt file basically makes it so that when you map a parameter the minimum range value is set as whatever the parameter is currently set to rather than to 0%.
For example, if you were mapping a cutoff knob to a knob on your controller and the parameter was set to 50%, then the minimum range when mapped would be set to 50% rather than 0% upon mapping.
This can be useful for workflow in very specific situations, especially if you are working with recording automation and you don’t want any of your parameters to go below a certain threshold but you don’t want to be fiddling with the ranges on each mapped parameter.
This is useful for when you want to replace missing files automatically but have multiple sources or small variations of the same file for whatever reason. When this is enabled Ableton bypasses the checksum comparison of Missing Candidate Replacement.
Normally, Ableton will automatically arm a track when it is created. However, in some situations, you may not want this to happen, especially if you are adding tracks to your project while recording. This command disables this feature and makes it so that newly added tracks are not record enabled.
This one is honestly just fun! When added to your Options.txt file, this will replace the updated waveform style from version 9.5 and above with the old style of the waveform display. It's cool to check out how it used to look.
This one is a game-changer for troubleshooting glitches and crashes in Ableton. When added, this command will stop Ableton from scanning VST plugins upon startup. This is so useful when there is an issue with Ableton crashing upon startup and you want to check if it is a plugin issue, or if you just don’t want to bother waiting for Ableton to scan for plugins and want to open it quickly to get a few things done.
Personally, I think this one would be extremely annoying, but it’s worth adding it in case you might have a reason to use it! This command makes it so that any time you select a track it is automatically armed for recording.
Any of these commands can be suspended when you add a forward slash (/) before the command in the text file. This way you don’t have to worry about always typing the command out or grabbing it from the internet, you can just remove the slash to bring it back.
Most of these hidden features might seem like small details, but it is the little things that add up to create an optimal workflow. It’s super cool to play around with changing what you are used to, whether you decide to keep the change or not!