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The Final Cut Express Interface

When a program opens, it presents a layout of menus, tools, and windows, known as the interface. Four primary windows make up the Final Cut Express editing interface: Browser, Viewer, Canvas, and Timeline. The window title appears in the title bar at the top of each window.

The basic functions of these windows fall into two categories: The Browser and Viewer windows are where you organize and view your uncut material. The Canvas and Timeline windows are where you view material as it's edited.

Two smaller windows, the Tool palette and the Audio Meters, allow you to choose editing tools and monitor audio levels.

Manipulating Windows

The four windows in Final Cut Express can be individually resized, repositioned, and hidden in the Mac OS X Dock. The buttons to close, minimize, and zoom a window in Final Cut Express do not appear in color, but operate the same as they do in the Finder window. Practice controlling the windows in the following steps:

  1. In the Browser window, click the title bar and drag the window to another location. Restore it to its original place.

    The window seems to snap back into place.

  2. Click the Zoom button in the upper-left corner of the window to see the window resized to accommodate all its contents. Click again to restore the window to its original size.
  3. Click the Minimize button (–) to see the window drift into the Dock.
  4. Locate the Browser in the Dock, and click it once to restore it to the interface.

Exploring the Interface

As with all Apple windows, you click in a Final Cut Express window to select it, making it active.

  1. Click in the center of the Viewer window.

    The title bar changes to light gray with dark gray text.

  2. Click in the center of the Canvas window, and note the change in the title bar.
  3. Click in the Timeline window and note the change.


The Browser is where you organize all the material you will use in your editing project. The Browser has different ways of displaying your project elements. The following image shows the View as Medium Icon option.

  • Click in the Browser window to make it the active window.

    Think of the Browser as a filing cabinet containing all of your clips and editing choices.


The Viewer window is where you view your original source or unedited material.

  • Click in the Viewer window to make it the active window.

    The Viewer serves other purposes as well. Not only can you make editing choices or changes to your material in this window, but you can also edit audio, build titles, create effects, and view your transitions (such as dissolves and fade-outs).


The Timeline window is a graphical representation of all the editing decisions you make.

  • Click in the Timeline window to make it the active window.

    This is your workbench area, where you place your material, trim it, move it, stack it, and adjust it. It's also where you can see all your material at a glance.


The Canvas and Timeline windows are different sides of the same coin.

  • Click in the Canvas window to make it the active window.

    The Canvas, like the Timeline, shows you an edited sequence. But while the Timeline displays it graphically as bits of information, the Canvas shows it visually as a movie.

Tool Palette

The Tool palette is a collection of Final Cut Express editing tools that can be used throughout the editing process.

  • Hover the mouse pointer over any tool to display its name and keyboard shortcut. You can access all tools using their keyboard shortcuts.

Audio Meters

The Audio Meters window displays the audio volume level for whatever is playing, whether it is source material in the Viewer or the final edited sequence in the Canvas window.

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