When To Use More Than One Flow

I have updated this post in response to comments below and therefore some comments by users below may seem unnecessary. This post was started when Dorico was at version 3.5.

Since one must decide how many flows to use in a project I thought that I would attempt to summarise factors to keep in mind when making that decision. Hopefully I have done this well enough for it to do more help than harm.

Before I do this here is my best attempt to give insight into how Dorico uses flows.

Introducing Flows

A flow is a collection of adjacent entered music (including potentially any number of empty bars in metred music). Each flow is represented as a box in the bottom panel in Setup mode and is given a default name (Flow 1, Flow 2 etc) but you can name each flow there as you wish.

In a new blank Dorico project in which players have been added there is a single flow which displays staves for each player. If the user enters music without adding additional flows all the music will be added to that single flow. The user can then choose at any point in the music to split entered music into two separate flows and can also add new blank flows. Finally a user can re-order flows as a way of re-arranging their music.

Splitting music in Dorico into two or more flows enables Dorico to complete various operations by selecting one or more flows as the target for the operation. For example one or more flows could be chosen for export. Or an empty flow could be the destination for imported data. Flows also enable the user to quickly locate key points in the music for viewing, editing and playback.

Although flows are used primarily for organisation and operations flows can assist the user with two formatting tasks:
-by default bar numbers restart at bar 1 for each flow. This means that flows are suited to being used to distinguish movements in a score, or numbers in a musical etc.
-flows provide a way of telling Dorico the points in the music at which you wish to automatically generate titles. The titles are automatically generated from flow names.

We may currently rely on only one key fact in deciding whether or not to use more than one flow - that it’s difficult without using more than one flow to add titles at particular points in a project on all layouts. But to answer questions like “Would it be helpful to divide the verses, chorus, bridge etc of a song into separate flows?” we are going to have to understand which features of Dorico Rely on the presence or absence of multiple flows.

Below are a list of factors to consider when deciding whether to use more than one flow in a project.

Factors to Keep in Mind When Deciding Whether to Use More Than One Flow in a Project
-VIEWING, ENTRY, EDITING - it’s possible to quickly access the start of flows for viewing, entry and editing. If instead all of a project’s bars are contained within a single flow all key points in the music (except bar 1) are then located at what will be constantly changing bar numbers - as bars are added and removed.

-PLAYBACK - each flow is a quickly choosable starting point for playback - by using Edit > Go To > Go to Bar or by using the popup list of flows at the top left of the screen in Play mode.

-PAGE ALLOCATION - allocating music to separate flows ensures that by default each flow in a score layout starts on a new page (by default each flow starts in a new frame and each page has by default a single music frame).

-TITLES - Using and naming multiple flows ensures that any titles that we wish to use at the start of flows on all layouts are generated automatically from the names we give to flows (instead of having to enter these titles on each individual layout). If we turn away from using flows to receive this for free we must create frame breaks at every bar which requires a new title to exist above it and then manually enter each and every such title on each and every layout.

BAR NUMBERING -as mentioned above the first bar in each flow is by default bar 1 - but this isn’t a reason to avoid using flows - it can be overridden with Edit > Bar Numbers > Add Bar Number Change.

CAUTIONARY SIGNATURES -it is not possible to show cautionary key signature or time signature changes in the final bar of a flow - the warning bar and the bar in which the change or changes take place must be part of the same flow

EXPORT -the only means of exporting a reimportable subset of a project’s bars for export is to choose particular flows. Graphic slices enable export of particular non-reimportable bars.

IMPORT -a blank new extra flow may be the best way to store data imported to the project either temporarily or permanently

VERSIONS -its easier to use multiple flows instead of multiple projects to make versions of a piece or worksheet - it makes copying and pasting/altered reuse of content between flows.

PS It would be great if Dorico allowed a user to merge two flows. And it would be great if each flow displayed as a box at the bottom of the screen in Setup mode had two tick boxes within that box - one to turn off restarting bar numbers at 1 and one to turn off starting that flow in a new frame (each would be on by default?). These various features would encourage people to use flows for their organisational benefits without fear of repercussions.

PPS I believe it would also be an improvement if there was a conceptual introductory video in the hub. In which concepts like players, instruments, layouts and flows, and the deeper purpose behind each mode (instead of just what happens in each), is introduced.

Philip Benjamin

Dorico does indeed have a menu item to Split a Flow at a particular point.

Flows are for entirely separate chunks of music. I wouldn’t necessarily use them for Chorus, Verse, and Intro of the same song. I would use them for an album of 8 songs. Other typical uses include movements of a Sonata or Symphony; sections of a Mass; or anywhere where the music stops and restarts with different instrumental forces.

Flows doesn’t have to start on a new page, though they do by default.

Each page can contain as many music frames as you like, and flows can follow on from the previous flow in the same frame or in the next frame (or in a Layout Frame or a separate frame chain before/after/in the middle of another flow). I think you’ve perhaps assumed a relationship there that doesn’t actually exist.

Regarding your suggestion for flow-specific tick boxes for continuing bar numbers and starting flows on new pages:
For starting new bar numbers, what happens if you have a bar number change midway through a flow, then change the order of your flows? How would that bar number change then be accounted for?
For starting new flows on new pages: what about when you want a flow to start on a new page in some part layouts, but not others? Or when you want to start on a new page in the score but not in the parts? There’s already a good solution for this: set Layout Options to put the next flow on the same page, then add a Frame Break at bar 1 of the new flow.

Graphic Slices exist as a possibility to export a subset of bars, music, text or anything else, in a way that is not linked to Flows.

Thank you to you both. I will make edits to omit the wish to split a flow and to mention graphic slices.

I didn’t say that flows had to start on a new page. I said that they did by default. Unless I misunderstand It’s still worth knowing that they start a new page by default in considering the work saved or expended in making various choices.

If you click on “Help”, you get a webpage that has a section clearly labelled “Dorico Concepts”, which does exactly introduce and explain everything.

There are also videos on the YouTube channel that explain the basic concepts.

Thanks benwiggy.

I still think that my suggestion that key Dorico concepts be introduced in a single video and separately at the start of the manual is a useful one.

Flows start a new page by default in score layouts. They continue on the same page in part layouts, by default.

Thanks Pianoleo - I did not understand that. That might be a deal breaker then - unless the default for score and parts were changed to match.

Regarding bar numbers - how does Dorico handle manual bar number changes now when flows are reordered in Setup mode? I don’t see how my tick box adds to that difficulty. And the same with starting flows on new pages.

My tick boxes were seeking to enable a typical user (who might be happy for flows to either all start on a new page in both score and parts or not) to have a way of quickly seeing a global setting that might encourage them to use flows for organisational and not just printing purposes. When a user then overrides the global setting anywhere the option within the flow box could then be automatically toggled.

I guess the question is - is it the intention of the development team for flows to be a compositional/arranging tool - to be like outline view is to word processing? Like Scrivener. And how is that best achieved?

Whether or not people consider my tick boxes within flow boxes suggestion is a good one - as part of ensuring flows are maximumly useful would it be helpful when the user changes the order of flows if the user was warned that they have manual bar number changes in the flow being moved or in any flows after the one being moved?

Our primary goal with flows is to handle works that contain multiple movements or pieces elegantly. If you also find flows useful as repositories for short passages of music, that’s great, but we don’t provide tools to assemble individual flows seamlessly into a single, larger combined flow. We might, in the future, of course. Certainly we want Dorico to be a comfortable and efficient environment for composing, arranging and trying out ideas, and it’s always useful for us to know how our users think about the things we have built, so that we can consider how it might make sense to further evolve them in future.

Thanks Daniel. I’m just speaking up confident that even if I don’t see the whole picture my observations may help to make the approach of those who design the program more deliberate (it’s not always easy to see what we are saying no to when we make design choices).

In that vain can I also point out that even if flows aren’t intended to cater to compositional/arranging priorities the average user is still going to presume that flows are sections which impose no additional difficulty - which have no hidden consequences (so for example a user will expect that when reordering flows they would be warned by the program that this may have an effects they may not intend on manual bar number changes. For this to work should people who are using flows in order to create versions of the one piece need to have the means to indicate which flow is the beginning of another version? So many choices.

The “concepts” chapter that Ben mentioned is here (see the list of subtopics beneath this one) - it is indeed at the start of the manual, and is an area I worked on fairly recently to expand a bit, draw better links between related concepts, and to include a few more examples. I sincerely hope people are finding it!

In this chapter, I’ve focused on concepts that genuinely stand out as unique to Dorico or sufficiently different to other software - such as players, master pages, and rhythmic position. It doesn’t cover everything of course, as otherwise that would just be another manual at the start of the manual, but hopefully it touches on most of they key concepts that will help users to understand Dorico’s approach. Also, the nature of the manual being online is that you can search and hone in on just the bit you need - and in that context, ‘where’ information occurs in the manual becomes less important than it being accurate and clearly-named.

There’s more work I need to do on developing a separate “introduction” manual/document aimed specifically at new users that will be a bit more conversational, and will weave descriptions/introductions to some of these concepts into a step-by-step guide.

Dear substanceoverstyle,
You may find it interesting to know that flows don’t have to begin or end with a whole bar. Dorico handles unmetered music, pick-up bars and a diverse barlines (or none) for the end of a flow.

Thanks Marc. Will make changes to reflect that.

Only in the sense that the first and last bars can have any length.

Dear Substanceoverstyle,
To be perfectly clear, I did not mean to lecture or patronize you, I only wanted to make sure that if a newbie reads the thread, he/she is not mislead by ambiguous posts :wink: Dorico is a very complex and deep program, and sometimes we think things are not possible or implemented only because we read an old post that said so…

If depends what you mean by “start at the beginning of a bar” etc.

A program that couldn’t handle pickup bars, or an incomplete bar at the end of a flow, wouldn’t be much use. (Of course Dorico can do both).

Maybe what you really mean is start at the beginning of a system?

f you also find flows useful as repositories for short passages of music, that’s great, but we don’t provide tools to assemble individual flows seamlessly >into a single, larger combined flow.

There have been a few occasions where I would have found a flow merge/combine feature useful.

In particular it’s nice when constructing a piece of concert music to be able to draft ideas or sections separately, then to unify them as the piece begins to take shape. (This is especially nice with a multi-movement piece, where eventually one might want to arrive at a one-flow-per-movement structure.)

More on this:

Our primary goal with flows is to handle works that contain multiple movements or pieces elegantly

This doesn’t seem to support past statements by the Dorico team which have emphasized the conceptual flexibility of flows. (Otherwise why bend over backwards to come up with a weird hyper-abstract feature name that doesn’t imply “section” or “piece”?)

Soapbox: Flows can represent arbitrary groupings of musical content, and Dorico should support that flexibility wherever possible via editing features.

TLDR: if you can split a flow, you should be able to merge flows.

You can use a system selection (using the System Track) to copy any number of bars from one flow to another. Merging isn’t particularly simple if Flow 1 is a Brass Quintet and Flow 2 is a String Quintet. Do you want to retain your Brass players when copying the contents of Flow 1 to Flow 2, or do you want to move their music onto String players? And do you want to apply Flow 1’s Notation Options to Flow 2, or have the music you’re copying from Flow 1 take on Flow 2’s Notation Options?