Love for Dorico, but really hard to switch after all these years

Hi all,

I’m new to the forum, and have been trial-ing Dorico for a few weeks. What a fantastic program! I particularly appreciate that it allows me to preset so many of my own preferences into the way it handles placement of dynamics, text, articulations, etc. The automatic placement of items saves so much time in the “engraving” editing process.

The only problem is, I am SO used to Finale that I just can’t make the jump. There are many things about Finale that I really cannot stand, but the efficiency of note entry (primarily via speedy entry with a MIDI keyboard) is significantly better than anything I could achieve with Dorico without LOTS of practice (though I recognize others might prefer Dorico’s method). And, unfortunately, I don’t have the time to break from composing and other work to devote to relearning all the keystrokes, etc., not to mention the rhythm-and-accidental-and-dot-before-entry method.

I looked at some old posts about the possibility of an update with a speedy-entry style option, and I really hope this is in the works.

If memory serves, many years ago, when Word Perfect and Microsoft Word were competing for new users, one of them (I think it was Word) added a feature to use the keyboard shortcuts for the other program. I would SO MUCH like to see something like this in Dorico for those of us who have been using Finale since . . . well, for WAY too long. If I could jump in and enter notes with the same shortcuts as speedy entry, at least to get started, I would make the change to Dorico right away.

Just my thoughts. I very much appreciate the time and care with which the Steinberg folks have designed Dorico. And I would appreciate hearing input from folks who have made the jump and are working well, and efficiently, in Dorico. How did you do it?


I‘m a long time Finale user (more than 20 years) and have now switched to Dorico.
In the first few days I missed Finale’s method of inputting notes. But the learning curve was so steep that I got much faster with Dorico’s note input only after some days of practice.

Yesterday I had to do some editing on a Finale document and I always missed the simple way of Dorico to do these things.

So I encourage you to give it a try and practice the Dorico way some more days. I’m sure you will love the note input too.


I understand your dilemma, Justin!

What has always worked for me is to wait until my work slows a bit and then just dive right in to the new program with a project that I’m really invested in completing but not on a deadline.

Almost 10 years ago I got so fed up with longstanding bugs in Finale (which I had used since version 1.0) and MakeMusic’s “we don’t care about users” attitude that I bought Sibelius and, challenging myself to learn it, used it to write an orchestra piece (not on a tight deadline). While writing that piece, I realized that, compared to Finale, Sibelius just got out of my way and let me write music. Daniel’s strong public user support made me appreciate it even more.

Then avaricious Avid bought Sibelius, the development and support team departed and licensing switched to the subscription model. Several times, while on deadline, Sibelius now has said it wasn’t licensed and I have had to call and spend at least 30 minutes on the phone with someone in order to get it working again.

I am in the process now of exporting all my Finale and Sibelius works to MusicXML and gradually bringing them into Dorico. A month ago I decided that I would use Dorico for all new works and for all revisions to older pieces.

Onward and upward with the notation software!



There are a few things that Dorico cannot do at the moment, such as pitch before the rhythm, for note input. But as far as other shortcuts, in Dorico, you have the choice to create your own/change the current ones.

If you prefer many of Finale’s shortcuts, and want to keep with that method for ease of use, feel free to customize the shortcuts to what you are used to from Finale.

If you search the forum for changing shortcuts, you will see ways to do that.


I got up to speed by putting notes in against a metronome.

Thanks, all, for these comments. They are helpful. I will try reprogramming some of the keyboard shortcuts. For the note input, I am trying to work up the courage to spend the time and try to learn the “new” process. I did try once to do that with Sibelius, and gave up. But I think Dorico is that much better such that it’s worth the effort. I’ll probably have to buy the full version so that I have enough time to work on it!


I started by changing shortcuts to Finale ones. After a couple of weeks I decided to revert. Dorico doesn’t work like Finale so marrying up the shortcuts ends up being half-arsed. I’ve added a few extras…


Isn’t it true that almost any software - let alone something as complex and rich as a music notation package - will inevitably take time to learn? And seem unfamiliar at first?

But for speedy note entry (although it took me a few sessions at first… I was a long time Sibelius user), you can’t beat this:

  1. select the location (= bar) where you want to begin Input with two varieties of single keystroke (RETURN or SHIFT-N) or by double-clicking
  2. then populate your first bar by starting with a single keypress (‘A’ to ‘G’) to assign pitch to that first new note
  3. use several other single keypresses of ‘R’ to repeat the note
  4. return to the first note in that bar - either with the mouse or cursor keys - to change its value with another single keypress (e.g. ‘5’ (‘4’, ‘3’, ‘2’… etc) to halve the default crotchet/quarter note; or ‘7’, ‘8’, ‘9’ to double its length, as desired
  5. then reproduce these (length-changed) notes again with ‘R’
  6. repeat step 2 for each note whose pitch needs to be changed.

And that’s after a 5 (Yes, five) click setup of a score from scratch (under a dozen if you then set Time Signature and add bars).

From nought to sixty mph in - say - 20 easy-to-remember keypresses!

Mark, what are you describing here? I don’t understand, is this fast note input in Finale? To me it seems quite complicated going back and forth all the time :thinking:

How quick and simple it is to enter just one bar of notes in Dorico. Not the only - or necessarily the most obvious - way. But it works for me. Enter ‘default’ notes then adjust them quickly and simply. At the QWERTY keyboard… not MIDI or step input. Keypresses can be easy :slight_smile:

mmh, my procedure is different.
Most if the time I use a midi keyboard.
But when I am without then my procedure would be:

  1. I hit Enter (to get the caret active)
  2. I choose the note value (6,5,4…)
  3. I type in the note name (A,B,C…)
    if neccesary
  4. I correct the octave with ALT-CMD(ctrl)-ARROW
    next note: if same note value
    3a) just type new note name
    next note: if different note value
    2a) choose new value (6,5,4…)

Aren’t these less keystrokes?
I use R too, if it is the same note and same note value

Hi Justin,

I found Dorico really hard at the start - for some reason I thought that having mastered one notation program (Sibelius) to the point where I could work quickly with it, it would be easy to do so with a second program. It wasn’t the case. For the first few weeks I found myself sighing regularly, thinking that it couldn’t possibly be this difficult. In reality, what I was really doing was skimming over the surface of the program, trying to find a way into it.

In the end, I decided one weekend to transcribe a difficult piece of music - multiple instruments and voices, lots of articulations, text, lyrics etc and just stick at it until I’d finished. It did the job, By the time I was getting to the end of it, I was already way faster than I’d been at the start. I’m now pretty much writing at the same speed with Dorico as I am with Sibelius. There’s still a lot I’ve yet to get to grips with, but IMVHO that’s true of all high-end, feature-rich programs.

You talk about “making the jump”. I used to think in exactly those terms but don’t any longer. For me, it’s a gradual process, not an on/off switch. I still use Sibelius because it does a few things Dorico doesn’t do as yet, but I look forward to the day when I don’t have to.

One thing I did do was change Dorico’s note length keys, and the basic articulations, to mirror Sibelius. While I’m still working with two programs I’ll keep it that way.

ETA: I learned a lot (and still learn) from watching Anthony Hughes’s videos on You Tube. They’re invaluable.

I notice that I have barely opened Dorico in recent months. Every now and then I posted here and on FB that I was certain that I would eventually switch, but I now wonder if that will actually happen.

From the release (I was a buyer on day one), Dorico and I are not friends and I have wondered for a very long time why. There are so many fantastic things in the program and yet I do not feel at ease with it.

Dorico ‘thinks’ differently than I do. By some quotes from Daniel I began to understand that Dorico may not suit me on a very fundamental level.

The quotes from Daniel:

“The fundamental problem is that insert mode currently operates only on the current voice, and items like time signatures do not belong to a single voice but rather to a more global context (even time signatures that are specific to a single staff do not belong only to a single voice)”.

“Dorico does not have a concept of a “system selection”.

“I think the confusion is caused by the fact that Dorico cannot straightforwardly “add bars”, because Dorico doesn’t think in bars”.

When I tell other people about my composition work, but I like to refer to building with lego blocks. During composing I design blocks that I am constantly rearranging, replacing, extending, shortening, etc. In itself, that comparison is not that special. I know more composers who talk about lego.

A block can consist of a few notes, a measure, a few measures, a complete system or even a long passage.

If I understand Daniel correctly, Dorico does not ‘think’ in this kind of blocks. I also think that this is also the reason why when copying or insterting stuff. things are going wrong so often (with, for example, wrong time signatures and lengths of measures). The way Dorico ‘thinks’ seems to be conflicting with the way I work.

I spend a lot of time with Dorico in the first year. There are many, many wonderfull things and there are some details I don’t like that much (but he, it’s brand new software, give them some time) but because of this – for my work – basic elements, I still can compose much, much more fluently in Sibelius……

Hi, Douwe.
This might be the case, as it could be in every other aspects of life. One loves going by train, another one might need (or want) to use his car in order to get to his/her workplace. One needs software to create perfect sheet music and doesn’t care too much about playback, another one wants to create a great audio experience and is happy about not-so-perfect sheet music as a side product. What works for the one might not work for the other - as long as nobody wants to (or can) change the way they do stuff, to put it in the most general terms.
And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to insult anybody, as my first weeks with Dorico were not what you might call an easy route into a friendship. Coming from Finale, I had to deal with a whole lot of sources for frustration initially.

If your mental model of your music is not compatible with the way Dorico “thinks” about music, it might well be that you will be happy with other tools that fulfill your needs.

One thing I found interesting in your last post though was this, to give food for thought: On the one hand you criticise Dorico to not “think in bars”. On the other hand you describe your own musical blocks as “a few notes, a measure, a few measures, a complete system or even a long passage.” Reading this, at least that’s how I understand it: You don’t think in bars either. :wink:

Thanks for your reply ! It’s never my intent to criticize Dorico. Just trying to explain why I didn’t fully switch so far. I engraved some piano-stuff with Dorico and I really enjoy doing so. It’s the composing component that is troubling me…

Hang in there jjm_335. It’s well worth it.

Personally, I find composing easier in Dorico. Manipulating what I write, re-beaming, moving it around, altering values, reorganising meter etc … is so fluid to me. Composing represents only 25% of what I do with Dorico, the rest is arranging and orchestrating, but even that remaining 75% benefits from the sophistication of the program.

I’m in the midst of our yearly Choir Kids project which generally consists of 40’ish children’s choir numbers that I orchestrate for small orchestra (1111 0100 strings at 22111). This is split into two concerts and with each concert written in one file with 20’ish flows. Last year was 37 numbers, this year was supposed to be 43, but thankfully, a couple of schools desisted and so I have 39 to write, out of which I have now completed 29. Because of flows, the project was a bit easier and faster to do with Dorico than Sibelius last year, especially when it came time to produce the books. This year, with filters now being available, it’s a LOT faster than in any scoring program available! I’m flying through the stuff. Even something as simple as moving notes with alt-arrow, or adding those pesky extra eighth notes tied across the bar using shift-alt-right is a huge time saver. I cannot, absolutely cannot imagine going back, ever; and yet Sibelius is fast.

But fluency does require practice, and even though I bang this Dorico drum with great enthusiasm, fluency did not come overnight for me. Now, it’s natural; I think in Dorico’s terms. It’s worth the time investment. But it’s best not to bring any preconceptions to the initial contact with Dorico; you have to start with a very fresh mind.

Douwe, it strikes me that your blocks could easily be organised as flows, freely arranged without affecting the others, and then when you’re done, you could copy and paste all the flows into one flow…

Reading about all of these different ways of interacting with Dorico (and other notation programs) is so interesting. It suddenly occurs to me that perhaps one solution for me, in order to make the adjustment less frustrating at first, might be to use Finale to enter the basic notes and rhythms, and then export an XML to Dorico for the articulations, dynamics, text, etc. In truth, what I like MOST about Dorico so far is that it actually puts these elements on the score where I want them INSTANTANEOUSLY. What I absolutely HATE about Finale is that EVERYTHING has to be manually adjusted after input (I know many of you Sibelius users have less of this issue to deal with). I know that XML transfer can sometimes cause problems, but for basic pitches I can’t imagine there would be too many issues.

I also like the idea that Dorico separates meter signatures from note input. However, I rarely use a notation program for composing in that way. I generally have those things pretty clearly decided on paper before I get to the computer. Thus, I don’t mind dealing with the old-school approach of creating meter signatures as I enter.

Anyone try this XML approach? I wonder if there are major pitfalls that I’m not considering.

I also suspect that if I were to approach it like this, I would adjust to all elements of Dorico except for the note entry a little at a time. Once I have that down, I could tackle note entry. This could do the trick!

I only have limited experience of XML import into Dorico, but it has been painless when I’ve done it from Finale, picking up far more than I expect. If it is just time signatures and notes it will be perfect. Dorico’s popovers are the best thing for me, along with robust lyric entry.

JJM, if note input is your major problem (as it was for me), please take my advice: Take the time to learn it in Dorico. I know it is very frustrating at the beginning, when “5” is not a quarter note but an eighth note. And the “duration and everything else before duration” is another pit of snakes when you come from Finale.
But let me asure you: You will learn that VERY quickly! After some day you will not think about “is it 5 or 4 or 6 for a quarter?” ever again, and the ways to manipulate a note you have just put it are great! (Want a half note tied to an eighth? Put in a half note, press Shift+Alt+Right. It’s different than Finale, but not harder.)

In fact, for my firs composition in Dorico I did the very thing you describe: I did the first conceptual draft in Finale (because input was faster for me), and then did the whole thing in Dorico, learning my way around the software. I wouldn’t go back to Finale again now.