Why I will spend 3x the price for Dorico 6 . .

. . . 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.


+1 to this from me. Additionally, I’d like to see some more Setup or Layout Options with this too. For example, Finale has a feature to automatically add some additional space when setting up the score.

In orchestral scores, it’s very common for there to be additional space above the strings, even when no tempo adjustments or rehearsal letters are present, to make it easier for the conductor to locate them, as in the B&H example below:

The Layout Options staff group settings treat all groups the same, so there’s not an easy way to finesse some extra space between certain groups without additional work.

The developers are strongly against being able to hide anything and have posted many times about it, but there are lots of elements I’d really like to be able to hide as well. Obviously being able to hide cautionary key sigs is pretty essential to being able to easily create etudes and educational handouts without needing a zillion flows or codas. Hiding additional elements that affect playback could be really useful for those of us that are more comfortable with using notation rather than MIDI editing.


As far as I know you can manually change the condensing at any point and also override condensing groups (and reset the manual override when you want to go back to the way it was before).

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Actually no. See this post: Custom condensing group changes mid-score - #7 by dspreadbury

If you want this sort of flexibility, why work with condensing groups at all? I understand that it is more comfortable if you could change condensing groups mid way but it’s not considerably more work to just work without them from the start and (manually) condense as needed on your way through the piece?


@RobinHoffmann I’m afraid I don’t follow. My understanding is that your choices are either the default condensing groups Dorico creates for you—which involves grouping like instruments together—or your own custom groupings. There’s no option in which you can avoid any grouping at all and then select on a system-by-system basis any possible combination of instruments. In the condensing options, you can only assign any one instrument to one condensing group (i.e. you cannot create three custom groups of horns, one with 1/3 and 2/4, and another with 1/2/3/4). Thus, you cannot regroup anything mid-stream. Once the groupings are set, you have to live with them throughout.

It IS possible to begin with a grouping of four horns, for example, and then split them up as you go. However, you cannot have separate settings for two pairs of horns on separate staves if they are staves within the same grouping. In other words, you cannot have one staff of horns 1/3 that show rests longer than X duration and another that hides rests. True, it is somewhat rare for these situations to occur, but I have had several such cases in the midst of one piece where the score really benefits from separating these things out.

If this is not true, I do want to know!

If you’re suggesting avoiding condensing at all, that can of course work in smaller scores. But with a full orchestra, double or triple winds, brass, rhythm section, piano, keyboard percussion, etc, the staves would be unreadably small even on tabloid paper. In my current piece, I have, in addition to all of this mess, four guitars (!) and those are a nightmare to condense. Not having flexibility to regroup along the way makes things VERY challenging.

EDIT: I guess it would be possible to create multiple/duplicate staves for every instrument involved in condensing such that one could hide and show staves as needed and then set those duplicates up in separate groups. As it is, though, my pinwheel spins around for several seconds every time I click on anything. Just creating a new playing technique (not placing it on the score but just adding it to the list of options) takes well over a minute on my M1 Mac Mini with 16GB. I cannot afford to add another 30-ish% more staves to my project.

Even if that is a deeply held belief that this is correct, I argue it is incorrect. Things like this place unnecessary cognitive burden on the user. Even if slight - death by a thousand cuts is a trope for a reason.


Please refer to the manual:

You can create condensing changes at any moment and manually change the way the systems condense from this point on. If you avoid condensing groups e.g. for the horns you can at any moment change how the 4 horns condense.

Text, Dynamics, Playing Techniques, Time Signatures, Noteheads, stems, ledger lines, accidentals, rests, instrument labels, chords, bass figures, tempi, and others can all be individually hidden (Clef changes and ottava lines being given Hide Properties most recently in v5). So any pathological hatred of hiding seems somewhat moderated. There are some pockets of resistance, such as cautionary sigs; but I’m sure that the To Do List has got more ‘hiding’ on it.

On the few occasions I’ve needed to use Condensing, I’d agree that it requires a lot of manual work, adding Condensing Changes for every different phrase.
Condensing isn’t finished, by any means, and I doubt that the team think it is, either.

Dorico 5 does include a number of small but often crucial improvements to notation and engraving – including Condensing. (In fact, I often find it’s the little improvements and fixes that sometimes go unnoticed in the Version History which remove many of the ‘deal-breaking’ obstacles.)


I personally would like to see the “Sibelius” grey way of presenting hidden things like text. The signposts add up and are a/ too low positioned and interfere with the music and b/ stack on each other to sometimes go off the page. I cannot see why the “Sibelius” method would be bad, as an option, to have in Dorico.


I could create a new text style, e.g. MyComment, and set opacity and get

and change the opacity to the wanted value or set the colour to white (to hide it), but still, I think the Sibelius way is more logical than these tricks.

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I’m not sure why hairpins are not part of this list yet.

True, to a point. Whether or not you create custom condensing groups or not, you are always working within the parameters of condensing groups. These cannot be changed mid-project. Thus, as I mentioned above, you cannot have separate settings for two pairs of horns on separate staves if they are staves within the same grouping. Therefore, if you set a group for four horns (or don’t set a custom group at all, which will automatically result in a group of four horns), you cannot manually use different settings for two pairs of horns.

For example, consider a situation in which you want horns 1/3 to allow for some pitch crossing, or no amalgamation of slurs, or to show rests every X duration, or some other specific setting; at the same time you want NO pitch crossing in horns 2/4. If you have all four horns in the single default group you can never have this combination. If, however, you use TWO groups of horns (1/3 in a group and 2/4 in another), you can never combine 1/2 on a staff.

I know this may seem like a rare situation in which this flexibility is important, but even if it occurs 5 times in a score it’s a real problem.

Ah, now I understand your problem, sorry it took a while. Yes, I agree that this could be improved.

It’s just one of those things that seems really minor until you run into it! :slight_smile:

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I have been requesting universal show / hide since Dorico 2 (maybe even 1 - it’s been a while).

I understand that the design philosophy behind the Dorico interface is to only allow actions that are syntactically meaningful - but what has happened over the years is that the interface is now allowing hiding but on a case by case basis - e.g. you can hide immediate dynamics but you cannot hide gradual dynamics. This makes no sense to me - not to mention that it is confusing - the show/hide button is in different places depending on the element.

While universal show / hide would break the design paradigm, I can’t see how it would cause any significant harm. Of course there may be internal design reasons why this would be difficult to implement.

Just my 2 cents. :confused:


But the interface is different for each element - every time you want to hide something you have to poke around in the interface to find the show/hide option. It’s not terrible, but it would be much more intuitive if there was a universal show/hide.


I suppose some of the desire for hiding functionality results from how often one is running into the need for it. For me, this happens all the time.

  1. All of my saxophone students are always working on some sort of scalar pattern through the keys. Obviously simple patterns like broken 3rd, 4ths, etc. don’t need to be notated. More complex patterns with chromaticism, secondary dominants, odd meters, advanced harmonic concepts, etc. do. I probably have hundreds of these things memorized so I usually see what would be appropriate for the student at that moment in the lesson, teach it to them, then follow up with a quick notated version so they don’t forget it. I’m often running into the key sig thing a few times a week with this.

  2. I’m currently going back and revising a bunch of my school handouts before the semester starts. Many of these have 50 or more non-functional Codas just to hide unnecessary key and time sigs. Perhaps I should just be exporting and doing them in InDesign, but I kind of like keeping them in Dorico if possible. The number of unnecessary Codas needed as workarounds is pretty ridiculous though. All of that could be avoided with either a Hide command or a Notation Option to turn off cautionaries key and time sigs for that flow.

  3. As @eheilner points out, the lack of a consistent hide command now means that hide is spread throughout the interface and there can’t be a consistent shortcut to invoke for Hide like in Finale for example. All 3 of these commands below result in hiding an element, but obviously I can’t use the same shortcut (with a json hack) as they are all completely different commands.

  4. Notation software in general does a terrible job of interpreting jazz phrasing. The major programs think that by changing eighths to a triplet feel, then it’s magically a jazz feel, but the phrasing has at least an equal amount of importance. Below is a standard bebop major scale, first as written, second as played.

The second example is the phrasing that any advanced high school kid or older is going to know to do automatically, so this is only written in for middle school or easy high school arrangements. No college or professional band is going to want all that unnecessary clutter. In Finale it’s a snap to select a large region with a tool, then use Shift+Ctrl+Alt+H to hide all the Articulations or Smart Shapes all at once. In Dorico, you still can’t easily hide Articulations, Slurs, or Hairpins, so there’s a lot more messing around with MIDI required which is much slower for me anyway when a mockup is needed.


The good thing is that upgrading from version 4 to 6 will likely not cost three times but just 1.5 times the price of upgrading from version 5 to 6 (and only 0.75× the price of upgrading two times from version 4 to 5 to 6). :wink: