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How to split audio tracks

CNET editors give step-by-step instructions on how to split long audio files into shorter tracks.

Like to listen to audio books on your MP3 player, but your player lacks a bookmark function? If you have long audio files that haven't already been split into chapters, it can be a pain to fast-forward to the desired point in the track. This tutorial can help you split audio books into shorter tracks on your own. It can also be used with music, although track length and nomenclature will be different than what is described here. (A tip: if you are splitting an audio file with several songs in it, use points of silence as a guide rather than the counter.)

Cost: Free

Time commitment: Varies

System requirements: Mac or Windows

  1. Download and install Audacity
    For either Windows or Mac.
  2. Download and install the latest LAME MP3 encoder
  3. Extract the LAME file
    From the file, extract only the file lame_enc.dll. Save it someplace that's easy to find on your hard drive, such as the desktop. (When you export your files as MP3, Audacity will ask you to locate it.)
  4. Open Audacity
    Go to File > Open, then select the audio file you wish to split from wherever it is stored on your hard drive. In the upper-right corner of the window, ensure that the selection tool (it looks like an uppercase "I") button is highlighted.
  5. Highlight selection
    Starting at the very beginning of the audio file, click and drag the selector so that it highlights a selection of the file. (You can use the keyboard arrows to zero in on "0" if necessary.)
  6. Grab the selection
    Using the cursor counter at the very bottom of the window to determine where in the elapsed time of the file you are, continue to highlight until you get to the point where you want to split (0:00:0--30:00:0 for 30 minutes, for example; then 30:00:0--60:00:0 for the next one, and so on). With the selection highlighted, go to Edit > Copy.
  7. Create the new track
    Select File > New. In the new window, select Edit > Paste. Then select File > Export as MP3. (You will be asked to locate the LAME file from earlier. You need to do this only once.)
  8. Save the file
    Choose a location to store your files--I suggest a folder with the book's name--and then name the file. For example: "Chapter1," "Chapter2," and so on.
  9. Clean it up
    You will then be given an option to edit the ID3 tags. It's not required, but I recommend that you do because it will help to keep things organized on the MP3 player. Title will be what you named the file in the previous step, Artist will be the author, and Album will be the book title.
  10. Repeat as necessary