Dorico for iPad (comparison with Sibelius for Mobile?)

Just curious if anyone has tried both and can offer a comparison? I’m a former Sibelius User very much in the Dorico universe now but find it striking they both came out within days of each other so again just curious!

Did you see these?

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It’s striking how we and Avid have come at the proposition of producing an iPad app in ostensibly opposite directions.

The Sibelius app seems pretty clearly to be targeted only at existing Sibelius users, since it’s basically impossible to start and finish a project in the app, even if you pay $12.49 per month for the Ultimate tier.

Although you can have a score with as many staves as you like, you are limited in which instruments you can create and which notations you can create. The functionality of the app is almost completely hidden (if I were feeling less charitable, I would say “undiscoverable”), hiding 99% of it behind the new “Command Search” feature that was added to the desktop version earlier this year, so if you know what you’re looking for, you can find it by searching for it by name, but if you don’t, you will literally be unable to use the app.

You cannot view parts, you cannot view Panorama, you cannot tweak playback or indeed play with anything other than the included sounds. You cannot use an external MIDI keyboard. You have basic access to things like page and staff size, but otherwise basically no control over the appearance of your score. All of these things, and many more besides, require you to have Sibelius on the desktop.

Sibelius has nice support for native iOS features like multi-tasking, standard system gestures for cut/copy/paste etc., and it also supports the Apple Pencil. These are all good things! But the (apparently patent pending) note input method that involves using the hard press gesture with the Pencil and then tilting it left and right to change the note’s duration and up and down to change its accidental is really fiddly, time-consuming, and uncomfortable to do repeatedly.

If you already have an active Sibelius subscription, you can use the Sibelius app for iPad at no additional charge, and that’s really who will benefit from this app. Users who are not already in the Sibelius ecosystem will find themselves hamstrung by the limitations of the app and its impenetrable UI pretty much from the off, and they will also be confused by the asymmetry of the subscription offering: if you subscribe to Sibelius Ultimate, say, via Avid’s web store for $19.99 per month, you get access both to Sibelius on the desktop and on the iPad. But if you buy the in-app purchase subscription via the app for $12.49, you don’t get access to Sibelius on the desktop, so you’re left with a high monthly subscription fee and no ability to actually finish a project. Not a good user experience at all.

With Dorico for iPad, we’ve taken a very different approach. We want it to be possible for Dorico for iPad to be the only music notation software you use, and although we hope it is a useful companion for existing Dorico users on macOS and Windows, we also want to appeal to the millions of iPad users who are not already using music notation software on the desktop. We want to bring as much as possible of the Dorico experience and translate it to the iPad in such a way that it is recognisably Dorico while also taking advantage of the affordances of a touch-first device.

You can start and finish a project in Dorico for iPad, just as you can in Dorico Elements on the desktop. Pretty much every feature of Dorico on the desktop is included, and although by contrast with Sibelius there are a lot more controls on the screen, it’s much clearer to a new user where to start and what the app can do.

No doubt both apps will develop further in future – certainly we consider the initial version of Dorico for iPad to be only the starting point in the journey – but it appears as if the trajectories we are pursuing are quite different.


This jumped out to me when I watched Philip’s review; it is so pared down and everything is so hidden… it would drive me nuts. Having to press that + icon to add any element? Yeesh. No, thank you.

And let it be known: I really, really appreciate how the desktop and iPad interfaces are nearly identical. Everything is right where it’s supposed to be which makes picking up the iPad app substantially easier (and VV). It’s nice not having to learn a different system to do the same work. This will serve you well in both directions.


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Yeah seamless transition. The different interface is helping me learn Dorico better too, I’m finally remembering more shortcuts like number note durations (I have a Dorico keyboard on the desktop which makes it too easy to just look at the key caps). And an interesting effect which is because trundling the MIDI keyboard around is a bit of trouble, I’m finding myself just doing a lot with the computer keyboard, even note entry. It’s actually really quick, why not.

It is fascinating to see how different the two approaches are. I’ve spent a day trying both out and I do much prefer the Dorico app and the way it works so seamlessly with the Windows desktop software. It’s also an astonishing bargain.

Having moved away from Apple, apart from an iPad Mini, I would love to see an Android version one day though - it would work very nicely on my Samsung Galaxy S7, which happily runs Cubasis. In the meantime, I might just get a ‘cheap’ iPad to run Dorico.

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Not to hijack this thread as I throughly appreciate the comparison of these two newcomers to iOS…… but I also find it striking that Cubasis works fluently on Android. Somehow I have missed this fact. Probably because I don’t have an android device. Thanks for the heads up (or should I say - the wake up call?)

Daniel pointed out recently that it took 8 years before Cubase was ported over to android.