Trying out Dorico - general UI feedback

I spent several hours putting a project I’m currently working on into Dorico last weekend, and had the chance to test out the workflow from the start of a score to printing. I have to say I’m impressed by the quality of both the output and the application so far, though I’m aware that several major features are missing. If they are treated with the same care and attention as the work so far, I’m sure I’ll be making the switch pretty soon*.

I did come up with a list of requests and feedback, though, that I split into several sections; these are my observations on the general UI of the application. Some are big chunks of work, while others are apparently trivial requests; no particular order, and all related to the Windows version.

Feedback posts:
1. General UI
2. Setup mode
3. Write mode

  1. Undo:
    Undo is always useful, and some programs manage to maintain an undo history that spans sessions, so you can go back before the computer rebooted, or other similar events. However undo works in Dorico, it would be useful to have a history that we can see to skip back and forward through the actions. Autodesk Fusion even manages to keep the actions in the history atomic, so that if they don’t affect anything past them in the history, you can remove an action out of order. This would be awesome when working on a large work.

  2. Diff view
    One of the major benefits of working under a proper version control repository for coding is that you can see what changed instead of just staring at two almost identical copies of the same file. A diff view (even better, a full git-like history of the project) would be great for those of us who collaborate on music or even who need to work out what we changed between versions.

  3. “Desktop” colour
    It would be nice to be able to change the colour of the space behind the score to something more neutral, or even a paper texture.

  4. Text editing via keyboard
    When text in the UI is selected, is there a keyboard shortcut to edit the text? F2 has been rename in Windows for aaages, and lots of apps use it as a shortcut for “edit this text”; would be nice to just press F2 and start editing things like the Player name of a selected player in Setup, selected Lyrics in Write, etc.

  5. Panels have different designs
    There’s a UI inconsistency between the Setup and Print modes: in Setup the side panels have edges that extend down and around the bottom in the same colour as the heading, but in Print they either have no defined area (Layouts on the left) or grey backgrounds with no edges (Destination, Job Type, etc. on the right).

  6. Hidden UI
    Lots of things are hidden until you mouse over them; it’s largely been established in the web UI world that this is very difficult to navigate, and you should at least show some indication that there’s a hotspot that can do something. Again in the setup mode, players have a dropdown arrow but the menu arrow for each instrument doesn’t appear until mouseover.

  7. Extra UI button order
    The mixer shortcut is F3, while transport is F2, yet in the toolbar, the mixer button is to the left of the transport area. I assume it’s possible other windows will get Fn shortcuts in future, and buttons on the toolbar, in which case, the order of shortcuts ought to reflect the order in the toolbar (unless that can be changed by the user). If the transport is always going to be at the right end of the toolbar, it probably ought to be F8 or something like that, with the mixer on F7.

  8. User-exportable UI colour themes
    Low on the priority list, but user-customisable themes for the interface would be nice - I’m moving all my command lines and text editors to the dark Solarized theme, for instance, so a defined template that could be downloaded (or even an add-on store online) would make that really easy.

  9. Mouse click convention
    Middle-click on a tab ought to close it. Middle click on an empty part of the new tab bar ought to open a new tab.

  10. Split view closing
    Can’t close the last tab in a split view. Closing the last tab in a split view ought to revert to no split.

  11. Units in the UI
    The preferred measurement is set to mm, but all the page layout input is still in pt, so it’s a case of guessing the nearest number and homing in instead of entering an exact mm figure. I’m assuming that internally the engine works with something point based and all measurements are converted to this, but if you’re going to offer the opportunity to set a preferred measurement, literally as much as possible ought to be displayed/set in that measurement.

  12. Zoom controls inconsistent
    In the Status bar the zoom options should show page-based options when appropriate, not just percentages, like the main zoom control.

  13. Button expectations
    Can we have toolbar buttons for common operations like creating, opening and saving files, plus undo, please?

  14. Hidden properties
    When editing the text in a text frame, the floating properties window won’t draw outside the music area, so properties can be hidden when the frame starts near the top of the view. I think this should float over the top of the application, so that it can extend outside the music frame and even up to the top of the screen if the application is maximised, and ideally should make sure that all the controls are visible by moving to a different edge of the frame when appropriate.

Thanks for making a great foundation for a new scoring application, and I’m looking forward to the new versions; these observations are hopefully in the spirit of constructive criticism to make things even better.

  • Iain.
  • Once chord symbols and part merging to deal with multiple players on a single staff are implemented, I’m there!
  1. and 14. are constant problems for me. I’m using Dorico with my screen turned down to about 10%. I’m sure there are a lot of musicians with dyslexia or scotopic sensitivity too.

The shortcut in Dorico for editing things is Return, which doesn’t work consistently across the program just yet, but it certainly does work for Shift+X text items.

Yes, this is (I should think reasonably obviously) all intentional. The panels in Setup mode have overall headings, and that’s why they have borders that extend around the whole panel, while the panels in the other modes (not only Print mode) do not; they have a different kind of heading, called a section heading, which is the heading only for a chunk of the panel rather than the whole panel itself.

We’re using the same shortcuts as Cubase for playback-related features, where possible. We made the decision to put the transport controls in the top right-hand corner of the window, so the button to open the mixer window has to go to the left.