New to Ardour and to donation-based software, what should I know?

I found out about Ardour while searching wikipedia for music-software. I’m a young musician who has been recording seriously for about two years and I currently use Cubase SE as my recorder. I was looking to find information on what else was out there and I came across this site.

I was wondering two things specifically. If I were to use Ardour can I expect to use it (functionally) in the same fashion as Cubase? Namely can it record multiple Audio and Midi files which I can manipulate independently of eachother?

Also I was wondering how this donation-based software is organized and what is done with donations? What is a suggested donation? I would undoubtedly donate if I downloaded the program but I would want to first be sure it was something I can use. Can I download first and donate after I have a clearer understanding of how the software works/ what it is intended to accomplish?

I know these questions might have obvious answers but to be honest my studies so far in music have surrounded the instruments and I have only recently begun to learn about the world of production and engineering.

Help would be appreciated

@MesterMunk: ardour 2.X does not record/playback MIDI, so if that’s a part of your workflow and you want to try out Linux, you will need to look at other programs like QTractor and Rosegarden. Ardour is a hard disk recorder and audio sequencer. Its abilities with audio exceed those of the other two applications just mentioned (and are at least comparable if not “superior” to Cubase in this area), but perhaps its extra capabilities would not be necessary for you. A future release of Ardour (in progress as I write this) will do MIDI sequencing also.

Ardour is open source software. Anyone can get the software for no charge at any time. However, if you (a) want pre-built versions of the software (i.e not just source code) and more importantly (b) you want to see development of the program continue at a reasonable pace, then you will need to support it financially. How much? That’s entirely up to you. Reasonable rates will vary a lot depending on where you live, what your own income level is, and how much you use the software. The “Recent Donations” block over there on the right hand side of the page will give you some idea of a few recent donations. They typically range from US$1 to US$200.

If you are on OS X, you can download a prebuilt version without paying, but it will not save your plugin settings or give you access to plugin presets. If you pay at least US$1, you get the full version. On Linux, most distributions have a version (typically not the most current) of Ardour available for (cost-free) installation via their usual software management tools. On all platforms., the source code is available without charge, although you will have an opportunity to pay something if you choose to.

Thanks for the snappy response. That’s exactly what I needed to know.