I’m writing to explain a small problem that I have found to be very irritating for many years, and to make a feature suggestion for how Dorico might handle it in the future. First I must provide some lengthy background.
Those of you not in the USA may not be aware that we in the USA have our own unique standard size for paper, called “US Letter”. The rest of the world uses A4-sized paper. Yes, it is just like us in the USA to defiantly and counterproductively use a totally different system for something that the rest of the world has happily standardized upon. Standard A4-sized paper is practically unobtainable in the USA, and therefore nobody in the USA uses A4 and few of us even understand what A4 is.
A4 is 210 mm x 297 mm.
“US Letter” is 8.5 x 11.0 imperial inches, or 216 x 279 mm. This is an entirely different aspect ratio; our paper is shorter and wider than A4.
This creates problems for those of us in the USA. Something formatted for A4, when printed in the USA, gets automatically scaled down to a smaller size (94%) to fit on US Letter paper.
The reason I’m writing about all this is that Dorico (and coincidentally Sibelius), befuddles musicians in the USA by starting out new documents formatted to A4. Most of us poor users in the USA are too ignorant to notice the difference. Sibelius, furthermore, would let you create a new full score in US Letter but then the individual extracted parts would default to A4. I have seen hundreds of Sibelius documents, or PDFs created from them, which were made by musicians in the USA who were totally unaware that they had created documents in A4 – which is why their printouts always look different than the dimension they had formatted in the score.
You think you are creating a document with a staff height of 7.0mm, for example, but because of the A4 vs. US Letter discrepancy, when it is printed out on a printer in the USA, the printer automatically scales everything down to 94%, resulting in a staff height of 6.6mm, which is not what you intended.
If one is aware of the problem, and takes a completed Dorico or Sibelius score document formatted for A4 and reformats its layout to US Letter, this can result in unexpected changes (to the user). While margins themselves stay the same, the whole page is widened. This can result in changes in the number of bars/measures on certain systems, the precise placement of many symbols, and other problems. The program might automatically re-flow and make layout changes (even shifting measures/bars across page breaks) that the user does not want. In Dorico this would also impact Engrave mode and Master Pages, the precise placement of page numbers, headers and footers, and more.
I would like to make a feature suggestion: that Dorico take steps to save us poor ignorant USA users by helping to see to it that for a user in the USA, Dorico never defaults to A4 for any layout or flow. I mean to say that I think that a Dorico installation on a computer used by somebody in the USA should be set up with global preferences to use US Letter only, and that the user should only get A4 layouts if the user chooses to over-ride the setting.
I propose that when the Dorico installer for Windows and Mac first runs, it has a dialog box asking the user to choose “Worldwide Paper Layout – A4 Size By Default” or “USA Paper Layout – US Letter Size By Default”.
I also suggest that Dorico add a new section to the menu bar Preferences: General that says something like “Paper Size: Worldwide Paper – A4” or “USA Paper – US Letter”.
Then all flows and all layouts in any document created in that installation of Dorico would always adhere to one or the other unless the user over-rode something on a layout-by-layout and flow-by-flow basis.
A person outside the USA might make the mistake of thinking that Dorico on a Mac or Windows computer would choose page sizes for new documents based on the default page size selected in the user’s printer, but this is most emphatically not the case. All my printers are set up for US Letter by default, yet I see full scores and extracted parts (or layouts in Dorico parlance) coming up A4 all the time.
All this may seem trivial to you, but I have seen this unfortunate USA-against-the-world situation create problems for printing and formatting in many kinds of word processing, desktop publishing, graphic design and printing systems all my life, not just in music notation software. I am hoping Dorico can give me some help with this.