Older files in new versions of Dorico

Are and will files created in older versions of Dorico always be openable without distortion in later versions of Dorico?

Currently, I think this is the case but who knows what the future will bring.

The only issue I know of presently is that 4.2 introduced some changes to lyrics which are very slight and can cause some respacing of older files (something having to do with lyric bounding boxes). The only time it’s an issue is for extremely tight scenarios like hymnals. For most projects, the change is impreceptible.


There could be some spacing issues, depending on how old. In the last point release of version 2 (I think) there was some spacing changes in regards to empty bars. The early days saw various tweaks to the layout engine which could also have small affects on spacing.

I’m not sure any program can promise complete 100% compatibility as new features are introduced, and older ones modified. Finale messed me up at least twice, once when they changed the MaestroWide font to Maestro Wide (fixable with a few clicks), and again when they changed the drawing order in Fin 2008 I think. That one was really annoying because I had been using an opaque expression to hide barlines in certain situations and that broke that workaround entirely. Chord symbols that collided with barlines had to be reinput as expressions which meant reproofing and PITA work with accidentals and custom expressions. I also used that to hide collisions with 2-bar repeats so I had to create a 2 as an expression as well as there often would be a collision with the barline otherwise.

I always make PDFs of everything though, so even if some future change does negatively affect the file, I at least have the PDF to fall back on in an emergency or if something just needs reprinting.

Another Finale historical tidbit

Finale 1.0 shipped with a font, Petrucci 71-point, which was the same size as Sonata 24-point (the “100%” staff size in scroll view). Apparently someone wanted to make the music font work both on the staff and in text. This was soon changed to Petrucci 24-point to match the standard. And of course subsequent versions of Finale had to detect this 71-point setting when opening old files and silently change it.

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Thanks for the information everyone. I asked because I am running into serious compatibility issues with older files in Finale 27 and how Dorico handles this might cause me to move ultimately to Dorico.

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As Fred says, I don’t think any software can guarantee that documents will be inviolate – improvements necessarily cause change.

Even Finale, which has arguably shackled itself to backwards compatibility, at the cost of progress, has been unable to guarantee ‘fidelity’ both with the recent Slur/artic changes, and the SMuFL transition.

Dorico has, at least, given due warning in the Version History when a change is likely to affect older documents.

I also concur that keeping a PDF ‘golden master’ is essential, which you can use for printing without recourse to the original app; and which you can use to compare against the document ‘in vivo’.


I have all my work in PDF form, but relying on a PDF would be the last resort. I must be able to open all previous files in a form that allows for corrections and updating. It is possible that in the future one may need to archive a computer or two that use older operating systems so that can open one’s previous work or may someone will devise a universal Rosetta program.

Dorico has a pretty good track record of backwards compatibility, I’d say. Take that for what it’s worth (not much).

I’ve had almost no issues opening older files. I did have a curious case, just yesterday, of a small file of a psalm setting becoming unstable and the “remove rests” command not working, so I did end up copying the raw material into a new file. I marveled at this little hiccup, however, because it was the first time I had ever really experienced any issues like this. The file hadn’t been opened since 1.2, though.

My positive experience is that I can open and work on any old file, since D1.

My minor negative experience is that some intervention is often required; mostly regarding formatting, but not only. With very big projects this may be heavy… An important advice is having a Pdf version of any project, to allow a precise comparison. Perhaps better than maintaining old versions of Dorico.

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Thanks, Ramanos and Alberto. There might be more formatting issues for me between the different versions of Dorico than in Finale, since I’ve never had problems of any kind before Finale 27.

I print from PDFs so having a PDF is never an issue. But I would never want to recreate any of these files from a PDF; they are too complex. I need tools that remain consistent with themselves as versions and operating systems change.

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I really don’t think you’ll find many issues, if any. I’ve found Dorico remarkably consistent. You’re getting the edge cases here.

I’d suggest that Finale has shown more instances than Dorico in the last 5 years; and what problems have arisen in Dorico are more easily fixed with (say) changing a global setting in Engraving Options.

I wasn’t suggesting you have to recreate the entire document visually from a PDF, but rather that you compare the ‘live’ project file to the PDF, and if anything has gone awry, you can make a few small adjustments to get it back on track. Again, this is ‘worst case’.


Is there an accepted way to lock the measure layout of an entire piece in Dorico, to prevent unwanted reflow? There is “lock frame” and “lock system” but these seem to be meant to be applied to localized areas of the score or parts. It would be nice to have the ability to “select all” and apply the command all at once.

I had the experience of using a custom font (Haydn) for an orchestral score and wanted to change the font to Bravura. The difference in the two fonts was enough to change the measure layout of the score and several parts. If the layouts could have been locked, the tiny spacing changes would have taken care of themselves. By the same token, any spacing changes brought about by future versions of Dorico would presumably be absorbed within a locked layout.

Yes, “Lock Layout” in Engrave mode, left panel.

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Thank you Dan. As I have Dorico 3.5, I assume this is new to version 4.

Ja sicher.

Thanks everyone for the comments. I think I have a pretty balanced picture now.