Why "letter" (and not A4) is the default page size for instrument parts?

Just curious… Most common printers use A4. Although, I have noticed that Dorico (and other score writing apps) use “letter” as default. Having in mind that most of us (at least for now) publish or share music in pdf form which is going to be printed, I wonder why A4 is not the (suggested) default page size for parts or solo works.

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Because A4 is a European standard and Letter is the US-Standard. A decision had to be made, and Dorico went imperial :wink:

But seriously: I also think that most publishers don’t use the A-Format, even in Europe, because it doesn’t seem to be fitting well to music engraving. But the solution should be simple: start a new project, select A4 as Layout, save as default.

Have you saved settings in Layout Options as default yourself at any point? For me, Dorico does indeed use A4 for parts by default, as confirmed by resetting layout options for a part layout back to factory (number 10).

And/or where are you based? I think Dorico defaults to Letter when used in the US, whereas I’m based in the UK and have A4.

You can change Dorico’s automatic paper size behaviour in Preferences > General.

Thank you Lillie_Harris and klafkid for your replies!
As klafkid mentioned: “most publishers don’t use the A-Format, even in Europe, because it doesn’t seem to be fitting well to music engraving”. This is something I didnt know…
Lillie, I live in Greece, my previous app (Finale) was always suggesting Letter as default, so I was curious why Dorico does the same. Probably, it has to do with my Windows localization settings ( I dont use Greek as my main computer language, so I probably have set English (US). I will change it to English (UK) and see what happens
Yes I understand how to make A4 the default. I have already done that. Although I was curious why the Letter size seems to be suggested as the standard
Have a nice week!

I don’t know if I remember correctly, but wasn’t B4 the standard format for parts? And, is/was this just an Italian/Continental Europe thing, or an universal one?


The closest thing to a standard for parts and solo music from the traditional big-name European publishers is 231×303mm, a format that for some reason I can’t find the name of anywhere. Slightly wider than C4, slightly taller than A4, almost-but-not-quite 9×12 inches.
edit: managed to find it on German Wikipedia listed as N4, but with no further source provided. Papierformat – Wikipedia
That being said, unless explicitly requested otherwise, I format my parts on A4 to avoid any compatibility issues.

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There is a bug with this though which Daniel described in this post. In that post also states that this will be fixed in the next update. Perhaps this is the issue the OP is encountering with Dorico defaulting to Letter. (Or maybe Kostas has it all worked out now)

Thank you all for the interesting replies!

The standard size for Henle editions of piano music, which has been in use since the 19c is Klavierformat. This is a paper trim available in Germany, but nowehere else that I can find. So think of any piano book - that’s the size. But the problem is it is a printing press trim and it is hard - or expensive - to find home/business printers to do it. It is not a B series size - it arose long before the A and B series became ISO standards.

I think its the best size for piano music, and I continually regret that its effectively not available, unless you are making a print run of 10,000.

But Print is Dead. Every musician now uses a tablet of some sort. While they are good at scaling PDF’s to fit the screen, I have still never figured out what the best size is to create in, as tablets vary widely in screen size and aspect ratio, so there’s effectively no standard. I suppose which does not really matter as PDF uses vector based scaling. But I also observe that musos forty years younger than me seem to be able to read text on phones at about 4 point size, and read tiny PDF reductions on small tablets from quite a distance. So maybe it doesn’t matter much. :slight_smile:


I know the feeling.

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That’s because they don’t suffer from presbyopia yet. They’ll get there.


Peters calls their 232(sic!)x303 mm paper “Bach-size”.
And Gehrmans (Swedish publisher) uses 255x350 mm as “orkesterformat” - close, but not quite B4 or B4 JIS.

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= Presbyterian shortsightedness

Not for keyboardists (organists in particular). As much as I love my iPad, it’s woefully inadequate for my huge scores. And I’m typically too busy to futz with page turns. I have enough choreography to deal with as it is.

[generically, I get your sentiment though… but I think it’s just like regular books. Kindles are great… but not for everything, and they will never kill off real books, no matter the market share they garner. I think it’s the same for scores.]

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I think the report of Print’s death are, as Mark Twain would have said, “greatly exaggerated.”

High-quality print continues to be in high demand in the little slice of the music publishing world I live in.


There are uses that digital screens are extremely useful during performance or practicing, but I dont think that print is dead at all. Especially for artists that are creatures who do not abandon their working habits so easily. I also think that more dedicated kind of tablets must be evaluated for music. Musicians read music during all their lives. Tablets are fine for the younger, but you cannot expect an old or even middle aged man to place an ipad on his music stand and read an orchestral score.

Singers in particular seem to use apps like ForScore on their iPads. It enables them to learn their notes and words on a train, for instance, and to make erasable marks on the score. They either buy their music in pdf form or scan the printed score into the app.

In the interests of saving trees (and money), I have also taken to printing my Dorico baroque keyboard projects as pdf files, ad reading them at the harpsichord from ForScore. I find the voice colours very useful in contrapuntal music and can turn pages with a bluetooth footswitch. Any errors in the score can be rectified at the computer and a replacement pdf file can easily be sustituted. The alternative is to print out music double-sided and bind it, which I did for years at greater expense. I do, however, agree that this would be a tricky option for playing at a church organ.

I would add that I have not been tempted to invest in any digital scores from publishers like Henle, as I do not find the price differential sufficiently attractive, though I do make use of a lot of scores from IMSLP in ForScore.


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I would be genuinely interested to read about scientific studies that compare the environmental impact of paper vs. electronic devices. I realize there are a multiplicity of factors, but it would be a worthwhile read anyways.

I know re-forestation is a massive factor in this discussion. The renewable resources are indeed being renewed. To what degree, I don’t know.


BTW, I use MobileSheets for Windows and Android and it is a very nice alternative.
Although, I believe that Dorico could evolve into a very good score viewer. Adding some pdf annotation tools to the Print Mode and optimizing zoom levels could do the job. And of course the ability to import pdfs

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Yes! That would be wonderful. There are already a good many strong offerings in this space, but most of them are read-and-annotate-only… not a full-fledged notation program.

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