Dorico should be better at avoiding collisions by default

I find Dorico hard to use for works that are actively being developed in rehearsals. Particularly when staff or system attached elements are involved, Dorico often creates unusable pages full of collisions. Not something I can give to the musicians. These are easily fixed in Engrave mode, but then the score becomes fragile. Edits to the music frequently disrupt the Engrave mode changes. When you have 200 pages of music, a dozen musicians, and edits that maybe occuring every few days, it starts to become unworkable.

IMO, Dorico should always produce usable music without having to enter Engrave mode. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it should be usable which it too often is not.


You can avoid Engrave mode most of the time if you take the preliminary steps to set up your layout and engraving options that include things like page size, space size, staff spacing, vertical spacing, margins.
Set these up and you’ll be able to get usable music without any engrave mode adjustments most of the time.

This First Steps guide is highly recommended.

I’ve tried, but it really doesn’t work. Staff and system attached elements do not seem to be considered when the systems are distributed and they cause a mess. Besides, I shouldn’t have to endlessly fiddle with layout options. The software should detect that the system and it’s associated elements are running off the page (or colliding with another system) and just move them.


In general, they DO move things around. Have you changed your text items to be “use default placement” rather than “avoid collisions”? Do you have a forced casting off that is preventing Dorico from allowing the space it would otherwise prefer to give?

I’d be happy to work through some examples with you, because my experience is exactly the opposite!

Nope, text is set to “avoid collisions” and I’m not forcing bars per system or systems per page.

Just to be clear, the staff/system elements don’t collide with each other on a system-by-system basis, they collide with the systems above or below, or they just simply run off the page.

And now that I’m staring at my score, there’s also an issue with lyrics running outside the right most bar line (though this isn’t a show stopper, just kind of amateurish looking).


I appreciate that, but these are all issues I’ve raised in the past and was told that there are numerous elements that are not taken into consideration during casting off. Not just certain staff/system text blocks, but also the range of notes that extend beyond the staff (I often have bass notes that end up outside the bottom of the music frame).


I was really frustrated by this at first. But if you do things “the Dorico way”, which is not well-defined or obvious, I assure you it works very well. Don’t try to get publication-quality layouts while you are still actively changing the arrangement. NEVER use staff breaks or frame breaks until you are ready to do the final layout. These should only happen in the final edits after the music and markings are all stable, otherwise you are just begging for trouble.

Take a good look at space size. In engrave mode, you can see red or green patches that show how full each system and each page is. If things are very full, try going up one level on space size. Your players probably won’t notice the difference, but it makes a huge difference on automatic layout. Also, look at the note placement options. Generally I find it better to allow notes closer than the default, and that can also make a big difference.

I agree with your comments about system-attached elements – ESPECIALLY REHEARSAL MARKS. Rehearsal marks make a real mess of things. I eventually found a combination of options for rehearsal mark appearance that didn’t mess up the automatic layout too much, but this is a big flaw with the current version of Dorico. System text and Reh marks need to have some flexibility to float a little in the automatic layout. One notices that tempo marks work fine, but system text is a mess. They should both work equally well.

If rehearsal marks continue to be a nemesis, just do without and instead add measure numbers under each bar. That is layout-safe.

Unfortunately I can’t avoid system breaks or frame breaks, since having practical page turns is important.

But I feel your comments just support my point. This should just happen automatically. I shouldn’t have to keep experimenting with spacing options, something which really can’t be done once you’re far into a project since it will respace the entire project.

Yes, rehearsal marks are my nemesis as well. I also have a lot of staff and system attached text for dialog cues (theater scores) which also cause havok.

If there’s a “Dorico way” to make all this happen without engraving interference, it’s lost on me. I’ve been using this product since the first version, have spent endless hours playing with spacing options (which often seem to do the opposite of what I expect). I just can’t find a way to avoid a lot of engrave mode edits.

Here’s another example. I find that the first system in a flow often crashes into the flow header. I can change the bottom of the flow header margin, but that is again, an engrave mode change. I could allow that margin change to propagate, but then again I often have to go back and change margins on susbsequent flows as each may have more (or much less) attached text that is colliding with the flow header. The software should be detecting these collisions and adjusting without my intervention.


I think you’ve misunderstood the original comment: it’s not to completely avoid using system/frame breaks. it’s to WAIT until the very last second to do so. Only once all of your information has been entered, once all the notes, dynamics, adjustments, etc…

THEN you use frame breaks and system breaks to complete the layout of your score/parts.

Well yes. I don’t go anywhere near the engraving settings until all the music is entered. Problem is, once it goes into rehearsals things change. Edits are made, engraving goes berserk, but I still have to deliver usable music to the musicians, which means redoing the engraving. If the music was more usable without engrave mode edits, this would be less of a problem.


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Yes. And do pay attention to how full the pages and systems are. If they are near full, Dorico makes a lot of poor choices. Dorico generally works very well until you get into the 90% full range. Just for fun, try a smaller space size (a larger number in the selection list.) If the layouts immediately look a lot more rational, then you are pushing the automatic layout too hard.

If you have very large text blocks, I don’t doubt things look pretty bad. I don’t think Dorico was designed to handle that, and it is probably rather ambiguous how one would want to handle the layout of big dialog blocks anyway.

It would be really helpful to post some examples. Everybody will be speculating otherwise.

Are you saying you are rewriting charts DURING the rehearsals and still trying to deliver clean revised layouts including good page turns DURING that same rehearsal? That seems like a lot to ask in real time.

If you are saying your post-rehearsal editing is difficult, I’d suggest you begin by doing “reset layout” on each of the parts to get rid of all those system and frame breaks.


Yes, doing rewrites during rehearsals is typical for a theater piece that is in development. At my last reading, in addition to numerous minor cuts, we added two new songs during the roughly two week rehearsal process.


Perhaps rehearsal edits/additions should be done in separate files (or flows at the end) and combined with the full score after the show is set and one has more time to rejigger formatting, much as theatrical productions have handled this issue since handwritten days.

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Maybe I don’t understand the challenges you face. I’ve done a lot of shows. There are frequently new cuts and safeties called throughout the rehearsal, but I never had anybody try to produce new parts for those things in real time. In some cases, the music director did produce updated parts handed out at the next rehearsal.

If you really have to produce new parts right then and there, I’d suggest foregoing any concerns about page turns during the early rehearsals until the show has stabilized. Leaving out the system breaks and frame breaks will get you a lot closer to readable charts when fast turnaround is the priority. The musicians can deal with rough page turns under those circumstances.


It’s not “on the spot”, but it’s often needed the next day.

But this is all rather besides the point. I do not feel that Dorico should be creating layouts, by default, that have collisions. I know from previous discussions about this issue that the elements on the staff, and how far they extend above and below the staff are not fully taken into account during casting off.

(System spacing and text)

Because of this, any adjustments to staff spacing on a global level that may fix a problem on one page is likely to cause problems on a different page.


I know it must be frustrating to have users respond with suggestions that all seem to ignore the points that you are making, so I apologise for the following, but the quote above caught my eye. May I ask what kind of material you are dealing with here? It is highly unusual to have notes going out of the frame more than occasionally. What values are your Music Frame Margins set to?

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It is typically only occasionally. Maybe a short piano passage where the bass is particularly low. I don’t have huge margins because I like to try and get as many systems on a page as will fit. The one case I just ran into an hour ago was particularly frustrating as the page itself was only about 70% full. Dorico should have seen that the note was running outside the frame and moved the system upward. There was plenty of room.


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Well, those margins exist for a reason. And while I cannot know whether this applies here, I do know that the impulse of “getting as many systems onto the page as will fit” may often cause users to shoot themselves in the foot by making tweaks to settings that come with unintended consequences.

I would still be interested in knowing your actual Music Frame Margin values (just to be sure: those are different from the conventional page margins). And I would encourage you to take advantage of the offer that at least one user in this thread has made to have them look over your files.

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