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Is there a way for me to be able to enable sound in one program (say, VLC) and at the same time disable sound in another program (say, chrome).

I am not using these programs in particular. The question is in general.

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If you click on the sound icon in the top bar (at least in 12.04) and go to Sound Settings->Applications, then you can adjust the sound for each application individually. You can see in the screenshot that I have two programs open at the same time. The top one is Firefox playing a Youtube video and I was able to mute it separately.

screenshot of sound settings

A downside of this method is that not all applications appear there. As far as I know, it's only for those which use ALSA. Just give it a try, it works fine for me with some programs.

Hope this helps.

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