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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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In Ubuntu 20.10 you can do the following:

  1. Click the top right hand corner of the screen, where the battery, sound and wifi icons are located.

  2. Click on Settings

    Top Bar & Settings Menu

  3. When the Popup menu comes up, navigate down to the Sound tab on the left hand side of the the Settings menu.

    Settings Menu

  4. Looking under Volume Levels You can see a list of open windows and the main system sound. Feel free adjust them as you need.

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Try using PulseAudio Volume Control as an alternative solution

enter image description here

It also provides the options to filter between: Applications, All Streams and Virtual Streams

Installation: sudo apt install pulseaudio and sudo apt install pavucontrol for GUI

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