Default layout not looking too great?

Hello! 10+ years Sibelius user here trying out Dorico, considering switching.
I expected the layout on Dorico to look great by default, without requiring much tinkering. But I’m having some issues such as collisions, condensing not working in many places… Am I doing something wrong, or is this the expected default

result in Dorico? image attached for reference.

For an introduction to page formatting techniques in Dorico, John Barron’s recent Discover Dorico session might be just the ticket for you —

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At first glance, I think it would be advisable to take a slightly smaller rastral size, there is simply not enough space on the page to accommodate all staves comfortably.
And the flutes don’t condense here because flute 1 is below flute 2. Was it supposed to be a piccolo? You may adjust the condensing behaviour to allow extended passages with voices crossed, but I wonder why you’d want to. Isn’t it better to switch them, assuming they’re intended to be 2 regular flutes?

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There are properties in Engrave mode to erase the background behind the dim.

Also, did you intend to hide all the bar rests? You can invoke the caret at the beginning and type Shift B ‘rest’ to restore them. Bonus points for using multi-staff caret.

But I agree that the staff size is too big for the page. You could reduce the top and bottom page margins for a bit more room, too.

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Thank you! I was wondering where those rests went. Shift+B ‘rest’ worked!
Is there a way to invoke caret in multiple staves that are not adjacent?

I’m arranging for a youth ensemble and 1st flute has a stronger lower register… I wish I could make the stem directions natural in this case, without necessarily forcing 1. to go up and 2nd to go down. Even when I allow crossing it’s a mess because of the stem directions. Is there a way to do that?

No, but there are ways to make staves adjacent for data entry and then reposition them later.

For example, adding another layout just for note input, to which you can flexibly assign whatever players you want to work on at a particular time.