As Ardour evolves, it becomes a serious alternative to commercial products for more and more people. We see the download counts increase for each new release, and the volume of traffic on the mailing lists is growing. That's lovely, of course. We work on Ardour without the accoutrements of a "normal" software corporation, so whenever a new user finds our work useful and worthwile, it makes what we do seem meaningful and worth continuing with.
Unfortunately, it's not all roses we receive. With wider public interest and more users, there's bound to be people who are disappointed in Ardour. We believe, however, that it's only because most newcomers do not realize what to expect - hopefully this text will set that right.
The Development Team
Many users probably don't realize it, but the development team driving Ardour forward is very small for the amazingly complex piece of software that is a contemporary DAW.
At this time, the main force behind Ardour is delivered by one person, with core aid from two others, and contributions from on the order of a dozen others. Consider that we do support, web site maintenance, documentation, feature enhancements, debugging, as well as development.
There's more people (perhaps another dozen) pitching in with translation, release engineering (preparing Ardour for users), Mantis triaging ("Mantis" is the bug database used to keep track of known problems, "triaging" the process of prioritizing/verifying bugs) and other necessary tasks.
So we're always looking for new people to help. And while (unfortunately) a common misconception is that a project like Ardour would only benefit from more programmers, it is not the case! Whatever your ability, we'll be able to use it. If you are interested in spending a little time making Ardour a better DAW, please don't hesitate to join the developer mailing list and offer your services.
Ardour Features and Polish
As Ardour is getting more powerful and usable, we attract more and more users who expect the same feature set and product polish as they'll find in a commercial product such as DigiDesign's ProTools or Steinberg's Nuendo. This isn't the right way to think about Ardour at this time.
Not that we don't want to get there, you understand, but it's simply not a reasonable comparison. DigiDesign has spent who knows how many man-hours worth of development on ProTools and can spend a lot on getting good documentation written, new features, debugging, installation process made smooth and generally polish the thing till it shines. In comparison, Ardour development is driven primarily by the interests of just a few people. Development is a full time job for the lead developer, who also raises a three kids, fixes up his house, has friends and even a relationship with a gorgeous woman.
Do not read that as an excuse for why Ardour lacks in comparison with other products. Do read it as an explanation for why you should expect nothing more from Ardour than it actually delivers. And rest assured that the developers want and expect it to rival, or better yet, best the proprietary DAWs. That's why we're so committed to this development model - because we believe it's the best way to get there.
Ardour releases are also put together by volunteers. This means that there's usually only prebuilt binaries available for a few select platforms. While we would like to see Ardour prebuilts for all the platforms (and operating system versions) Ardour runs on, it's simply not possible since the volunteers doing the release only have access to a subset of those platforms.
Specifically about library dependencies: depending on the volunteer's machine configuration, the Ardour binary may require you to install additional or newer libraries before it will work. If so, the installation instructions should contain the necessary information for you to find those libraries. Please do not complain about the need for these libraries - just as you might dislike installing/upgrading the libraries, the volunteer doing the release may dislike removing/downgrading the libraries on her machine.
If you find that there are no prebuilt binaries for your platform/configuration, and are willing to help provide prebuilts for coming releases, please join the developer mailing list and offer your services. It is not a requirement that you are a programmer, but there may be a requirement for (commercial) development tools which not everyone would have access to. If you have the time and tools, we can probably guide you through the process, even if you don't have the knowledge.
You can join both the user and developer mailing lists and ask questions there. You can also ask for help on IRC (at freenode.net, on #ardour), and you can file bug reports and feature requests in Mantis. However, since support is also provided on a volunteer basis, you must be careful not to have unreasonable expectations: you cannot demand your questions to be answered or bugs to be fixed. In short: the people volunteering time to Ardour only have so much time available, and they alone decide how to spend it. Please respect their choice.
When that is said, you should know that the mailing list and the IRC channel are friendly places - few requests go without reply. And we also do our best to fix all bugs reported, just as we strive to implement requested features. But as should be evident from the number of open bugs in Mantis, there's not enough hours in the day to allow us to address all issues in a timely manner.