FL Studio just never slows down. The latest free update offers new MIDI scripting features opening up more hands-on controller support – and new powers to make your own music videos, among other add-ons.

FL is funny, in that it just does so much. There are tiny little toys that wind up proving to be really useful. There’s the mind-blowing moment when you realize everything is a sampler – like the arrangement. (Dude. Whoa.) And even having shed the “Fruity Loops” name and showing fancy studio pictures in its marketing, it’s clear FL just doesn’t care about being taken seriously. There are parts of this program that are indeed downright whimsical – but that belies its strengths as one of the most flexible tools for arrangement, mixing (including routing between channels), and sample manipulation on the market.

And then they just keep adding more. Lifetime free updates should mean less updates – so argue the advocates of subscriptions. But FL adds regular improvements.

20.7 is another huge update. It lets you script with MIDI controllers using Python – in the program, with debugging, so basically what we wish Ableton Live had done all along but still doesn’t. (Cough, ahem.)

And there are powerful note envelopes in the Patcher, FL’s recent graphical tool.

ZGameEditor packs powerful visualization tools inside the DAW, via a built-in 3D game engine. I want to make a reference to the Buggles here. Something kind of stupid but still witty. But I can’t think of what it is. So just imagine that happening.

Oh plus the crazy ZGameEditor Visualizer, which is an entire game engine stuck inside the DAW, just got a major overhaul. Drag and drop stuff in and you can make your own music videos. It’s up to you whether you use this for lameness or awesomeness; it’s clearly capable of both. (There’s a contest on now, so please go win it and then PayPal me some beers, if you will. CDM, represent. I’m not a judge, alas.)

Plus, finally, plug-in latency compensation applies to automation. FL has been a rock-solid plug-in host for me (on Windows, at least; I haven’t tried the Mac version). But this is one major shortcoming resolved.

The big feature here is clearly MIDI Scripting. This means you can skip the mouse interface entirely and focus on hardware workflows.

There’s already some action around scripting on the forum. I’m watching in particular for Arturia and Novation hardware support – maybe even doing some myself.

Full list of what’s new:


Other highlights: more color management (though I’d still like to see some skin options which weirdly exist only in the cracked versions), MIDI file import directly to FLEX, some new delay modes in the awesome Distructor (mono and wide), and the new ‘Basic 808 with limiter’ template though you should really make your own template, folks. Plus you can pass files with the mobile version through the cloud now – nice.

And it really does open faster in the latest update. FL was no slouch on startup even before, though a couple of other DAWs I won’t mention do give me a lovely chance to stretch my legs and get a cup of tea. FL barely gives you enough time to spill the tea on your lap.

The old visualizer was already powerful; I’ll try to give the new one a go.

Look, FL is weird. It doesn’t work like other DAWs – although sometimes that’s because the way it works is faster, even if not immediately obvious. But put in the time, and it offers some extraordinary power and blazing-fast, solid performance – and it’s one of the best deals in music software. It might be weirdness you grow to love.


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