Dear Engravers... How do you deal with this in Dorico?

Dear Engravers, how do you prefer to deal with this?

When Dorico collides systems like this, do you prefer to fiddle with:

  • a) System ideal gaps (inter-system gap)
  • b) System minimum gaps
  • c) Manually in Engrave mode?

I’d love to know the preferred method.

The issue is that you have too much music on one page. I’d either:

  • change the staff size in order to fit the two systems in (if that’s a requirement), or
  • have one system per page and fiddle with the minimum gaps, or
  • if it’s just this page that is the issue, fiddle in Engrave mode

I would chose to either decrease the raster size or make it one system per page.

That said, if neither of those are desirable, look for collisions that are cause the spacing to spread and make adjustments in Engrave mode. And yes, do play around with gaps to see if any of them help.
Things to look at:

  • In the Violins in the 2nd system, there seems to be a p marking above and below. Seems only one is necessary, make sure they are identically placed so they condense properly.
  • End of the 1st system, in the Violas and Cellos, there is a div abutting a hairpin. Move something in engrave mode, so they don’t collide so much. In one case, the upstem is pushing the div up, another case an accent is pushing it up.
  • Tighten up the minimum vertical spacing on Dynamics. There is a setting in Engraving Options.

Just scanning the white space on the page, this is fixable without reducing rastral size, but it would take a lot to manual adjustment.

In my opinion, that’s where some of the skill (and fun) of engraving comes in. Dorico can get you most of the way there, but there’s no automatic solution for rolling up one’s sleeves and nudging, bumping, etc.

The biggest culprit here are the dynamics, which need to be tucked in this case.


Set the Layout to only place one system per frame.

1 Like

Work from the general to the particular.

First of all, I’d check the Vertical Justification settings in Layout Options. Remember that the “Ideal Gaps” are actually MINIMUM gaps. Dorico will expand those gaps to fill the page, but I don’t think it compresses them in this situation.

Ideally, I would only reduce the staff size if this was a recurring problem on several pages. You can change it for just one page, but it might be disturbing for the reader, if the variation is noticeable.

Look at the percentage fullness values in Engrave mode. These are very informative.

Then you can decide whether to add a Frame Break, or whether you’re going to manually adjust the staves.


It’s rather unusual to see four different woodwinds condensed onto one stave like that, ditto Violins I & II. I’d only do this for some kind of reduction or as a very last space-saving resort. Obviously I don’t know the context for this particular piece, but if you uncondense those staves, one system will fill the page quite neatly. You can also manually un-hide some empty staves, like the harp in the second system, both for padding and legibility.


I will add some advice to all the good things that were written before. I find the vertical spacing of dynamics to be quite large by default. I use 2 spaces for dynamics below staff and 1 space for those above. I also reduce the vertical spacing of gradual dynamics. This, added to smaller ideal gaps, will help.


You need to have hairpins 1/2 a space less than ‘letters’, to ensure that they align.

So, 3 and 2.5; or 2 and 1.5, etc.


Sorry guys, I should’ve been clearer, this was just a general example, not a specific one. In fact, I hadn’t even begun to work on this score yet. It’s just something I notice Dorico doing all the time. I tend to change orchestration often, so it’s typical that I have pages with several systems, some with one system using up all the pages, but occasionally I get these colliding ones.

I know the preferred method is to avoid making overrides and try to get the settings/options correctly (this makes life easier), so you have given me some great tips which I will try now!

Note: yes, I would never condense violins 1 and 2, WW only if they’re playing the same rhythm.

Remember we’re not in the 19th century anymore, paper is a lot cheaper nowadays. If the orchestration tends to change from system to system, aggressively hiding all empty staves will hinder legibility in a big way, as you’ll need to keep reading the labels instead of knowing where every instrument lives on the page. And even if the woodwinds are in perfect unison, you’d really want to see their parts in the clef and transposition that they are reading.