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There has been mentions of a “line / arrows” functionality but I’m doubtful they are going to bake in paint-esque functionality. Programs like affinity publisher or indesign are better suited for things like that. (I hope they prove me wrong.) Daniel often uses the phrase, “in the fullness of time” so I wouldn’t rule the possibility out, but total free-form so-called “graphical” notation shouldn’t be expected in D3.

MS Paint is a BITMAP editor. You can draw a line, but it doesn’t stay as a separate, editable object; but just coloured dots on a page. If you want to shorten the line, you have to rub out the area at one end, or paint over it.

What we want is a VECTOR editor that draws lines and shapes onto the score, and for those shapes to be adjustable, as with hairpins or any of the other notation elements.

I believe it’s certainly planned, as a lot of contemporary music uses lines and other shapes. But when it will come, who knows?

Indeed. Vectors are a must, but that’s pretty much a given anyway, which is why I didn’t make the distinction.

To the OP: the other thing I forgot to mention is that depending on your needs, you can create the shapes you’d like in another program and import them as SVG files and use the engraving boxes to import the image and place it. This is a bit cumbersome, however, depending on the scope of the project. But for a special thing here or there it is doable.

I’ve also exported a PDF and opened it in affinity publisher and added a vector line that way with success (although their rendering engine is still touchy so you have to make sure that it puts everything back in place the way Dorico did…)

The reason I wish vector graphics is added to Dorico, is that the type of graphics required by contemporary music is not just made of shapes. It is also made of diagrams representing time- and pitch-based events. Therefore, they change dynamically as any other music symbol.

Duration lines in Penderecki’s Threnody are proportional to the music duration. They become thicker with clusters expanding. They interact with cue-like parenthesized notes indicating the actual pitch. It’s not just a matter of adding a custom symbol, but of ‘drawing’ music in the score.

Adding graphics to an imported score (with InDesign or Affinity Publisher) is not very comfortable, since (a) you will not have playback linked to the diagrams, and (b) editing would mean going back to Dorico, and then importing and editing again in the publishing software. Maybe Letraset’s Instant Pictures would be quicker! :slight_smile:


Strictly speaking, vector graphics are already supported in image frames, you just have to import them rather than create them natively. You go to engrave mode and add image frames (pink) and add svg files.

If I interpret him correctly, this is not what Paolo is asking for.
Whether what he requests is possible (at least any time in the near future) I cannot say.

Derrek, you are correct. I’m just stating that if he wants to do the legwork, things can be imported. That said, it is a far cry from dynamically created shapes that can be freely moved around in write mode.

What he seems to be asking for is not just graphics, but graphics linked to playback. That’s a very different ballgame.

I’ll try to explain myself better. What I mean is not some sort of ornament to be added to traditional notation, but an alternative way of representing music. This has as a consequence that you have to do all the editing in Dorico itself.

Let me reuse an example I posted somewhere else. In this example you can see a first half note, to indicate the duration in a traditional, easily readable style. The note is dimmed, because it will not be in the final score. In reality, it takes the place of a point in a Bézier curve. Its position marks the beginning of the line representing duration. A line will appear in the score. It will end at the next event (in this case, the quarter note).

The same happens with the quarter note, that ends at the quarter rest. The thin line represents a single pitch. But its weight (density of the cluster) can be freely adjusted in the dedicated palette.

When the length or position of a note is changed, the point of the curve is moved accordingly. It is not an ornament attached to the note, but the note itself. A point on a curve would simply be an alternative notehead, with a peculiar behavior.

After the rest, you can see a single, virtual half note ending on a two-notes chord or cluster. The actual score will show a single-point expanding to two points. From there, the curve will extend for the full length of the two-note chord or cluster. The result will appear as a solid figure, meaning an expanding cluster.

After the second rest, you can see an example of connected lines, where notes are connected by a quick slide. All controlled by the dedicated palette, where you can enter slope and curvature.

The example shows all straight lines, but thanks to the nature of Bézier curves they could easily become rounded curves.

This would also need a way of leaving room for cue parenthesized notes showing the actual pitches before a line starts.


An addition to the above, to show how notes making a cluster could appear. I just used a sequence of quarter-note graces, with hidden stems. (Unfortunately, I was not able to use Note Spacing, in Engrave mode, to make the notes more compact horizontally; I have to understand way they didn’t move).

This could easily be made with the current grace function, provided it will be possible to put parentheses at the sides of a group of notes.


You’ll have to pardon my ignorance, but what’s the point of showing lines on a stave if this isn’t relative? Why notate a cluster as a square and then put all the notes you want in parentheses? Why not just write a cluster chord? I’m genuinely curious to learn about it.

I can’t help but also think of the over-complicated (imho) weird vertical [modern, not baroque] tab notation for organ that has been developed in Northern Europe. I just don’t see the point in it (although I realize this use case is entirely different to that method.)

From an engraver’s point of view, having this kind of notation is useful, because adopted by composers influenced by Penderecki, the Spectrals, or Lachenmann. I don’t know how many contemporary scores of this type are asked to an engraver, compared to the probably much wider literature of hymns, but it is not uncommon notation.

The grace notes before the cluster sign are needed for any cluster that is not panchromatic. You may have something like C, D, D#, F, F#, and it will still be notated with the square sign. Or you might use microtonal alterations, and have to show it in the clearest way.

The reason why this type of notation was first used, is because it is more elegant for stream-like parts. Instead of writing many tied whole notes, you show the full duration with a line. It is also much easier to see how the music is evolving. Ligeti didn’t use it (maybe because his music is marked by continual inner changes), and it worked perfectly fine. But others have preferred this type of notation.


Thank you for this explanation. As one not familiar with this style of music or notation, your description helps me understand the logic of this alternate notation and its usefulness in some situations.

Derrek, you are welcome!