A professional DAW for Linux


Reaper gives users the ability to develop entirely bespoke themes, providing a playground for people who enjoy designing their own desktops. The default interface is good and consistently usable, but unspectacular. Depending on your needs, you can either develop your own themes from scratch or use existing themes provided by Reaper users (Figure 4). Instructions for building your own themes can be found on Reaper Forums as a pinned post in the themes section. On the Reaper homepage, the Stash link takes you to a repository [3] where you can exchange other relevant goodies besides themes.

Figure 4: Reaper with the optional Echolot theme.

Some developers also offer their themes for sale via the forum. Some take wholly individual approaches, but there are also replicas of Pro Tools, Logic Pro, or, in the case of the House of White Tie Imperial [4] theme, a replica of an analog mixing desk (Figure 5). The Star Trek terminals look utterly wild. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself if these themes are useful in everyday life.

Figure 5: The House of White Tie Imperial theme is shown here with a feature-rich extended mixer.

Three themes are pre-installed: Default, Reaper 1, and Reaper 5 (Figure 6). You can select one of these in the menubar below Options | Themes. New themes are delivered in the .ReaperThemeZip format (a renamed ZIP file with a defined folder structure). To install, simply drag and drop the file into an active Reaper window or simply double-click on it in the file manager.

Figure 6: The Reaper 5 theme included in the default configuration.

In the menubar under Options | Layouts, you'll also find alternative views for the mixer and editor, such as wider channel strips in the mixer, metering only, and fader only – whatever the theme developer wants is allowed here, too. The integrated screenset tool lets you store your own presets for recording, mixing, mastering, or other applications and call them up again as needed using a keyboard shortcut.


One the most important terms for Reaper newcomers is "actions." Everything in Reaper is an action: cutting audio, zooming, creating MIDI notes, copying elements, moving faders, switching tracks to record ready, and loading plugins. All actions can be assigned their own key combinations and combined as desired with custom actions or macros.

The Action List (Figure 7) can be opened via Actions | Action List or by pressing the ? key. A search box then helps you find actions and view, modify, and delete existing shortcuts, as well as create new ones using the Add button (see the "Tips for Beginners" box). It is also possible to search for the corresponding action based on the combination next to the search field. The biggest problem is finding out the function name. In addition, Reaper creates the lists for the Main, Media Explorer, and MIDI Editor sections separately, and they cannot be edited across groups. To switch between Action List sections, use the toggle menu in the top right corner of the window.

Figure 7: The Action List lets you define your own keyboard shortcuts for almost all actions.

Tips for Beginners

After installing Reaper on a new system, you should disable vertical zooming via the mouse wheel. Almost all programs scroll when you rotate the mouse wheel, but Reaper does not. This is difficult to get used to, so you should assign vertical zooming to Ctrl plus the mouse wheel and vertical scrolling directly to the mouse wheel. Select Shift plus the mouse wheel for horizontal scrolling and Alt plus the mouse wheel for horizontal zooming. Actions can also be executed via a button in the toolbar. The free SWS Extension [5] not only adds some really useful tools to Reaper, but it also comes with some very useful actions – a must-install for Reaper pros.


Reaper leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to sensible menu structuring, making it confusing for digital audio newcomers. As the number of features increases, the developers have simply filled up the menus without ever restructuring them with any kind of plan in mind. Fortunately, however, the menu structure can also be freely customized using Options | Customize menu/toolbar with drag and drop support (Figure 8). You can let your own preferences and typical use scenarios define the structure.

Figure 8: You can easily redesign confusing menus to meet your needs.

The free ReaMenus [6] add-on installs a fully structured menu into the DAW in the form of a configuration file. However, the independent ReaMenus tends to lag behind Reaper's development status by several versions. Consequently, you might find some functions missing from the overview. However, the missing functions can still be accessed via the menu editor or action list.

Reaper also lets you assign individual actions to buttons in the toolbars. You can use right-click plus Customize Toolbar on the Main toolbar in the top left corner to add new buttons and optionally define your own icon.

Once you have customized Reaper, it is a good idea to export the configuration. You can do this via Options | Preferences (or use Ctrl+P) and selecting General. With this backup, you can restore all program details with just a few clicks.

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