Generally Difficult to Find Settings

This is more of a general cry for help. I’ve been using Dorico for a few years now, and overall I love it and would never use anything else. It does the absolute best job of any music software I’ve used, and overall it is really well thought-out and has most of the features I need. And it keeps improving.

That said, lately I’ve been finding it very confusing to find the setting I need, and I’m basically hitting Google every 10 minutes… and this is with my experience and the new jump bar (which is mostly great). There are so many duplicate sections between all of the various Options screens, and I’m wondering if there’s a way for it to be more intuitive.

A great example: how to unindent the first system of the piece. Here’s how my discovery process went:

  • Nothing selected → J key → Jump Bar → Type Indent
    • Displayed options are mostly irrelevant: Split by Note Duration (Whole note (semibreve)), Split by Note Duration (Double whole note (breve)), String Indicators (Engraving Options), Split by Note Duration (Four-times whole note (longa)), Insert Mode (Note Input Options), Set Insert Scope (Global Adjustment Of Current Bar), Set Accidental (Illegal accidental)
  • Ctrl+Shift+E → Engraving Options
    • I can never predict whether a setting is going to be in Engraving Options or Layout Options or Notation Options. The logic here is lost on me. Both Engraving Options and Layout Options have a section for Staves; Notation Options doesn’t.
  • Ctrl+Shift+L → Layout Options
    • The option is here, but I didn’t see it (I was expecting a checkbox and not a text input field). Searching for the word indent in the search box in Layout Options brings up nothing, even though the option label is Indent first system of flow by 0 spaces.
  • Hit the Googles.

So part of this is just familiarity, but I’m wondering how other people are navigating the multiple Options screens, so many of them having duplicate sections, and the Jump Bar and Search not exactly great yet at finding the relevant settings.

Good examples:

  • Brackets and Braces are in both EO and LO.
  • Bar Numbers are in all three: EO, LO, and NO.
  • Accidentals, Barlines, Clefs, Condensing, Key Signatures, Percussion, and Rests are all in both EO and NO.
  • EO has Chord Diagrams and Chord Symbols. LO has Chord Symbols and Diagrams.
  • EO has Staves and System Dividers; LO has Staves and Systems.
  • EO and LO both have Time Signatures.

I appreciate that it can be difficult to find options in Dorico’s several dialogs, but we hope there is some method to our madness. Options that are project-wide and which cannot vary by layout or by flow are found in Engraving Options; options that are specific to a particular layout are found in Layout Options; and options that might need to change for musical reasons from flow to flow are found in Notation Options.

It would be good if it were possible to search not only in the page headings but also in the contents of all pages of the dialog via the categories search box in the top left corner of each options dialog, but for technical reasons this is awkward (though we hope to enable it in future).


I totally appreciate that… as a software developer myself, I do cringe whenever someone says “why don’t you just…” when the actual implementation is more complicated than it would seem to the lay observer. For that reason I can imagine the technical difficulties in getting search to work across all Options page contents. I do hope that it will be possible in the future, both from the search boxes and the jump bar.

Thanks for your explanation of the rhyme and reason of so many similar Options dialogs. I have looked through them all at some point, and usually it comes down to me thinking “I know I’ve seen this setting somewhere before,” but not being able to remember exactly where. With something as complex as music notation, organizing all the settings must be tough. Since within each Options dialog, all the subsections are flowed together onto one long page, it’s easy to scroll into another unrelated subsection and miss where you are. I wonder if the headings/subheadings in the right pane could have more contrast, and/or the left pane could highlight which subsection you’ve wandered into as you scroll around.

Anyway, I’ll try to think of the subtleties as you described them between all the dialogs. I often also forget that there’s the Preferences dialog, which is similar to the other 5 in Library, and sometimes I need something in there too.

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I can confirm that my search process is quite similar to @Peter_Romero’s. Every so often I find myself poking around all of Dorico’s option pages, only to in the end reach out for Google again.

As Peter said, the way from “I know I have seen this somewhere” and eventually finding the option can be quite long, mainly because the question “Is this an option that can be changed per flow?” is really no help as a starting point whatsoever to me. It’s the most unimportant differentiation for me personally, but the most important information when starting the quest.


I have the same issues not being able to find something I know I found just last week. It’s usually things I don’t need but once in the project.

I can’t help but think it would be better to put all options in one place rather than spread across 22 separate menu possibilities. (Yes, there are 22 menus that have options I might want to change).


Part of the challenge, and I found this early on, back in the Sibelius days, is that intuition varies from person to person, and it varies from different cultures. What is the first search word that comes to mind? Is it quarter note or quavers, or semi-something or another? I found the OP detailing his process of searching to be very informative - as was Daniel’s answer.

Dan Kreider wrote a beginner’s guide that sussed out how the settings were organized. I’ve lost track of my copy.