Tantacrul's Take on Dorico

He has done it again, this time about Dorico:


I was looking forward to this one for a while, but after watching it I am reminded of the days when Dorico was first released and this forum and the FB group got inundated with complaints which mainly boiled down to “why can’t it work like Sibelius does?” For a while the word intuitive became almost taboo…
He does address this for a little bit at the end: if you’re a pro user that made a conscious time investment in learning the software you will not be bothered by these first-timer roadblocks. However, quite a few of his examples are poorly-chosen, failing to mention powerful key elements like the caret and the popover system. It felt a bit like watching some Let’s Play on YT and shouting at the screen when the player is overlooking something basic. Of course, as a day 1 user I can’t help getting a bit defensive and fanboyish, but it was still a bit disappointing.

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I believe he is now an employee of MuseScore, so perhaps this needs to be taken with a large grain of salt.

Dera hrnbouma,
I agree with your feeling. I’ve been quite happy with the first minutes, as I know people here in France that could be quite decisive about making Dorico THE product used, who simply gave up installing it before even getting to download the SDA… You really need to want to try it very hard to get to the point you’ve installed it and it runs.
The rest of the demonstration is so… anti doricoish. Because using Dorico is everything BUT using the mouse. Not a word about that. Keyboard(s). Popovers. Caret. Precision, for god’s sake ! Man, use the caret and press U ! That’s what I’ve been thinking for 5 painful minutes. Why the hell do you want to “move” the hairpin down ? Group it with your dynamic, moron ! Ok. That’s how it felt :wink: But I suppose it will speak to many people, and we’ll probably have to help them here when they need !
By the way, due to Dorico’s problems in XML exporting, I’ve been forced to use MuseScore. It indeed has benefitted from Tantacrul’s ideas about design (and I found his ideas about Setup mode quite convincing), but my highest wish is never to have to return to MuseScore again once the XML export is fully functional !!!

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To be fair I do like his proposal for the Add New Player dialog. For the rest, the majority of his points are a total non-issue for me.

Exactly. That was in the design blogs years before release.

Well that was an entertaining video. I also looked forward to it. I wish he mentioned the positive comments up front. Have to agree with a few of his negative points so hope the team takes it n the right spirit. Getting started loading the software was painful for example. By now I really enjoy working with Dorico.

I think there is a lot of good in what Martin says - even though I take the point (as a Dorico user) that Dorico is very much about using the keyboard rather than a mouse.

Once you “think Dorico”, Dorico is a very productive and intuitive environment. Learning to think Dorico, however, is disruptive change if you are used to any other notation software and is not always intuitive if you are a notation software novice. Though the mouse tends to be the least productive way of interacting with Dorico (a keyboard is best, together with a MIDI keyboard and Stream Deck in my preferred workflow), nevertheless there are what look like standard mouse-driven user interface elements that do not always behave as less experienced Dorico users expect. Experienced Dorico users may well have got used to the quirks without questioning them.

Martin’s frame of reference was clear - he came at Dorico from the perspective of the novice and his panel of volunteer testers were all Dorico novices. Experienced Dorico users know that a lot of the power stems from the abstract internal representation of the score, which leads to many of the behaviours Martin explained - but he is right in my view to question the difficulty of doing some things he is used to in other software. In particular, lengthening and shortening notes seems to be crying out for a mouse driven “add length” / “remove length” buttons even though experienced Dorico users are likely to know this is a simple job using a keyboard. I certainly agree with much of his thinking about refining adding players and instruments.

Full disclosure: I support the Tantacrul channel via Patreon, but had no prior knowledge of or input into what was in the video other than some teasers Martin posted as Patreon updates.

First, thanks to Robin for posting it here. Thanks also to Tantacrul for doing it.

I loved the humour. I’ve learned a new word “jank”. I shuddered when I remembered all the grief of installation (seriously, have they not fixed it?). I did occasionally find myself wondering what he was on about with his side bar notes (as a keyboard / piano keyboard note entry user I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a sidebar note in my life) - and I started to lose him in that entire section when it began to dawn on me that he was still trying to do it all with the mouse after 8 months. Oh, and no mention of popovers? Seriously, none at all?


Just as has been the case with his other videos, I found myself nodding on more than a few occasions. A first showing of something contentious is never easy but time lends more objectivity and there’s some really useful, well-intentioned opinions in this piece that warrant proper scrutiny and discussion.

Except, of course, for the bit about returning to Sibelius. He’s obviously crazy.

I got bored at around 45 minutes, mainly because there were so many things where apparently he has never found out the efficient way to work (or maybe he just loves mice). For example there was no reference at all to the note entry caret and how it works with “untie”, entering dynamics, etc.

Sure, Dorico is hard to learn, but you only have to learn it once. Most of his “quicker” Sibelius alternatives caused hollow laughter from this ex-Sibelius user.

I’m pretty sure after 8 months he knows the program far more than he expressed in this video. It’s also pretty clear that he still has some residual thought processes about the method to make things happen. His videos are meant to be funny though, not to teach people how to efficiently use software. Some of the complaints about “jank” are real indeed. The whole switch things on and off, and have a check box don’t make for a successful user interface. I’m expecting that Dorico will take this criticism the same way they have for years. “Yes, you are correct that is not the best way to approach this solution… we have added it to our list of things to address. Maybe in the next version, or maybe not. And by the way, here’s a new revolution in scoring you didn’t know you needed yet!”

Pretty great video by Tantacrul! :slight_smile: Many notes can be taken from it in order the workflow to be simplified. The team should think about that! :slight_smile:
Dorico could be much easier to use without radical design changes.

Best reagards,

I found it entertaining overall… a bit crazy, but I’ve come to expect that from Tantacrul.

I agree with his complaints about the installation process (which has been discussed here ad nauseum). And I like his idea about the window for adding new players to the score.

His criticisms in the later bit were… baffling. The fact that he’s used Dorico for 8 months and is clicking everywhere with a mouse was especially disappointing. It actually made me think he’s either stuck in his UI ways, or willfully ignoring how Dorico works best. Either way, it didn’t raise my estimation of his opinions regarding music notation software. And that has nothing to do with whether he criticizes Dorico or praises it.

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Dan hello,
There is a reason about clicking everywhere with mouse. This is what exactly every beginner does after the initial installation. :slight_smile:
Everyone is trying to achieve as much as possible without spending too much time on tutorials and documentation. Which is exactly
how any composer who has inspiration is going to act.
Creativity First” means - as less as possible time on docs and tutorials and more focus on working process… This not achievable in Dorico, nor
in Cubase… The music theory, instrumentation and orchestration books are more than enough for reading and remembering… the working with software must be as simple as kids game… :slight_smile:
Of course every advanced software needs it’s learning curve, but we are living in time of tight shifts and not much free time…

Stay safe!
Best wishes,
Thurisaz :slight_smile:

Sometimes he doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

But having now watch the last 15 minutes, some of the rants (e.g. how hard it is to split tied notes compared with Sibelius) are just plain wrong. Either he hasn’t learned how to use Dorico efficiently after 8 months, or he doesn’t care about making accurate comments. I don’t think the note entry caret appeared anywhere, let alone popovers.

But I can sympathize with the “mouse addiction” in his videos. Just watching notation fly onto the page when somebody is using nothing but the keyboard isn’t very visually attractive.

If making Musescore look prettier is how he wants to spend his time, there’s no harm in that, but Musescore (and Sibelius and Finale) are still 20th-century software designs, however much lipstick you put on the dinosaur.

I think the suggestion for a sticky instrument picker is reasonable. I also like his idea about being able to change staff and page size directly in Setup mode, although this might easily become cluttered.

However, I really dislike his idea about removing the Players panel in Setup mode. He’s clearly missing the powerful and quick way to manage the three-way relationship between Flows, players and layouts. His suggestion would for instance make it much more cumbersome to remove a player from multiple layouts. I know his suggestion is merely an example of how they could simply stuff, but for me this rather shows how he undermines power and flexibility. Personally, I felt perfectly comfortable with the design and interactions of setup mode from day 1, and that was long before any tutorial or manual.
And what’s up with reordering players? Who does that? Did he miss the power of having different player orders in different layouts?

I’m also baffled by his suggestion about a popup notification for NotePerformer. Didn’t he completely rip apparent this kind of messages in Sibelius? Now, imagine getting that several times every time you install a new VSTi…

He has a few good points, especially regarding the installation process. Also about some of the mess with mouse interaction in the left hand panel in Write mode (which I haven’t even noticed myself, because I use the keyboard for all of these actions), but I’m with Rob that a lot of his stuff about note editing and ties is plain silly. He has either done a very superficial attempt to learn Dorico, or he is deliberately leaving the quicker methods out to create a more spectacular video.

Someone who is knowledgeable about music theory, instrumentation, and orchestration should not be convinced that software automation of all the functional and aesthetic rules of music could be made as simple as a kid’s game. To think so is both a reductive view of the complexity of music and the complexity of coding and developing.

Additionally, it is precisely that we are living in times of tight shifts and not much free time that Dorico is an excellent and viable software option. The amount of time I spent in Sibelius and Finale on basic elements of notation is preposterous, because they have the tools to create music but don’t always understand it. Not only are dynamics not automatically horizontally centered with notes in these other programs, but on grand staff instruments they aren’t vertically centered between staves, either. To date, Sibelius still doesn’t even have a plug-in to automate this latter behavior, which is a basic element of music. There are countless other examples I could provide, but the reality is that Dorico deals with nearly everything very beautifully. It’s not unreasonable to need to read a manual to do complex things, but it is unreasonable for other costly music programs to fail in basic matters.

EDIT: I should probably add my personal opinion that while the video had moments of humor and some decent points, overall it was frustrating and useless on micro and macro levels. Ultimately, if anyone has strong opinions about the future development of a software and has suggestions for improvements, their voice is best heard here. I have never understood the concept of beaming out one’s criticisms to a third-party YouTube audience…

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If the only layout options you have in a program are page size and staff size, then you don’t need much of a user interface to set them.

But as soon as you have multiple flows things necessarily get more complicated - i.e. the several iterations in Dorico to reach the current state of laying out page and flow headings!

With a bit of reflection, it was also curious that he never looked at any of the menus. Maybe he genuinely thinks that a mouse is the only UI tool that is worth considering.

All agreed. His concerns with the interface’s obtuse-ness with respect to brand-new users clicking around with the mouse are taken; however, at some point you have to actually learn how to use the blooming software.

He has some decent ideas about Setup Mode, though—the team might do well to lift a few of them.

I think the video was quite well balanced and the focus was on design elements rather than Dorico’s capabilities, which are superb. One thing that bugs me is the that certain commands are only in certain tabs. I’m always trying to remember what mode I have to be in when I want to change something e.g. if I’m in write mode and have just recorded a phrase and I want to “reset playback overrides”, I have to go to the Play tab and then the Play drop down. Another example is using Divisi. I have to go to the Write>Staff>Change Divisi… Why does it have to be under “Staff”.

Then there are certain intuitions I might have that defy logic (at least for my brain) e.g. I want to add an 8va line so I go to the Lines tab on the right. Where is it? Ok, now I remember, its under the Clef category.

Another thing that ALWAYS gets me is when I try and select a bunch of bars where the last bar has a tied note from the bar before. I left click the first bar, then shift-click the last bar and nothing happens. I have to shift-click the tied note in the bar before. I know that this is because of Dorico’s design where a tied note is a single entity, but from an interface design perspective, it is poor because when you are working quick and are in the zone, you tend to work more from intuition.

In summary, the Dorico engine and core functionality is superb but the way some things are laid is more of a database problem. A very simple analogy would be that of a newbie web designer trying to figure out how to categorize products for a jean company. This is not a web design issue but rather a database issue. Do you categorize based on male or female designs. Or size. Or style. Or season. Or price. It’s impossible to get the perfect categorization so it is better to have some form of searchable tag system where tags give you the impression of folders or submenus but they’re actually not. They can be created dynamically to meet the needs of the problem.

When I’m using MS Word or Excel, I despise the ribbon tab system because the designers are telling me how I should think. I preferred the version I was using in 1987 where everything was in single drop down menus. Ribbons can still co-exist with drop down menus provided the system is searchable as is the MS and Sibelius ribbons. Without a searching capability they are horrible because you are stuck with mode based categorization that may or may not be intuitive or logical.

Yup, exactly. Using the mouse films better, so he may have done that on purpose.