Thoughts on moving on from Sibelius 6

I thought I would post a few thoughts about my current search for a replacement for my copy of Sibelius 6, and invite comment and advice.

I should make clear that I am autistic and I often don’t communicate well. I will try and be both brief and as clear as possible. I will fail.


I would like to replace Sib 6, which is getting both buggy and is unsupported. I am going concentrate on only two possible replacements, and post this post in the forums for both pieces of software, to get as balanced a view as possible.

For reference, I am an amateur musician who mostly does relatively small pieces of arranging, for example pop songs for the local am dram panto, with occasional much larger works, such as now, when I am writing a children’s folk opera with my sister based on “The Wild Washerwomen” by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake.

I have considered, and then rejected, a few pieces of software as follows:

Sibelius Ultimate: It’s like Sibelius 6 but much, much worse. Ugh. Plus I don’t want to have to rely on Avid for support given past events.
Finale: Big, complicated, doesn’t do anything by itself. I’m a composer/arranger, not a typesetter.
Forte / Crescendo / loads of other $100 small software: Nope; I’m not an 11 year old doing Grade 2 Bassoon, and I can already hand write music reasonably well so I don’t see the point in putting in loads of effort to make it look like its 1997.

So, it comes down to Dorico 4 or MuseScore (currently 3, presumably 4 reasonably soon).

Considering Dorico:

I love:

The backstory, and the concomitant likelihood that the programmers are in it for the long haul.

Popovers - genius. A brilliant way of entering data, fast. Redemption which makes up for the fact that this is the same group of programmers who perpetrated the blasted ribbon on Sibelius.

The players / instruments / flow (basically, the Setup screen). Yes, Tantacrul is right that on first glance it seems complicated, but it is powerful, it’s easy to learn and it makes anything with movements or separate songs SOOO much easier.

The way in which Dorico treats barlines, tied notes, time signatures etc. as secondary to the timing and length of the notes, such that when you change time signature it doesn’t scream and fall over. Although please note, I think this is heavily linked with the major thing I don’t love about Dorico.

The quality of the engraving, and the very lovely musical font.

I don’t love:

Basically two things. Firstly, the slight air of “Dorico knows best” about the software - two quick examples: the way in which Dorico makes all of the decisions about beaming and groupings for you, and then tries its very best to make it impossible for you to undo it. And yes, I know there are a million global settings to adjust this, and yes I know that I could lock the note in place with a little clamp symbol like you are having torture Dorico into doing what you want, but what is missing is a little button marked “unbeam”, which does. Also, the way in which it rigidly adheres to “Engraving happens here, and Writing happens here” mode. It’s as if it has decided that you should only be allowed to do one or the other, and that trying to quickly tidy something up whilst also inputting a note is somehow shameful, like being caught masturbating in church. Again, the fix would be simple. A button which you hold down in write mode which makes the stuff you are moving move as if in engraving mode. Done.

Secondly, the rare but present occasions of stuff missing which should have been sorted WAAAAAY back in Beta testing. As a quick rule, if a feature is present in Noteworthy Composer, Dorico should have it. Things like not being able to set notes to only play the first time in a repeat, or publishing an entire £500 piece of software without having yet written the manual (or at least, the “Play” section).

Conclusions from Dorico: It is superb at oh so many things; note input is a joy, the engraving is superb and the end results are generally fabulous. Its annoyances come from there being a slight air of being a constant beta release. A new favourite pastime has become, whenever it becomes obvious that really basic stuff is missing (auto hyphenating lyrics, say), going on to the forum and searching for the slightly aggressive post where the lack of said feature is defended to the hilt, rather than acknowledged and fixed. That said, I think is it probably the best software out there - or will be pretty soon.

Considering MuseScore:

I love:

The backstory. It’s coded by people who are doing it for the love of it, not (well, not entirely) for commercial gain.

The open source nature, ditto, and as a side note, the willingness to concede that features which don’t exist, should, and will be added at some point.

The control over the notation. You want to unbeam something? Press a button. You want to drag a forte 3 pixels to the left and then go straight back to adding an additional note into that chord? Do it.

The documentation. Bar the Sibelius 3 manual, the best out there.

The ease of use.

Leland. Amazing.

I don’t love:

Again, it boils down to a few small things. Firstly, the way in which it “thinks” in bars means that it can be a pain to change your mind about time signatures having already inputted music.
Secondly, the relatively antiquated way of adding dynamics, tempo markings, trills etc. etc. is slow and clunky compared to Dorico’s popovers. Thirdly, the auto layout, basically doesn’t. Or at least, not terribly well. Finally, when it comes to playback, especially of text such as rallentandos and so on, it is more akin to Sibelius 3 than a modern program.

Conclusions from MuseScore: It is OH SO close to being amazing, but too many things require clunky workarounds to make it (yet) the software of choice for anything apart from relatively simple projects.

I hope you feel I have been fair - although if you don’t, I can’t do much about it. I reckon people of about my level are the prime users of MuseScore and a sizeable chunk of Dorico users as well, so I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that I’m probably not the only person thinking these things.

Also, I should make it clear that I think both pieces of software are fab - albeit I only have the demo of Dorico so far.

Thoughts? Advice as to which one to choose? Death threats? Fill your boots.



Honestly, whichever one best suits your needs. No software is perfect. I hitched my wagon to Dorico in 2018 and have never once regretted it.

And my advice is always to focus on which one actually gets the job done more efficiently. You don’t have to like all of Dorico‘s choices, but if you know of plenty of ways to work around them quickly, in my mind that’s good enough. Again, no software is going to be perfect in regards to workflow.

There are a handful of things in Dorico that still require workarounds for me, but most of those workarounds are so darn fast I’ve almost stopped noticing or caring. There are only a very small number of things that feel tedious to me. That was very much not the case with my previous software, Finale.


As Dan says, no software is perfect and either program can work for you. I came to Dorico from Sibelius 7 and have never looked back. I’m amazed at how quickly I can create beautifully engraved scores and parts.

By the way, Dorico allows you to easily adjust beaming on an individual basis. There are commands for Beam Together, Split Beam, Make Unbeamed, and Split Secondary Beam. I’ve assigned them to shortcut keys (Ctrl-B, Alt-B, etc.) to create the one button ability to change beaming that you find lacking in Dorico. Hope you find that helpful in making your decision.



Wait - what? You can do that?

Yes, they’re all accessible from either the Edit or context menu. e.g. Edit > Notations > Beaming > Beam Together

Dear Mr. Vintage–

I’m responding on the Dorico forum, so obviously I use Dorico, and just as obviously I’m going to be prejudiced in the direction of the thing I use!

That said, I’d like to respond to a couple of things you said. (And said very well, by the way, autistic or not.).

First, the people who created Sibelius 6 are human and made mistakes. (The ribbon isn’t the only one, though it makes the others pale in comparison.). The great thing though, is that they aren’t afraid to admit when they did something that’s a bit “off.” Then they try to fix it. That was true when they were at Sib and it’s true now that they’re at Dorico. They’re the greatest people on earth. I’ve never met the others but I have met Daniel and he’s the top.

I have no idea what the people are like who created MuseScore, and maybe they’re just as great. OK. but I’ll bet they aren’t any greater!

Second, that slight air of superiority you responded to comes from the fact that the decisions they made about musical semantics, etc., ARE superior. And not just slightly. They studied a few hundred years of engraving and other notation matters and incorporated that into their product. They listen well enough to their public to give in and make concessionary changes, such as allowing clefs with little numbers to be ‘transposing’ clefs, even thought there’s really no such thing. But you’ll notice that in such cases the defaults still stick to the ‘correct’ meanings of things. (The default beamings, for one.). But they almost always try to make it possible for you to over-rule them on such items. Even when you’re wrong and they’re right! What other software ever invented (musical or any other kind) ever did THAT before!?!

Yes, I’ll admit that Dorico is still not perfect, and probably never will be. Playback issues still abound. And yes, the differences between write and engrave modes still drive me a bit loopy at times as well.

But Dorico’s heart is in the right place. That matters to me more than any other possible consideration.


I use my programmable mouse buttons to switch between Write and Engrave making it really fast when swapping back and forth.


“Wait - what? You can do that”?

Yep, been there. I’m probably a little like you in terms of my use case. I switched from Finale a few years back. If you’re currently leaning towards Dorico, I think that after you have several ‘Aha’ moments like this, where you realize that something that seemed too hard or not available is actually possible, it might tilt the scales.

Re: editorial comments being defended to the hilt by users here, it must be said that quite often, the complaints about lack of a feature are actually admissions that one is set in one’s way of working and doesn’t see the need to adapt to Dorico’s way of working. If you searched my posts (unlikely) you’d see that I’ve often asked ‘Why can’t Dorico do this’? questions and received supportive and polite help after it turns out that I just didn’t know what I was doing.

You’re absolutely right that no software is perfect for everyone. There are things about Dorico I wish were different. For example, when I input a slash region, the spacing of the slashes is tied to note spacing and I can’t find a good way to space them evenly across bars. Of course, to get it happening in Finale I had to book a phone consult and we had to find a workaround. The thing is, the optimal way to go is to really (and I mean really) commit oneself to learning the program inside and out. Good luck.

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Yeah, I take your point that “but this feature is missing!!!” is quite often “I really want it to be [fill in your old software] but shinier and better!”.

But a really good case in point is this whole not hyphenating lyrics thing. There is a whole glorious thread somewhere where a couple of folk are insisting harder and harder that it never worked properly anyway, and that it’s a wonderful thing that Dorico has freed us from the shackles of the evil hyphenator, and in any case there’s an online app for that, blah blah blah, and I’m there thinking… well it worked perfectly well for me… and if they could do it in 2007, surely they could do it in 2022?

I don’t think anybody has actually defended the lack of proper playback of repeats; maybe nobody else cares. Personally, I don’t see the point of all the fancy VST setting in the world if the notes don’t come out in the right order. It’s like getting Boris Johnson a really nice haircut.

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It may just be that they’re in the awkward position that they can’t do it better than they could do it in 2007, and they can’t do it in the way they did it in 2007 because Avid own the copyright on the Sibelius code.

Or it may just be that they’ve not got round to it. They’re a small team, it’s still young software (compared to the big competitors), and lots of other things they’d like to make possible aren’t currently possible at all.

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Make sure you have a look at assigning key commands in the preferences. Since I use a MIDI keyboard, all the note letter names are free for reassignment.
I use C for cut beams and B for beam–one click. Pretty much every function can be assigned to a click.

I would love this.

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You clearly don’t read Daniel’s replies here on the forum… he DAILY acknowledges some missing feature or improvement that could be made, and often indicates that he either will add it to the development list, or it already has been added and is waiting it’s turn to get the attention required to develop it to dorico standards.


You could try Guitar Pro. $60.

Do not use MuseScore, as you mention, clunky.

Well, sometimes, yes. And I appreciate that this is quite a young product. But I use MuseScore at the moment, and I find it a bit frustrating sometimes that Dorico is so clearly able to be much, much better, but currently is only a bit better. I mean, I’d be pretty peed off if I bought a brand new, industry-leading, top of the range car, and discovered that they had left out the cruise control and half of the owners’ manual because they hadn’t done it yet…

Again, please don’t get me wrong - I absolutely know that Dorico is a superb product, that the dev team work insanely hard, and that massive strides have been made. I just think that a valid response to “you should use a free online hyphenator to process your lyrics”, or “we’ll fix the playback issues at a later date” could be “isn’t that what you charge £500 for?”

I think that some of the push-back against missing features comes from users who are very heavily invested in the software being the best of the best. I don’t have such strong loyalties - if Finale or Sibelius were the better software, I wouldn’t be here - I’d buy that instead.

As it stands, I am almost certain to buy Dorico because it does most of what I want it to do, in a way which mostly I find straightforward and powerful, and I have been a user of Steinberg products ever since my dad turned up in the mid 80s with a Hello Music! Yamaha CBX-T3 sound module and a copy of Cubase - I have every confidence that they will still be here next year, and the year after. Once upon a time, I thought that of Sibelius.

If it wasn’t breaking my bank and was still the best way to get from here to there, I’d rather have the great car now than have to take the bus while I’m waiting for cruise control.


For me, one of the largest benefits of Dorico over competing products is this forum in which users can get prompt, friendly feedback from expert users and Dorico development staff. I have never had such fine support for any other software product.

Your frustration with after-the-fact discoveries in your car example is very understandable—I would react the same way. I also sympathize with your frustration that Dorico won’t do some of the things you would be able to do in other notation software. However, at least you are aware of Dorico’s weaknesses before making a purchase and can take them into consideration in deciding whether Dorico is or is not the best choice for you.

The background for the omission so far of the manual for Dorico’s “Play” mode is that this mode was completely overhauled for version 4 and a decision was made to delay completion of that section of the manual until the overhaul was finished. Now that the overhaul is substantially complete with the release earlier today of v. 4.1, I expect that Lillie and her team are hard at work completing the appropriate section of the manual.

Like most others on this forum I am a Dorico user and enthusiast. However, I understand MuseScore is also a fine product and it may be the best choice for some people. Regardless of which product you choose, I wish you luck with your music.

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I expect that Lillie and her team are hard at work completing the appropriate section of the manual.

Bless you that you think Lillie has a team working on the documentation with her :slight_smile:

Although there is of course a whole team of people responsible for authoring the documentation for all of Steinberg’s products, and managing the localisation process, the Dorico documentation is written solely by Lillie. She’s doing sterling work, but it’s a big application to be documented by just one person.


Again, please don’t thing I am simply having a pop at the folks who are doing all this! All of my criticisms are minor feedback about a product which I love 98% of…

Yes, and worth noting that 2 of the 4 issues in my original post were a function of my as yet imperfect understanding of the software, and have been solved by, as you say, friendly expert advice.

This serves to bring me closer and closer to the idea of happily paying for Dorico as money well spent.

Comparison: I asked AVID about the bugs appearing in Sibelius 6 since my Windows 11 upgrade, and have not even had the courtesy of a reply. I messaged Finale asking for more granular detail about some of their features and got a standard reply back referring me to documentation which didn’t answer the question.

Also comparison: I posted this thread on the MuseScore forum and got very similar helpful answers.