Dorico vs Sibelius

The moderator may throw this out I don’t know!! … but… it’s currently Nov 2020 and the reviews I’ve seen are a little long in the tooth.

I’m a long long time Cubase user, but never used the score editor - and it still seems somewhat pants.

So I am also a long time Sibelius user. But having recntly bought a new laptop with Catalina - I find that I cannot run it due to 32bit authorization prog issues - and Avid are insisting on big bucks to get the newer one (which is pretty much the same anyway as Sib7).
And I really hate being forced onto subscription.
In some ways I want to dump them just on principle.

So I am seriously thinking of bailing and Dorico seems a reasonable option. There’s a competivie crossgarde thing which might help too.

So I am just asking Steinberg forum people, ie yourselves! can you respond with some useful comments that I can take on board in making this choice.
Things like dongles and 2 machine use (workstation and laptop ) are important as well of course.
Naturally I have an elicencer but not for the laptop which is USB3 anyway, so I can see some pain coming there straight away!!

Thanks in advance

On this forum you’ll get plenty of in-depth responses. But you’ll find they are going to be pretty consistently favorable to Dorico… strongly so. Most users here are refugees from Finale or Sibelius, and most are pretty solid fans. No software is perfect, but Dorico is head and shoulders above the competition in a number of important areas.

The number one piece of advice I can give is to NOT compare it to Sibelius when you actually begin using it. It’s quite different. You have to give yourself over completely to the design and philosophy of Dorico.

It would be helpful to know:

  1. What you primarily use notation software for
  2. What you dislike about Sibelius (besides the subscription model)

There are plenty of former (and some current) Sibelius users here, and I’m sure we can give you what you need without incurring the wrath of moderators.

Dorico’s workflow is quite different to Sibelius’s, but unless you’re someone that depends on some exotic Sibelius plugins there isn’t much that you can’t achieve in Dorico these days.

If you describe your Sibelius use - what a typical piece looks like, what genre, extent of any extended techniques, that’ll enable us to throw information your way that’s relevant to you.

(Written as Dan as was typing, and it seems we’re on the same wavelength.)

Hi Richford!
Welcome to the Dorico forum.
I’m not a Grand Master like pianoleo or a Grand Senior Member like Dan Kreider, I’m »just« a former Sib user who joined to Dorico – for some reasons. But I can tell you my point of view.

  1. I think here we all know about (dis)advantages of Sib. So, its important – like Dan Kreider said – not to compare Sib and Dorico as you could compare Microsoft Office and Open Office. Sib and Dorico both have different workflows. In the first moment it was a little complicated to get rid of the Sibelius workflows while starting to work with Dorico, but in the end the way Dorico is guiding you through your working process is so intuitive, elegant and elaborated, that IMHO it beats Sibelius on the long run. Dorico is much more »human« in its inner logic. So: look at some tutorials on Youtube, first steps, workflow in Dorico …
    But as mentioned above: You have to learn to work »with« Dorico – not against it! (keywords: popovers, master pages, tokens, …)

  2. This forum: you can ask everything – even the most stupid and boring questions (like me). You will get nice help – as fast as possible and as long as you struggle with your problems.

  3. Dorico is a young and fresh piece of software, no 30 years old software programming backpack. So Dorico started without considerations to the past. Its up to date programming. I think that on the long run this might be an advantage: algorithms, automatisms, …

  4. Dorico uses principles of DTP which makes it much more easy to create consistent, professional scores in a fast and precise way. So if you are familiar with Indesign or Illustrator, it might be no problem to understand the engraving workflow of Dorico.

  5. If you are working with Steinberg software you will feel familiar with the interface and the playback possibilities of Dorico.

Hope that helps a little.

Sibelius hasn’t changed much in the four years since Dorico was launched, but Dorico has changed a great deal. So old comparative reviews are not going to be very useful.

IMO the best option would be download the trial version of Dorico, jump in, and ask here if you get stuck.

As the other answers said, don’t assume Dorico works the same way as Sibelius, and trying to make it work the same way is likely to be frustrating (and unproductive). Check out the tutorial videos from Steinberg to learn the basics. The monthly “discover Dorico” videos (about an hour each) are a good showcase for more advanced Dorico usage for specific applications (e.g. customizing playback using sample libraries, writing for percussion, etc).

Just as a teaser, the question I answered just before this one is something you don’t have to “fake” in Dorico - which surprised the Sibelius user who asked the question :slight_smile:

FWIW Daniel Spreadbury has stopped publishing comparisons of Dorico and other software:

I think at this stage any more development diary instalments that call out deficiencies in other products might be considered bad form, or possibly even gloating.

Long time Finale and Sibelius user here… made there jump to Dorico the day it was released.

I refuse to use Sibelius for anything, and only open Finale when I need to get older files.

Dorico will handle probably 95% of standard music needs. Maybe even more. There are few area that still need some work, but overall, I do not think you will find a better, more comprehensive notation software package on the market that comes anywhere close to Dorico. Dorico is being built on a very sturdy foundation of music understanding, from the guys who built Sibelius… so the team has A LOT of experience. Plus, this forum is invaluable! So many dedicated users to help answer questions (Leo and Dan, just to name a few). Not to mention actual members of the development team who respond routinely to questions about the software.

I will echo what Rob said above, get the trial version and play around with it. Any questions, ask them here, or see the myriad of YouTube videos on the software. A piece of advice that I often give is to search for the May 2016 MOLA video where Daniel discusses Dorico. He spends about an hour and a half going over a lot of the “background” about how and why Dorico does what it does. Some of it might be out of date at the moment, but I think the description of why things are the way they are helped me to make an almost seamless transition.


To all this excellent advice from the experts, I’ll add: Resist, like the devil, any temptation to change shortcut keys etc. to make Dorico “more like Sibelius, because I’m used to that,” for AT LEAST a month. Rather, try to get used to the way Dorico works, the distinctive things about the way it understands music. There are sound reasons for all its choices, and understanding them will pay off.

Just as a footnote to RInaldo’s good advice, if you do customize the shortcuts, remember that the documentation and tutorial videos assume you are using the default shortcuts, and so do people answering questions here. So until you reach the point where you aren’t asking “beginner questions”, you might have created new options for confusion and frustration.

FWIW there have been a couple of threads in the last few days where people did this. In one case, they customized some shortcuts in Dorico 2 and inadvertently disabled some new features of Dorico 3, which by default would have used their customized key strokes. In the other case, somebody changed a shortcut “to be the same as Sibelius” (!!) and then forgot they had customized it, and were stuck because the shortcut in the Dorico documentation didn’t work!

As good as Dorico is, it goes without saying that switching software in the middle of a project (with a deadline) would be a mistake.

To Richford:

I was first a Finale user, then got so angry at it I had to quit using it. Switched to Sibelius in 1999 and was very happy with it. Also was very impressed with Daniel Spreadbuy there, and when he announced that he was going to help develop a new software for Steinberg, I made up my mind right then that I would buy it when it became available. This was before they even named it Dorico.

I did buy it the first year it was available and find it very easy and fun to use. And I love how open the entire development team is, mirroring the way Daniel operated at Sibelius.

I will repeat what the others have said. Don’t try to make Dorico emulate Sibelius. Pretend you have never used a notation software before and absorb the way Dorico does things. I can’t imagine you will be disappointed if you follow all the good advice you are getting in this thread.


Sibelius/Finale are dead ends, Dorico is the future. I mean that because it’s a simple fact that those two are based on very old architectures from the days before we knew how to architect a notation program. Not to mention all the other developments in software that have come along the last 30 years.

Basically architectures never change, the only thing you can do is throw them away and start fresh. Which is what the Avid management foolishly did when they fired the Dorico team, which gave Steinberg an opportunity for a coup. Their loss, our gain, but only if you come over to Dorico. So those applications will continue in maintenance mode as long as the money still comes in, while Dorico will continue to thrive, grow and add new amazing features.

Avid fired the Sibelius team, which Steinberg hired to create Dorico.

Just remember that Dorico is ‘second-chance’ software. The ways in which it is different from Sibelius are deliberate decisions by the people who worked on Sibelius, and had another chance to do it better.

I had exactly the same experience as L3B, even down to the year! I switched to Sibelius in 1999 and loved it, after years of frustration with Finale. Then, after learning the Sibelius team was working on a new program with Steinberg, I decided right then that I would switch. My first project was a piece I had already more or less finished, but I wanted to revise it - this seems like a good way to learn a new program, I think. Switching right in the middle of a project would have been tough. As a bonus, my piece was unmetered; Dorico’s handling of unmetered music blows away the competition.

To put it in one sentence:

Try it out and get happy!

Dan - noted and corrected thanks.

OP: Expect that you’ll have a month or two of moments of frustration and clarity alternating. Along with the architectural change in the software requires one in our brains, we need to think about music entry differently.

Speaking of architecture, it’s a dream come true in software development to get such a second chance. Question: ask any contractor/builder what they’d rather do, fix an old house or tear it down and build new? Answer: always build new, and the reason isn’t because it’s ‘more fun’ but because it’s easier than an extensive repair. This is worse in software because customer demands are such that you would ideally be able to continually rearchiteecture your system to meet new expectations and features. But management never (that I’ve seen) is willing to do that. So we’re all stuck with old crumbling architectures that we keep trying to shore up.

Must have been heady and exciting at the Dorico offices when they started.

Also a Sibelius refugee. I was lucky to have some time when I made the switch, and so spent some time learning Dorico simply by copying two somewhat complex scores (Ligeti Piano Etudes 1 and 5, IIRC. I posted them to the forum back then, so you can probably find them) to learn how the software works. It was a very helpful way of learning to think in Dorico rather than in Sib. And this was on version 1, about 4 years ago. If you can afford the time, don’t jump into a big important project, but play around with it to get a hang of the workflow.

An additional thought: try to let go, permanently, of the word “intuitive” as applied to software in advertising and so on. “Intuitive” is generally shorthand for “what I’m already used to.” Rather, give yourself that time we’ve all talked about, to get used to the philosophy behind Dorico and its interface. The way music is entered, and the way the program works, is in fact consistent, and therefore rememberable and understandable. And therefore, in time, comfortable and efficient.

I used Finale from 1994 to 2004, then Sibelius from 2004 to 2020.
Sibelius went AWOL on me last spring. Planning to start paying yearly subscription fee for the first time ever, I paid the $200 subscription fee and downloaded the latest version. I started operating it on a 30-day trial license.
About halfway along I started trying to contact Avid to ask when they were going to fix my license so Sib wouldn’t quit in two weeks and leave me with nothing. “Contacting Avid” is a nice phrase, but it connects to nothing in the real world. They have an anti-customer firewall of infinite thickness. There was no way to contact them that I could find.
Of course Avid never responded and never fixed the license. Five days before expiration I disputed the $200 credit card charge hoping to get Avid’s attention. It didn’t work, so the charge was reversed.

Having heard of Dorico several years earlier from the then Sibelius guru and master of support Bob Zawalich, I bought Dorico.

Dorico has a mighty learning curve and the most responsive tech support crew in existence. There are beginning tutorials on YouTube. There is a thorough, well-written and voluminous reference guide on line and printable. The support crew gets most of the action from me because I frequently don’t know that question to ask or where to look for the answer. All I can do is describe the problem. The support guys always have the answer–fast!

I have mostly absorbed Dorico’s modus operandi. It is very different from Finale or Sibelius. My admiration for Dorico’s design continues go grow. You have to be determined, trusting and repay them with the kindness they deserve. If you let them, the Dorico crew will earn your trust.

P.S.: I’m not holding my breath for this, but there needs to be a book or two about Dorico like the ones we used to buy after browsing the bookstores. I used to buy at least two different books. If one didn’t make things clear, the other one did. Dorico’s YouTube videos are good unless have a specific question on one of the arcane topics that fill Dorico’s world. I say hang in there and you will get the hang of it. A few times now I have been able to figure things out because Dorico’s underlying structure is consistent and predictable. Dorico is a masterpiece. Learning Dorico is not for sissies, but worth it.

There actually is a book, just released: “Getting Started with Dorico 3.5.”