4 bars per system per selection

In the jazz world having 4 bars per system is quite common. I see in Layout Options, there is a way to do that. However, many times there are pickup measures with fewer beats that throws off the measures by one. Is there a way to select a section of a part and have Dorico make only that section into 4 bars per system?

You are almost there.
You already know how to make the casting off (4 bars per system) in Layout Options.

a) Put a System Break on the bar where you you want your “4 bars per system”-regime to start.

b) Then put a System Break at the start of the previous section (upbeats, etc) and enable “Wait for next System Break” in the Properties Panel.

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That worked. One slight problem. My staffs don’t line up right>

…because you have different rhythms in the different systems. I’d be more concerned with the squashed staff spacing if it were me.

Did you fiddle with the Staff Spacing?
In Engrave Mode, select the Staff Spacing Tool. Does your second staff show a red square? If so, click it and press Delete.
@Derrek is right about the vertical spacing, of course.

It’s possible I changed the staff spacing in the past.
However, since this has happened a lot, I’m curious if there is an easy way to change the staff spacing for all the staves on a page. For instance, I want all the staves to be 21mm apart. Right now, I’m changing each one individually and since there are about 8 staves, that means I have to change the spacing 7 times. It would be great to highlight all the staves, change it one time and then all the staves would line up. Is this possible?

Oof. This is a complex subject, and one that’s probably fairly well explained in the manual (start here: Per-layout vertical spacing options)

The short version is: don’t do it manually - it’s the slowest way by far (and when the casting off changes, as here, you have to remember to undo those now nonsensical adjustments, as @lumortensen has pointed out).

The longer version:

  • Every staff is a certain height (Layout Options > Page Setup > Staff size).
  • Stuff above and below staves (notes with ledger lines, text, dynamics etc.) adds additional height.
  • Layout Options > Vertical Spacing > Ideal Gaps has a value called Inter-system Gap - this is the minimum gap between systems (and on a part layout for a single-staff instrument, the gap between staves and the gap between systems is one and the same - this one!),

Assuming you don’t fix the casting off to a specific number of systems per page (Layout Options > Staves and Systems > Casting Off), Dorico adds all of these things together in order to calculate how many systems it can fit on each page. It then rounds down. Rather than leaving an unsightly gap at the bottom of each page, it splits the extra room that’s not quite big enough for another system, and it spreads it evenly down the page - this is controlled by Layout Options > Vertical Spacing > Vertical Justification.

The fastest method is to fiddle with the Inter-system gap in order that Dorico puts the number of systems on each page that you’re expecting, with roughly the gap that you’re expecting between each pair of systems. By default the gaps between systems will sometimes differ slightly, as Dorico’s taking into consideration the stuff above and below the staves as well as the staves themselves. You can turn off Layout Options > Vertical Spacing > Minimum Gaps > Automatically resolve collisions between adjacent staves and systems if your aim is identical gaps between systems throughout.

You can use Engrave > Staff Spacing > Copy Staff Spacing to copy the values from one page (manually-adjusted or not) to other pages (as long as they contain the same number of systems), but it won’t necessarily give you balance, which is what Dorico’s automatically aiming for.

This all depends on your settings for Vertical Spacing in Layout Options.
Judging from the number of posts on this subject on the forum, this may seem quite complicated. But you will find plenty of suggestions for solutions, and there are a number of instructive videos, especially this one: Staff & System Spacing | Discover Dorico Google Hangout - YouTube, which deals comprehensively with this issue.
Do remember, though, that moving staves manually should absolutely be your last resort, as staff changes are linked to the page (number) and NOT to the location in the music, meaning that if you later shift pages around, your edits will be lost.
We have been promised more control over this in a future version of Dorico.

@pianoleo beat me to it… And - as is usually the case - provided a much better explanation.

Actually it is worse than that: the edits will not be lost; instead they will be applied to situations where one doesn’t want them.