Casting off question/suggestion

This is an exercise I entered today, and this is Dorico’s default output.

While this isn’t “bad”, it is certainly not as good as Dorico handles other types of spacings. And I know Dorico has a lot of the right “thoughts” on how things should be…

So I was wondering is there a way to just simply “recalculate” where things should be to tighten up this spacing a little more in the first 2 lines? And if not… how about the idea of a “recalculate” function. One that is 100% user invoked, and never done on its own. One that can be selected for a selection of music (not necessarily the entire flow), and the user hits this “recalculate” function, and in places such as the example above, Dorico would be able to recognize that there is room to move stuff into the first 2 lines.

It’s been a while since I have used Finale, but if memory serves me correctly… years ago there used to be a function along the lines of “Update Note Spacing” and after your music was entered, you could invoke this function and Finale would do it’s best to respace things.


Robby. that’s interesting, particularly because it’s NOT what I get with my defaults! Can you post the file so we can see paper size, rastral size, indent of first system etc.? Then I’ll post mine for comparison.
Strikes me that at least one of us probably isn’t working with factory settings, intentionally or not.

edit: I’m getting figures of 92.3%, 95.8% and 100% with my defaults, and it puts 8 measures on the first system, 9 on the second and 3 on the third.

Give me some time, and I’ll post it…

But to give a heads up… I am in the US, and using US Letter size (8.5" x 11"). First indent of 8 spaces I believe.


Here is the flow in question.


Not a true zip file, just added the extension.

Flow 21 (269 KB)

I’m sitting in front of Netflix right now (typing on a mobile device) but I’ll post mine for comparison once I’m back behind the computer.

I think the problem with this particular score is that you can’t fit it all on two lines without one of the lines being more than 100% stocked. I don’t think a recalculate function would help, unless invoking it somehow gave permission for Dorico to overstock the staves - and of course there’s already a method of doing that. Otherwise, invoking recalculate wouldn’t get Dorico to recognise that there is room to move stuff into the first 2 lines - it would carry on recognising that that there isn’t.

I seem to remember Sibelius has a setting somewhere for setting how overstocked a stave is allowed to get before things start spilling over.

Default behavior is never going to work in all contexts. I’d say the profession is safe from computers, at least for a few more years.

Does turning on justification change the casting off? Because Dorico probably tries (correctly) to balance the staves; since the third staff, ragged, is at 100% and set with the actual note spacing, the algorithm proceeds to balance out the first two lines — not the other way around. No?

I haven’t messed with it beyond the default Dorico has done. I’ll play around with it more later. Just in seeing this happen as a default made me think that “maybe” a suggestion would be to have a way to tell Dorico (after everything is said and done) to recalculate spacing to rectify errors like this. I agree 100% that the computer will never truly remove engravers from the process. But if something can make our lives a little easier, then I think it might be worth looking into.

Just to be clear, I am not wanting this (at this moment in time) in to be 2 lines. My comment about a recalculate tool was more that Dorico would see that the first and second line was 66% (or so), with the last one being 100% (or so), then balance it out to where it was 90%, 90%, and maybe 1 measure or 2 (for a total of 100%). To have 66% or so, in 2 lines is a little wasteful.

Just a thought I had,

Robby, what exactly do you expect Dorico to do when “recalculating”, and why do you feel that this process would yield different results than what Dorico came up with in the first place?

Dorico is calculating how to render your music all the time, so as long as you don’t change the parameters Dorico works with, be it musical content or engraving options, Dorico will come up with the same result.

Maybe my comment in jest distracted from my point. The last line was at 100% because, since the line wasn’t supposed to be justified, Dorico set it with the actual note spacing — as in, the actual, say, 4 spaces between each quarter note, and not 4 scaled by x as it interacts with the width of system it is in. Dorico handily shows us the actual number of spaces taken up and available, and you can see it’s all balanced. When justified, that system will round out to 65%, just like the others, for a perfectly even division of 65-65-65. Preferring tight spacing with a huge rag is very much a choice (and one that alludes to context at that, to make matters worse), and choices can’t really be processed with a button saying Recalculate, especially not when you have the tools to do it. Besides, as Estigy said, Dorico is always recalculating; perhaps something as simple as forcing the first line to take up more music would immediately correct the casting off to what you want.

Sorry it’s taken me a little while to come back to this.

From what I can tell, the (Layout options) things that weren’t factory defaults at Robby’s end were:

  1. Note Spacing > Only justify final system in flow when more than - set to 75% rather than the default 50%
  2. Staves and Systems > Staff labels on first system & Staff labels on subsequent systems - both set to None
  3. Staves and Systems > Indent first system of flow by - set to 8 spaces

His paper size is Letter.

I tried a few things, and basically all I’ve found is that Dorico tends to do better with more of this music than 20 bars. For example, when I repeated this music twice (so three times in total, 60 bars), using Robby’s settings and paper size, it spaced it over 7 systems. The first 4 systems had note spacing fullness (filling?) percentages between 94.5% and 97.6% but the last three systems were under 67.5% full.

Three screenshotted different versions here and the other two will come in another post.

And the other two screenshots

OK, a lot to digest here…

@Estigy: My thought (or understanding) when it comes to casting off is that Dorico does some calculations as it’s working to achieve the best desired result. But there is a circular problem here, as explained by Daniel a few times here on the message board. Dorico doesn’t know the number notes till the notes are entered. Therefore it is constantly making guesses at to what it should be. With this information, I thought that when all of the music has been input, maybe a function to have Dorico re-examine what it has done to see if it could do a better job might be a useful tool. And what I would expect from this tool, would be that in my example given above, Dorico could determine 64% on one line could be moved closer to 90% by moving these bars to the first line and by moving these bars, the second line could be at 90% as well. And perform the function. At this point, Dorico knows all of the information and might make a better calculation regarding spacing.

@LSalgueiro: I see what you are saying now… All 3 lines are around the 60% mark if the last system was fully justified. I agree that I have the tools to do this myself. It would just be nicer if Dorico had a way of helping me out more.

@PianoLeo: I appreciate you taking the time to play around with this some. It’s interesting that you say setting that are not “factory defaults” because the lack of staff names and indent space was the only thing I changed. I have not interacted with final system justification at all. And now I am wondering about how that change occurred. It also makes me wonder what is going on “behind the scenes” when Dorico achieves the 90% range of spacing when there are more bars of music, versus the 60% range when Dorico has less bars of music.

Off to work… I appreciate everyone’s responses.


Hi, Robby.

I have the feeling that what you want, though totally understandable, might not be what other users expect. If Dorico pulled 2 bars more into the first line, and two more bars into the second line, one might end up with the last line only consisting of 4 bars.

I really like the fact that Dorico automatically shortens the last system - something that has to be done manually in Finale. While this looks great for longer music, your 3 line example shows its weaknesses. If you input two more lines, it might not look as bad. And if your last line was maybe just 5mm longer, it would exceed the “percentage of last line filled in order to stretch it to full width” value, which would result in 3 full width lines.

It seems fairly obvious that the heuristic engine is biased (correctly, imo) towards balance. With few bars, of course 65-65-65 makes the most sense. Only with more music you can make fully-filled (>85%) systems the statistical trend.

All good points.

@Estigy: That is also an interesting point… one that I have not yet considered. In “recalculating” there might be a trade off of sorts, providing other layouts that some would find undesirable. That was sort of why, in my initial idea, you could select a range of music (not the whole thing) and have Dorico redo its spacing calculations. But I would guess, there might also be unintended consequences of that, of which I have not considered.

@LSalgueiro: That, too, is an interesting thought that I have not realized. You say obvious, which I might disagree a little, as I have never recognized nor thought about, is the bias towards balance. This idea actually makes a lot of sense. I would much rather have a balanced, spread out page layout, than to have really tightly packed bars with the last line rather sparse and spread out.


I follow this thread with much interest as also all the threads about vertical staff spacing and the “Casting off” function/philosophy.
And I do appreciate all these explanations trying to explain how Dorico is working.
But there is still something I do not understand at all:
isn’t there a point where Dorico stops guessing how much music is still coming?
If yes when is this point reached (beside of course when you explicitely use Frame Break or System Break)?
I do not see any function which says: “So Dorico, I am ready I will not add any more note, please calculate the best possible spacing and please do not try to guess any more if I eventually add some music later.”
Or is there such a hidden function?

With all the settings found in “Layout Options / Vertical Spacing / Ideal gaps” I almost always can achieve an acceptable result but it is always through blind trial and error and it is almost never exactly as I would like it!
And I find that though all the “Ideal Gaps” settings are clearly and comprehensibly labelled, how Dorico behaves in the end still stays a mystery to me and I find it very often does not seem to do what it is supposed to do according to the setting labelling.
The correlation between these settings and other Spacing settings are very intricated and not easy to deal with.

An interesting idea for sure, but as it stands now Dorico is doing its best with every single note you add to your score.

My thought on this is that currently Dorico is doing very well - given the premise that everything is being kept up-to-date at the same time. This needs of course some compromise between “getting the best result” and “get the result fast so the user doesn’t need to wait every time”. Of course you could seperate note input from rendering (Write Mode vs. Engrave Mode), but that would then take some extra “thinking time” every time you switch between modes.

I believe that spacing, both horizontal and vertical, is calculated every time, so there’s really no true way to “recalculate”. But the manual brakes are there exactly to influence its behavior. Often, adding a system break will cause Dorico to respace the music that comes before, because a better balance can be achieved. (In fact, I’ve caught Dorico respacing systems where there was no change in content, which was puzzling and a bit amusing.)

As for what teacue asks for, there is already something in place: locking a frame just automatically sets the appropriate frame and system breaks for the page as it stands. Locking a whole passage or indeed a whole piece will have that effect, more or less: it won’t do any good for the spacing because, as it stands, Dorico already thinks that’s the best spacing, and the logic underpinning any further adjustments are beyond the algorithm’s reach.

From the same file… here is another example of what Dorico did naturally.