First-time user struggles (coming from Finale)

I"d like to briefly weigh in on Dorico’s usability in the hopes this will help. I’m a longtime user of Sib and Fin who bought Dorico about 4 months ago. I think Dorico is a dramatic improvement in usability and flexibility over the other pro programs I’ve used.

There is a cost for this. Ease of use does not necessarily come with ease of learning. Dorico works very differently than Sib or Fin and Dorico can take quite a bit of time to learn. Once I did, I found that I can work so rapidly that most of the time, I don’t even think about the commands or the jump bar. It’s all in muscle memory and I can concentrate on writing music.

Fortunately, Dorico has an unparalleled collection of online tools, especially videos, that can answer most of the questions that I have.

There are issues, like every other program out there, but the Dorico team is remarkably responsive, as this thread demonstrates.

In short, if you are prepared to commit to truly learning the program — which will take time because it is very sophisticated — it is likely that the quirks will recede and feel completely natural. That is certainly the case here.


Not commenting on the video. But I’d like to challenge your view regarding discoverability vs. expert users. I think this is a false dichotomy.
As a software engineer, I see the same argument given e.g. for the vi editor. Its (interaction) model is zero discoverable and proponents of it say it is vastly superior to other editors for e.g. programming/coding work, if you are just willing to put the work in, to understand how it works (might be true, but it is still loosing against e.g. vscode where simple things like searching works as you expect) And there’s this subtle undertone that it needs to stay that way as any change to make it more “discoverable” would somehow make it less efficient for “pro” users.
I did previously a lot of reverse engineering, and one of the tools used there (IDA Pro) is a very complex and specialized software tool. Yet it is very discoverable - it got its interaction model nailed. And this doesn’t hurt pro users; I would describe reverse engineering a very specialized activity. And you don’t need to remember tons of (tool unique) commands as there’s a natural way to find them. A key difference is that the reverse engineering community tends to use more different tools and are less attached to a particular tool.
I like Dorico a lot, but this tribal mentality brings out the worst in this forum. And it seems weird to blame some video from years (?) ago that (especially new ) new users struggle with it consistently. Luckily the devs are more thoughtful.
I don’t think it’s inconceivable to have the superior representation and model of Dorico while having a more approacheable interaction model.
If you take Musescore - clearly inferior, but it seems to make enormous progress with version 4 - curious to try out the Beta that is supposedly coming out shortly. For someone who doesn’t use Dorico every day (and I have to admit, I forget key combinations quite quickly) it might be an competitive alternative.

I’m sorry but I have to comment here. I’ve used finale (not too much) Sibelius (for many years) and now Dorico. There is no comparison in how long it took me to learn Dorico compared to the other 2. Every time I switched software, most of the frustrations were caused by trying to force the new software to work like the old…

As has been discussed at great length, ‘intuitive’ is very subjective.

The ‘tribal’ attitude you bemoan is completely caused because very experienced engravers, all coming from one of the other major players in this field are blown away with the design and usability paradigms that Dorico has. People are saying it’s great, because it is! Every time I use it, I find myself smiling because some feature or other works so elegantly and simply and I can’t help myself thinking ‘glad I didn’t have to do that in Sibelius’

Anyhow, my 2c on the whole intuitive debate…



Dorico has its own ways of doing things, that’s true, and it’s also true that in various ways these are different to other software.

It’s also fair to say that whilst you’re settling into Dorico, there will be a learning curve and it will probably take a little while to feel comfortable getting around and doing the things you need to do independently. However, I hope that you are quickly able to recognise the patterns in Dorico’s approaches, the similarities, the transferrable skills/options (like how the key commands for lengthening/shortening notes and items work the same for all notes and all types of items that have duration, like pedal lines and gradual dynamics). Which you can then utilise to do exactly what you want to do, musically.

Ditto the incredibly comprehensive set of default options, spread across the “Big Five” options dialogs that mean you don’t have to repeat certain changes every time; instead, change the setting to what you want once, and reap the reward every time you subsequently input that item or do that thing. I wonder if one of the things you came up against was how Dorico automatically groups notes and beams according to meter? This can be changed at a per-flow level in Notation Options. The plus side of how Dorico internally treats notes means that if you, for example, change a 3/4 bar to 6/8, you’ll automatically get the correct breaking of beat boundaries, ensuring the meter is clear to your performers without you having to re-beam or re-notate crotchets and quavers.

Likewise imagine a scenario in an orchestral piece where the beat grouping in a 5/8 section is switching between 2+3 and 3+2 in an irregular pattern: in an alternative software, you might have to re-beam every bar on every staff; in Dorico, you input [2+3]/8 and [3+2]/8 time signatures for the corresponding bars, hide the time signatures as needed, and the beaming/note grouping is done for you across all staves.

(I could easily go on, but I’ll try not to as I appreciate that hearing gushing commentary whilst you’re struggling yourself isn’t always welcome. But hopefully it is at least helpful information for your use of Dorico going forwards.)

Please do elaborate a bit more on what you mean here: what’s not working for you, and what’s the context? What are you trying to achieve, and how is Dorico not making that possible or at least easy?


I was not commenting on what intuitive means or whether Dorico is the best at what it does (I think it really is). I think that making it more discoverable is not necessarily making it less useful for experienced users. There’s this implicit argument that inorder to be better, Dorico has to stay that way (necessary complexity) and new users just have to accept that - which I think is not necessarily true. This forum is extremely helpful and people are passionate and go the extra mile. But when it comes to this “intuitive” discussion (discussed to death), it gets unhealthily defensive (it no longer helps making Dorico better) and people seem to still be upset about that infamous video; as if that is the only reason new comers struggle (consistently). Dorico is a tool to help you realize your projects, not your religion or personality. Luckily the development team seems to see the bigger picture. Cheers

A few hints:

  1. While practically everything is customizable in Finale, many of the default settings are not good, the most famous being the slur tip setting at 0. So one should create a default document that incorporates all of one’s personal settings. There are several discussions of Finale settings at

  2. It is important to use keyboard commands as much as possible. Many can be created within Finale and are called “metatools”. Others can be created by using an outside program like Keyboard Maestro. And creating and arranging libraries of all the symbols and markings that one uses is also essential to efficient work. These libraries can be exported from and imported into any Finale file.

  3. Plugins are also quite important, particularly “Patterson Beams” which comes with Finale and which many users apply to every file, and JW Change which can be downloaded free.


Thanks, John. Probably best we have this chat elsewhere, but your input’s certainly appreciated (and I’d already pilfered your slur settings a while back).

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I doubt this is the case, but longer-term users realize the opportunity costs, given that the Dorico programming team is small and demands for new features is long. I’m sure the Team tries to make features and workflow as obvious as possible (given the philosophy expressed from the beginning) given the demands on their time.

To be fair with the Team, that infamous video has made clear that the start of a document was not easy and fast, and they responded with great upgrades to the hub.
Still, many “informations” stated on the video are completely false and misleading (the way to handle ties, dynamics, etc — I mean, the caret is not mentioned once, it’s totally dishonest), which is why I still think Martin has not produced a good, interesting, honest or simply medicre. But infamous.


I agree with you and they (the team) seem to have a sensible prioritization.
I wanted to point out in the comments above that making it more discoverable is not making a program less efficient for pro users, but there could be a synergy, pro-users can benefit as well when using less frequently used aspects of the program.

How would you make Dorico more “discoverable”?


Sometimes „complexity“ IS the feature. To enter notes, you must engage note input mode. To change things graphically, one must change to engrave mode. The feature is to prevent you from inadvertently creating mistakes, like changing notes or attachment points of elements (or deleting them even).
These things I find new users struggle the most with in the initial contact phase.

It’s already facilitated: double clicking somewhere engages note input by default.
But pro users see the benefit of this security above the benefit of discoveribilty in this Area.


That’s a bit of a low bar for “worst,” innit? I’ve seen no name-calling here, no invectives, no rants. If “I disagree because I’m really loyal” is the worst this forum has to offer, seems like a pretty great forum to me!

And I found your comment interesting, and food for thought. FWIW.


As does Finale, as I recall.

This “tribe” that you bemoan is same group fo users who provide excellent and free answers to innumerable posts. These same users will open up your projects, fix things, diagnose problems, etc. — and often faster than you can find the answer in the manual.

We should also mention that many a thread, just like this one, are started by people who come in ‘hot’ railing against something they clearly haven’t take the time to get to know. A bit like yelling at your partner on a first date when they don’t behave like your old partner of 10 years did. Nevertheless, this “tribe” almost always responds quite calmly, all things considered, and tends to only put up defenses after repeated barbs.

Nothing can be all things to all people. This is why there are thousands of different cars for sale from hundreds of vendors. We never suppose that Dorico is the best at literally everything. For some people, Dorico pro is not the answer. (But for most, once they get used to it, it IS a great option.)


I’ve split this discussion into a new topic.


Give Dorico a chance and you will never return back to Finale. This will be a gift you make to your musical life

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@Richard_Einhorn I happened to see your YouTube video on Glenn Gould’s 1981 Goldberg Variations. The visible music notation program on the computer screen in the background seemed somewhat familiar to me :wink:


Thanks, Juerg, for watching :slight_smile: