. . . but likely will not upgrade to Dorico 5. (I’m on 4.3 now). Let me begin by saying that I have been a champion of Dorico for a few years now, and have recommended it to my colleagues and students—and will continue to do so. I have great respect for the developers and think they’ve created a wonderful product. But I also think there are still some pretty significant issues for those of us who are using it for large scores, large projects, and as a notation/engraving tool primarily. I just want to share my thoughts with the community in the hope that it moves things forward in the ways that serve engraving before all else.
Until recently, I had used Dorico for small-to-medium scores, up to the size of a big band, which is (from an engraving standpoint) a large chamber ensemble, i.e. not much staff condensing if any. I have also been using Dorico for note entry on a very large project, but had not arrived at the score layout (casting off, etc.) process until recently. This is the first point at which I have felt that Dorico is still not fully realizing its goal—or at least what I think is its goal, which is to be the best engraving tool out there. In service of that goal, here is a list of things that Dorico cannot do, or that does not fully function, in the score layout process:
• Inability to easily respace staves within a system, freeze staves in place, or easily expand the distance between multiple staves or subgroups of staves. Even with the layout options set at the closest to ideal proportions, I still run into passages that need manual work. When this happens, it can be extraordinarily complicated and time consuming to make adjustments. Further, after respacing staves it sometimes becomes apparent that individual text/playing technique/dynamic markings need adjustment (it can be impossible to know until the staves are in place) and upon making some adjustments Dorico recalculates everything, thus destroying all the manual adjustments already made.
• Sometimes it is necessary to reorganize condensing groups mid-score, or at least on a per-flow basis. In a score with multiple flows and thousands of measures, one simply cannot plan for every possible contingency. If one discovers a need toward the end of the score to condense instruments differently than the custom groups would allow, there’s no recourse other than to start over from the beginning.
• The inability to move rests on condensed staves is, I think, a pretty important issue that I know the developers are aware of, and it probably needs no further explanation.
• Simultaneous meters on multiple staves in which meter changes occur are a near impossibility if one wants to maintain consistent measure numbers and make adjustments beyond having everything exactly in place before finishing the score. Edits are extremely challenging.
• The ability to hide individual elements in any situation is so important, especially when working in large condensed scores. There are still some things that one cannot hide.
• There are still some limitations in how Dorico handles slash notation—which for many of us is absolutely essential, though I admit that’s not the case for all. But the ways in which rests and slash regions interact in often complicated rhythm section parts is a challenge. Things like hidden playing techniques and inability to condense come to mind.
• While it is possible to do a lot with the condensing features, it certainly feels much more labor intensive than advertised and than appears in the instructional videos, etc. For example, unless one wants a LOT of whole rests in shared staves, or NO rests at all when a shared player is resting, one must constantly switch back and forth between different minimum-rest-duration settings—and this is especially complicated when working with music that has multiple meter changes. Of course it is possible to make things work with enough time and so I admit this does not speak to a limitation in what Dorico is capable of creating. However, I do think it’s an example of the type of thing that slows down significantly a large engraving project.
• Inability to condense staves at instrument change: in a system with a lot of information, that space is so valuable.
• Inability to show chords ONLY on selected slash regions.
I do understand that Dorico has a huge challenge in a market that more and more values playback flexibility, and I don’t expect that Dorico should be able to accommodate every possible notational outcome. However, I would humbly suggest that the above things are high priority for engraving—enough that it made me reconsider whether or not it would be possible to complete my current project in Dorico. Having spent the last week learning the details of score layout and condensing, I now know it is possible, but some things are far from ideal to the point that I am afraid they might be unclear, and it has taken MUCH longer to accomplish some very small things. I am not suggesting those small things are easy to implement on the coding side! I am just suggesting that they are essential for functionality.
Therefore, I very much hope that the Dorico 6 team will have the resources to tackle these issues for those of us who need extensive engraving features. Thanks for hearing me out. And again, I do hope the above is taken as a bit of constructive feedback from an otherwise happy user and supporter of the work the Dorico team has done.