Help working with text styles

I’m new to Dorico. I’m working on a musical theatre production with a fair amount of stage direction and dialogue noted into the score. I’ve defined text styles for each.

I need help speeding up my workflow when entering dialogue. Currently, I click the staff in the spot where I want to place the dialogue, press ‘shift-x’ to invoke the text popover. Then click the style box in the upper left and choose either ‘Dialogue - big’ or ‘Dialogue - small’ in the drop-down menu before I enter my text. Each line of dialogue requires the same process.

Is there a way I can speed this up? At the very least, it would be helpful if the popover retained my last style selected, but it always returns to the default, so I have to reach for my mouse and navigate through a drop-down menu for each new line of dialogue I enter. I can get the job done, but I’d love to have a faster entry method.

Alternately, I thought about the ‘lyric popover’ to facilitate dialogue, but as far as I can see, there is no way to assign lyrics to a rest, enter ‘a space’, or create a carriage return for a second or third line.

Anybody out there handling dialogue in a better way than the way that I’ve described? Any faster workflow tips? Thanks in advance.

Additionally, I’d like to place all my dialogue text ‘below the staff’ to match the placement of my lyrics, but I couldn’t find a way to globally define this behavior in my custom paragraph style. Any help accomplishing this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Also, as for the ‘stage direction’ system text style, it would ideal if I could define which layouts this text is to appear on, and where in the score this should be placed. Only the vocalists need this text in the parts, and I don’t need it at the top the full score like the rest of the system text. I’d prefer to place this text above the top staff of my vocal section in the score only.

Paragraph Styles appear in the “Create Text” menu item, in the Write menu. You can assign shortcuts to particular styles, (in the same way that Shift X is Default style).

Thanks, although I’m not seeing a way to set up a key command for my custom text style. i.e. I don’t see my custom text style listed in the key command/text drop down list. Are you saying that your custom text styles appear in this assignable key commands list? I’m new to Dorico so perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place. " I’m looking in KeyCommands/Text/" Thanks.

You’ll find “Create Text” under Note Input, curiously. You should also be able to type the name of your Para Style into the search field.

I also have a problem with collisions and my custom text styles. Is there a way to set the padding of a custom text style? I couldn’t find a setting to set padding and avoid collisions. I.e. I’d like Dorico to adjust how many systems displayed on a page, as to not collide things on the page – provide some white space above and below my ‘stage direction’ and ‘dialogue’ text so they don’t overlap with music. I could begin adjusting all of these systems in Engrave mode, but the music is still being arranged and these texts will no doubt change throughout the rehearsal process. I just want a legible rehearsal score throughout the arranging and rehearsal process. Any suggestions? Auto-vertical spacing would really help.
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Bill, I agree that this is not the preferred behavior for staff text. This was discussed a couple months ago, and I think I remember Daniel saying that they had not intended rehearsal marks or staff text to be included in margin collision avoidance, because they wanted the top staff of every frame to be equidistant from the top of the page.

I would certainly also prefer to have at least the option to include these in collision avoidance, because my rehearsal marks regularly collide with the top of the music frame. For now, your best bet is to move them in engrave mode, or in page setup, increase the music frame margins.

For what it’s worth, I typically only run into this issue if the rehearsal mark or staff text is attached to the first system of a music frame. If it’s in the middle, Dorico spaces the other staves correctly to avoid collision, in my experience. It does indeed adjust systems automatically. You could also increase the Ideal Gap values in Vertical Spacing, or the system spacing.

Thanks Dan. Yes, the collision at the head of the first page is consistent. Maybe I can set all my first flow pages with an accommodating music frame? I’m so new to Dorico that I haven’t figured out how to do this yet.

The rest of these texts, if not colliding, are positioned so close to the surrounding content that it would be great to force some padding around them as a default. It seems staff and system text have been designed to accommodate a single line of text vertically. If two or three lines high (i.e. a paragraph) is desired, the padding around these is reduced to a handful of pixels at best. Perhaps a compromise could be reached for generally legibility. I can manually adjust these for now, but in the future it would be huge time saver to have a better looking score and parts right out of the gate – specifically for musical theatre type work. These are specific timed events so they must to be attached to the bars – system and staff texts are the only available options for that as far as I can tell.

Quite easily, yes. Double click on the first master page to edit it. Then grab the top of the music frame and drag it down a bit. Copy layout from left to right, apply, close.

  1. Yes you can input lyrics at any rhythmic position within a bar.
    Lyrics are not necessarily bounded to a note but to a rhythmic position.
    BTW I find this a really great feature!

  2. Yes you can enter a space and create multi syllable lyrics:
    Press Shift-Alt-Space to enter multiple words on a single note.

  3. You cannot create a carriage return but you can use lyric line number:
    Press Down Arrow to change the lyric line number.

  4. Additionally you can easily assign an italic style to any lyric in the properties panel.

I use these functions to write dialogs in my musical scores.

I wonder, idly, whether adding an empty line with a single space at the top and bottom of your text items would be a low-tech way of providing some ersatz padding.

Related Threads:

This is fantastic. I had no idea this could be done. Thank you! This might be a better solution for my dialogue. I rarely need more than two lines.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

Brilliant. Thank you all.

IIRC you can assign key commands to custom paragraph styles if you first save them as default.


I’m aware this is an old thread, but it’s the closest I’ve found to my current issue.

  • I have created a custom Paragraph Style (called Section Name).
  • I can create this via the Write > Create System Text menu item
  • I cannot create a keyboard shortcut for this style (via Preferences > Key Commands > Note Input > Create System Text) as it does not appear here.

@andgle - I went back and hit the ‘Save as Default’ star with my custom style selected in the Paragraph Styles dialoguem but this hasn’t seemed to help. Do you remember if you were actually able to achieve this?

There’s a known glitch in the Paragraph Styles dialog. If you don’t change anything in the Paragraph Style, Dorico won’t realise there’s anything to save so the Star button won’t work correctly. You need to flick some switches on and off until the paragraph style shows an asterisk by its name (in the left panel). Then click the star.

You may need to go in and out of the dialog a couple of times in order to make the paragraph style wrong, then save, then go back in and make it right (but with an asterisk).

Once it’s correctly saved as default it’ll show up in Preferences > Key Commands.


Something rang in the back of my mind when I typed ‘I went back’, having read of another issue that only occured when a required property was added retrospectively.


I just created a new Paragraph Style (simply called Section this time) and hit the ‘Save as Default’ star before hitting OK to close the dialogue.

NOW - I can see this Style in the Key Commands area and setup a shortcut for it.

However if I go back to Save as Default on a custom style after closing the Paragraph Style dialogue, this doesn’t seem to work for some reason.

Thank you for helping me to this conclusion two years on, @andgle!

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Just saw this after typing my folllow up post. This is great info - thanks for letting me know what the issue actually is.

It does seem strange to me that one should have to choose ‘Save As Default’ in order to be able to assign a Key Command to a Style though. Am I missing something there?

If you adjust a paragraph style (or tonality system, or engraving option or…) then unless you hit Save As Default it only applies to that one project. Key Commands are global - they don’t care what project you have open. If you could assign a shortcut to any custom paragraph style without saving the paragraph style as default, you’d be irked if your keyboard shortcut didn’t work in a different project, or if the key commands dialog wouldn’t let you assign that key combination to some other function in a different project.