Let's take a look at the Audacity workspace.
At the top are several buttons that allow you to play, stop, pause, fast-forward, rewind or record a track.
To the right of that are some playback and record meters which show you the sound levels. Since the volume at which you listen to your sound can vary depending on how load your speakers or headphones are, these meters are important as a visual way in determining the overall levels of your sound.
Below (or to the right, depending on how wide your window is) are some playback speed adjustment sliders. This is generally not used in most sound editing, but could be helpful in transcribing dictation. Be careful that this adjustment is not changed before you export your audio file.
Audacity also comes with an UNDO button. This feature is critical to undoing mistakes. Everytime this button is pressed, the last previous actions are reversed in the order they occurred. So pressing the undo button five times will undo the previous five actions. Respectively, there is a redo button that will redo an action if you have already undone several steps. As with most software these days, the shortcut key to undo is Ctrl-Z (PC) or Command-Z (Mac).
Tools in Audacity
Audacity has six tools to choose from. The tool that is selected will determine how your cursor interacts with the audio track. Always be aware of which tool is currently selected, as it will affect each click on the audio track.
This is the primary selection tool which allows you to highlight portions of a track to copy or paste.
This is the envelope tool, which allows you to change the volume of certain portions of your audio track by visually shrinking it. You can use the tool to place anchor points around the track to guide the sound level.
The drawing tool in Audacity is probably one of the least used tools. You have to be zoomed in extremely close to the audio file-- so much so that you can view each individual sample of the file (typically 44,100 per second). The drawing tool allows you to edit each of these samples, which will appear as anchor points on the file. This can be a tedious process, but possibly useful when trying to edit out a spurious noise like a click.
The zoom tool simply zooms the view in or out of the track. To zoom out, right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) on the track. You can also click the vertical ruler at the front of the track to zoom in vertically on the track. Where you click on the ruler will determine what part of the track it will zoom in.
The time shift tool is used to move segments of audio within a track. In order to split a track, you must first use the selection tool, then choose Split from the edit menu (new versions of Audacity only).
The multi-tool in Audacity can either be one of the most useful, or one of the most confusing tools in the program. Essentially the tool is a combination of the selection, envelope and time shift tools, and its functionality is determined by what part of the track you click, and the motions used to drag portions of the track.