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Whilst many of us now interact with Csound through one of its many front-ends which provide us with an experience more akin the that of mainstream software, new-comers to Csound should bear in mind that there was a time when the only way running Csound was from the command line using the Csound command. In fact we must still run Csound in this way but front-ends do this for us usually via some toolbar button or widget. Many people still prefer to interact with Csound from a terminal window and feel this provides a more 'naked' and honest interfacing with the program. Very often these people come from the group of users who have been using Csound for many years, form the time before front-ends. It is still important for all users to be aware of how to run Csound from the terminal as it provides a useful backup if problems develop with a preferred front-end.

The Csound Command

The Csound command follows the format:

csound [performance_flags] [input_orc/sco/csd]

Executing 'csound' with no additional arguments will run the program but after a variety of configuration information is printed to the terminal we will be informed that we provided "insufficient arguments" for Csound to do anything useful. This action can still be valid for first testing if Csound is installed and configured for terminal use, for checking what version is installed and for finding out what performance flags are available without having to refer to the manual.

Performance flags are controls that can be used to define how Csound will run. All of these flags have defaults but we can make explicitly use flags and change these defaults to do useful things like controlling the amount of information that Csound displays for us while running, activating a MIDI device for input, or altering buffer sizes for fine tuning realtime audio performance. Even if you are using a front-end, command line flags can be manipulated in a familiar format usually in 'settings' or 'preferences' menu. Adding flags here will have the same effect as adding them as part of the Csound command. To learn more about Csound's command line flags it is best to start on the page in the reference manual where they are listed and described by category.

Command line flags can also be defined within the <CsOptions> </CsOptions> part of a .csd file and also in a file called .csoundrc which can be located in the Csound home program directory and/or in the current working directory. Having all these different options for where esentially the same information is stored might seem excessive but it is really just to allow flexibiliy in how users can make changes to how Csound runs, depending on the situation and in the most efficient way possible. This does however bring up one one issue in that if a particular command line flag has been set in two different places, how does Csound know which one to choose? There is an order of precedence that allows us to find out.

Beginning from its own defaults the first place Csound looks for additional flag options is in the .csoundrc file in Csound's home directory, the next is in a .csoundrc file in the current working directory (if it exists), the next is in the <CsOptions> of the .csd and finally the Csound command itself. Flags that are read later in this list will overwrite earlier ones. Where flags have been set within a front-end's options, these will normally overwrite any previous instructions for that flag as they form part of the Csound command. Often a front-end will incorporate a check-box for disabling its own inclusion of flag (without actually having to delete them from the dialogue window).

After the command line flags (if any) have been declared in the Csound command, we provide the name(s) of out input file(s) - originally this would have been the orchestra (.orc) and score (.sco) file but this arrangement has now all but been replaced by the more recently introduced .csd (unified orchestra and score) file. The facility to use a separate orchestra and score file remains however.

For example:

Csound -d -W -osoundoutput.wav inputfile.csd

will run Csound and render the input .csd 'inputfile.csd' as a wav file ('-W' flag) to the file 'soundoutput.wav' ('-o' flag). Additionally displays will be suppressed as dictated by the '-d' flag. The input .csd file will need to be in the current working directory as no full path has been provided. the output file will be written to the current working directory of SFDIR if specified.

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