I have worked my way through all the YouTube videos for Dorico 4 and through Daniel’s blog post - and it’s clear that a mountain of impressive work has gone into Dorico 4.
My favourite feature - at this stage only on the basis of what the YouTube videos reveal - is the Library manager and Library menu - what a brilliant way to ensure that the enormous power of Dorico doesn’t end up becoming a weakness instead of a strength. And the MIDI import stuff looks like it will greatly improve workflow for people who work in DAWs. I also thought that the interface changes to Insert mode and the stop feature are excellent features - each of these three features show that much thought is going into the user and how to best help them.
I confess though that whilst the introductory concepts section of the Dorico 4 manual has been revised I believe it falls far short of what will most help a new user become attuned to Dorico.
Here for example are the first paragraphs - they are focused on other apps - they don’t get to the key concepts which must be understood to begin to work with Dorico:
“Deep design considerations are required to create a notation software like Dorico, which might be of particular interest to users familiar with scoring applications. Dorico has a forward-thinking design that is led by musical concepts rather than computational convenience, and this provides many benefits.
In most other graphically-orientated scoring applications, the highest-level concept is the staff or the instrument definition that creates a staff or staves. When setting up your full score in such programs, you start by adding the correct number of staves, and you are immediately forced into making decisions about the layout. This means that you must know in advance whether two flutes share a staff or have their own individual staves, or whether there should be two trumpets or three. Many of these decisions have significant effects throughout the process of inputting, editing, and producing individual instrumental parts.
Typically, every system of a score must contain the same number of staves, even if some are hidden on particular systems. This requires the user to manage common conventions for themselves, such as multiple players of the same instrument sharing staves. This can be time- consuming and is naturally error-prone”.
This is far too much content before getting to how Dorico works. But even when the manual turns to Dorico’s key concepts it contains too much content which should not exist in a pithy introduction.
I believe that an introduction that helped new users could be something like this:
“Because Dorico works in significantly different ways to other popular music notation apps on the market you may find reading this section is helpful in ensuring you become quickly attuned to the way Dorico works.
The key concepts which you must understand in order to work with Dorico are:
Modes - Dorico is a feature rich program. In order to ensure that Dorico present only the tools that will be helpful at each stage of completing a project Dorico has five modes which the user must move between - each mode’s name giving insight into the kinds of tasks that are done in that mode - Setup, Write, Engrave, Play and Print. While learning Dorico it will be helpful to ask yourself which of these modes best describes what it is that you are seeking to do.
Projects - a project is everything that a user can do within a single Dorico file. It could be anything from a single music class worksheet, a pop song or an entire symphony or even a musical. Whether or not to create one or more projects in completing your task should become clearer as you read about more key Dorico concepts below.
Layouts - Typical score programs have in the past provided a single full score and a single part for each instrument or player. Dorico allows the same musical content to be displayed on any number of layouts - all the layouts existing in a single Dorico file. Each layout has whichever instruments the user desires and has individualised formatting.
Flows - Flows are individual silos in which musical content exists. Music only ever exists inside a single flow. However the one flow’s content can be displayed on any number of layouts. A layout consists of one or more flows - one by default but you can add additional flows. Why would this be necessary or helpful? Because:
- flows enable bar numbering to restart at 1 or any other number
- flows enable titles on pages to have their own specific content and style
All other formatting is linked to layouts not individual flows.
Flows are therefore similar in what they achieve to sections in a word processing document. With these things in mind here therefore are reasons why one might choose to enter music into more than one flow:
- when creating a work with multiple movements, sections, or musical numbers.
- when wanting different parts of the same movement, section or number to be formatted with different title content or title style.
Players - Typical music notation apps think only in terms of instruments - it is up to the user to group two or more instruments which must be played by a single player on both the score and the player’s part. All the work of merging the content of all the Player’s instruments must be done by the user. Dorico instead adds the concept of Players and allows one or more instruments to be allocated to a Player - that information is all that is necessary for Dorico to knows how to automatically create a part for the Player which merges the content from all the Player’s instruments and even adds instrument change indications. Right from the beginning in Setup mode it is players that you will be adding - unless you need a player to have more than one instrument allocated to them.
Views - Dorico has two views - Page view - which shows the chosen layout’s flows on pages - and Galley view which shows all of a layout’s flows in a single stream from left to right. If a Player plays more than one Instrument the individual instruments staves are hidden in page view - merged into one - but in Galley view it’s possible to see the individual instrument staves.
Instruments - There are a large range of Instruments that a user might wish to write for. Dorico provides a very large catalogue of instruments (instruments are even divided by their key such as Trumpet in Bb or Trumpet in C) which only need to be chosen for Dorico to handle instrument labels, clefs and notation styles appropriate for the instrument.
I can’t see why an introductory section needs much more content than this. The detail should be in the body of the manual not the introduction.
If my posting this on the day of version 4 seems very unsubtle I point out that it was more subtle when I made these suggestions eighteen months ago.
The work of creating, adding to, and maintaining the enormous Dorico manuals is huge - and requires a range of skills which may not all exist in one person (this is no doubt true of how the rest of Dorico’s team contributes). I am just persisting in my hope that you will more effectively lead new users.
PS If I have misdescribed something above I am sure that Lillie will know - but if you really have to chime in to correct me because what I write is harmful in its current form then I guess you had better do so.