Dorico for textbook preparation

I’ve been asked informally about a potential workflow using Dorico to input material for an orchestration textbook.

There are approximately 350 examples, ranging from single-staff two-bar snippets to more extended full orchestra excerpts taking a page or two. The instrument list is also very long, to account for various combinations (including instruments of multiple transpositions and even particella staves).

My first thought was to consider a separate Flow for each of the examples, but I am unsure about the following issues (just what I’ve thought of so far):

  • how to deal with a file of 350 flows? From experience, this will quickly make Dorico very slow
  • how to prevent subsequently added instruments appearing in the prior flows, where they are not needed?
  • how to prevent instrument numbering from Setup migrating to Engrave Mode?

Perhaps there are easy solutions for issues such as these, or maybe a better workflow? I would appreciate any thoughts and ideas on how to potentially approach a project such as this.

If there’s a better answer than Dorico for the time being, I’d appreciate that perspective too, so I can go back with as objective input as possible.

Thank you.

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I would do it as 350 Dorico files, not flows.


I have done several educational texts in Dorico, and I sort of take a middle ground: depending on the project, I might do one project per chapter, with perhaps 20 or 30 flows.

It reduces the number of files I have to deal with, but the number of flows doesn’t get out of hand. And a chapter is sort of a natural way to divide those up.

It also makes it easier to make Layout or Engraving changes across multiple examples at once if needed.

I typically take a lot of time initially to make life as simple as possible: setting a staff size that doesn’t require resizing, having consistent margins and distances of elements outside the staff, etc. On the default master page, I add a token at the top for the flow title, which I usually populate with the example number in the text.

I also like to create text frames on the master page as sort of guidelines when I create new graphic slices, so my padding above and below is always consistent.

Oh, and I spend a lot of time setting up custom paragraph styles so my typefaces are consistent.


You can certainly group example together into multi-flow projects – perhaps one per chapter?

Slices makes creating illustrations for a book very straightforward. I don’t think any other notation app would yield greater advantages.

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So, I just asked and there are 10 chapters, which makes for the average of 35 examples per chapter. The idea of 10 projects files with 35 flows sounds a lot more reasonable.

@dan_kreider Thank you so much for this amount of detail in your response! Makes perfect sense and much appreciated.

I’m still not sure what to do with instrument numbering between flows. Apparently, there is an alto flute in G in one example and then alto flute in F in the very next one. I just tried quickly and can’t figure out a way to remove the instrument numbering.

Since it is hard to know the extent of text and requirements in OP’s textbook your method might be a reasonable way. I was thinking of an index, list of tables, list of figures, automatic numbering of figures, tables, examples, automatic cross-references, citations, bibliography, glossary, and all other things that go with an automated process of generating a professional and “dynamic” textbook. Dorico was, is, and never will be intended for this (nor should it I think). I’m editing a textbook myself and the complexity of it requires much more “book tools” than Dorico can offer (or should I say; what would be a reasonable effort to make in Doric. Everything can be done in Dorico manually, it’s more a matter of how much work to put in and what can be automated by other software).
If OP can be more specific we might be able to give better, more precise, advice.

I just happened to be present during the conversation and was asked informally how a Dorico user would go about a project such as this. My understanding right now is that the examples will be inserted as slices and/or layouts exported as graphics, depending on size and complexity. So far, there hasn’t been any mention of the index table of the examples (thank you for making this point, by the way!).

And to be clear, I would only use Dorico for graphic slices. I would absolutely not do a book entirely in it. Not the right tool for the job. That’s InDesign or similar.


Yes, you should get a detailed specification from your client before starting a book project and selecting the appropriate tools. Let them “ask for the moon” and then see what can be done within budget. Perhaps they want an index of cited composers as well. There are many things that could enhance a textbook more than just “plain text and notes”. There is no question Dorico is a fantastic notation program, but it might not be a great book program, depending on the requirements of the book.

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