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).
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.
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.
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.