I started with Finale, but switched to Sibelius about a decade ago. The interface was much easier, and getting notes on a page was suddenly much faster. Things were slightly less broken. However, the menu system is horrid, and many decently common features are hidden behind impossible-to-find plugins. And while note entry is swift, formatting things to look good takes forever.
Now I’m getting into Dorico. So far, I love that the default settings create the most beautiful final product of any notation software I’ve used. Formatting with the separate Engrave tab makes so much sense, and style rules are wonderful to work with. And playback just works (in Finale or Sibelius, you basically have to map a “restart MIDI playback system” button to function). I am absolutely loving it.
However, I am always asking, what does everything do? There’s inherently a fairly steep learning curve in every piece of notation software. But at the very least, difficult software should have tooltips on every button. In Dorico, this is hopelessly inconsistent. The note input panel seems to have them on the main buttons, but not sub-menus (additionally, it isn’t immediately clear that a long-press opens these menus). The right-hand menu (with the palette, keyboard, clef, signatures, dynamics, etc.) doesn’t use them. Some of them are fairly obvious, but some aren’t. And do they have keyboard shortcuts? There’s no way to tell. It seems like this would require minimal effort to fix, and it would deliver a much friendlier user experience with no drawbacks that I can think of.
Another problem I keep encountering is ancient documentation that references the old location of random things, as well as tutorials that assume prior knowledge of shortcuts. It took me an amount of time that should be considered embarrassing to find “Engraving Options”, for example. A video would say “open Engraving Options to do such and such”, but the tutorial wouldn’t show how to get there. The dialog would magically appear in the video because the person recording used the keyboard shortcut. I looked in the documentation, and it said to look under the “Engrave menu”. Then I had to find out that the menu only shows up when you’re on the “Engrave” tab. Cool. So I look in the menu, but it isn’t there. Back to the documentation. Oh, the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl-Shift-E. Is that actually the only way to open it? You have to know the secret code? Nope. It’s just in the “Library” menu now (along with the other options dialogs). That’s possibly a better place for it (I don’t really care either way), but why not have it in both places? Would it really be too unwieldy? At the very least, the documentation should reflect the change.
I absolutely love the sheet music Dorico can create. Superior publication quality is my primary metric, and Dorico nails it. But it would require seemingly little work to elevate the user experience (especially for new users) beyond that of every competitor. I’m sure a huge portion of the customer base has, during their shopping process, seen Tantacrul’s video series where he eviscerates each notation platform. I have many of the same complaints about button selection (I still can’t figure out why selecting “Start Note Input” is so difficult to achieve, so I just spam the shortcut every time I begin) and hidden items (contextual menus that aren’t clear about being contextual, e.g.). These things may even make sense to every seasoned Dorico pro, but they’re needlessly obfuscated for everyone else.
Anyway, I am simply one user offering [hopefully] constructive criticism (and ranting a bit). I don’t know if Steinberg conducts new user focus groups, but I feel like that would be helpful. The price is already a big barrier to entry for aspiring composers (and the recent leap forward in excellence by Musescore makes justifying the price more difficult); great UX would offer an incredible competitive advantage in an increasingly saturated space. I want to be able to recommend it to my friends without reservation.