2016: A year in review


The end of the year is here, but it’s just the beginning — of some holiday reading, that is, if you’ve missed any of our blog posts over the past year.

And what a year it’s been. We’ve seen exciting developments from all corners of the fields of music notation and technology, and if that’s any indication of what’s to come, 2017 will surely be another year to enjoy.

Until then, though, let’s take stock of the last twelve months. The blog wouldn’t be possible without you, the reader — thank you so much for keeping the blog vital and relevant. Many thanks to all of our supporters, contributors, and subscribers. Four years ago I promised to keep the lights on around here. 344 posts later, here we are!

Often people ask me how they can support the blog. Keep reading and sharing the posts, that’s the best way! But if you mean financially, donations aren’t necessary, but if you ever shop on Amazon, we have an affiliate program whereby if you click on a link to a product sold on Amazon (featured on most pages near the bottom of the page, or in certain posts like our holiday guide), and then purchase anything — it doesn’t need to be the product you clicked on — we’ll get a small commission on the sale that will directly support this blog.


We cast a wide net here, but after all, it’s called Sibelius Blog, so let’s start there.


There were five 8.x updates and a handful of smaller updates in 2016, the first year where we’ve seen new features introduced on a rolling basis instead of one massive upgrade.

Sibelius 8.1 added support for automatically handling rests in multiple voices, places ending lines correctly by default, and direct MP3 audio export. Sibelius 8.1.1 fixed some bugs.

Sibelius 8.2 introduced the ability to enharmonically spell notes differently in a part and the score, a new sliding feature which moves notes and rests horizontally, and better placement of repeat barlines in relation to time signatures.

Sibelius 8.3 introduced the ability to individually color notes, improves upon 8.2’s sliding feature by more intelligently grouping rests, and improved the independent enharmonic spelling feature introduced in 8.2.

Sibelius 8.4 included the option of using more custom staff sizes in a Sibelius document and 8.4.2 fixed some bugs.

Sibelius 8.5 introduced the long-awaited ability to change the staff size on a system-by-system basis. The Inspector was also redesigned. Be aware, though, of a few issues that cropped up that will hopefully be addressed soon.


Sibelius First, the entry-level version of Sibelius, was upgraded for the first time in four years, and will now receive regular updates aligned with the full version of Sibelius.

Tips and tutorials

Numberpile and Numbers with Rings are two fonts that, when used creatively within Sibelius, can open up some interesting possibilities for rehearsal marks and other instances of enclosed text.

Open a new window. Never tried opening a new window in the same document before? You’ll be whistling a new song once you learn how and why to do it, in Sibelius, Finale and MuseScore.

A solution to the problem of instrument changes, key signatures, and multirests (finally). A video tutorial that describes a multi-step solution to a persistent problem in Sibelius: instrument changes with key signatures that break multirests and don’t display correctly in the score or part.

Add custom shortcuts for Keypad features in Sibelius. Keyboard shortcuts are productivity staples for most desktop software, including Sibelius. But did you know you can assign custom shortcuts, including ones for any feature on any Keypad layout?

Using the Compare feature in Sibelius. Sibelius has a useful feature that can compare two scores, or versions of the same score, and give you not only a detailed list of the differences but a visual representation of them as well.

Calculate statistics in a Sibelius score. A powerful but little-known plug-in, Calculate Statistics has been included with Sibelius for many years and can quickly analyze a score and provide a wealth of quantifiable information about its contents.

Bob Zawalich takes us on a tour of house style fonts, how to identify them and how to import only certain elements of house styles in Sibelius.

Harp glissando and arpeggio playback in Sibelius. Learn how to get harp notation that is pleasant to both the eye and ear by using several convenient plug-ins, in this guest post by Bob Zawalich.

Barline joins in Sibelius. Instrument families are typically grouped by joining barlines across staves. Here’s how to customize these groups and restore missing barlines in Sibelius.

Feathered beams that look and play back correctly in Sibelius. A step-by-step tutorial on how to create feathered beams in Sibelius — first by spacing the notes evenly, and then by spacing them according to their speed, making for more realistic playback and display.

Keep tempo text aligned to time signatures in Sibelius. Engraver Jeremy Hughes discovered a better-than-usual way to keep tempo text aligned to time signatures in both the score and parts in Sibelius, and we’ll show you how to do it.

In addition, there were a number of new plug-ins in 2016. Bob Zawalich will cover those in his 2016 plug-in year in review.


The big story this year was the announcement and release of Dorico, Steinberg’s new music notation and scoring software nearly four years in development. We covered it all here.

Steinberg announced details about Dorico in May. This post covers the program’s release date, pricing, and details about its modes of working, and other initial impressions.

Dorico is here: A review. Alexander Plötz takes a detailed look into the new software’s philosophy, its features, and its feature. Andrew Noah Cap and Philip Rothman contribute additional content to this thorough review.

New York appearance. Daniel Spreadbury visited our hometown, delivering a 90-minute presentation of Dorico to attendees at the Yamaha Artist Services Piano Salon in New York.

The first Dorico maintenance update was released, full of new features and bug fixes covering all areas of the program. Notable among them are the significant performance improvements, the addition of a transpose feature, customizable vertical staff spacing, and better selection techniques.

The second Dorico maintenance update was released, with arpeggios, more page layout options, better bar rest handling in voices, and a new playback options dialog among the many enhancements and bug fixes.

Other industry news

CineScore templates for Finale and Sibelius will give you a head start preparing session music. The CineScore music preparation templates for Finale and Sibelius offer pro-looking scores and parts for studio sessions at a modest price.

Noteflight gets major makeover. The online music writing application Noteflight unveiled an upgrade with new navigation and account sidebars, a new score editor user interface, and improved playback features.

PDF BatchScale and PDF BatchBooklet are two free utilities that can make the batch scaling and imposing of booklets from PDFs a whole lot easier.

We saw two major StaffPad updates this year. An April update brought support for pickup bars, D.C./D.S./Coda repeats, bar repeats, automatic drum kit notation, plus a host of miscellaneous improvements and performance upgrades. A November update brought support for the new Surface Dial along with useful improvements to writing recognition, working with selections and symbols, and tuplet processing.

Go wireless with the Xkey Air MIDI keyboard: a review. CME delivers on its promise to make a version of its Xkey that connects to your computer or tablet wirelessly. Hands-on with the Xkey Air 37, the latest addition to CME’s MIDI keyboard lineup that connects via Bluetooth

MakeMusic releases version 25 of Finale, its first to be 64-bit. Finale entered the world of 64-bit computing in 2016 with a new release focused on streamlining and modernizing the codebase. New features include ReWire support, correct transposed instrument note entry, dashed slurs, and more Garritan sounds. A 25.1 update and 25.2 update added more features and improvements.

One feature that didn’t make it into Finale 25 was music scanning and recognition. Although the technology was nothing new, opposition to the feature — well-intentioned but misguided, in our opinion — led to MakeMusic pulling its plans to include it in the new release.

Notion 6 released. Notion 6 has new features such as cross-platform handwriting recognition, better layout control, more instruments, better video window controls, updated Music XML support, MP3 export, and MIDI over ReWire.

Newzik and Opéra de Rouen collaborate on performance with all-digital sheet music. As part of the Normady Impressionist Festival, l’Opéra de Rouen Normandie performed a concert of student compositions, reading scores and parts entirely from the Newzik sheet music reader app.

Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars now available for Kindle and iBooks. Elaine Gould’s venerable music notation reference Behind Bars is now available as an e-book for Kindle, devices running the Kindle app, and Apple’s iBooks for Mac and iOS.


Interested in a little behind the scenes?

I visited the 2016 Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) conference in Helsinki in May, where I gave several presentations on using Sibelius, Finale, and StaffPad, and filed reports from the first and second days of the conference. The final report was devoted to coverage of the Dorico announcement, which coincided with the first public demonstration of the software.

“Link Up” with a day in the life of our music prep shop. We’ll take you on a behind the scenes tour of our music prep shop, where we prepare, print, pack and ship music for an orchestral program that’s performed by nearly 100 orchestras around the world each year.


  1. Bill

    What about Overture 5?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Bill, I didn’t have an opportunity to cover Overture this year, hence it was not included in the annual review.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Thanks for another year, Philip.

    It’s good to know there is a place to come to for reliable reviews of new products and updates. This blog is the first place I look!


    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Bob!

  3. Kenneth Gaw

    Thanks very much for your clear, consistent and comprehensive reviews of important developments in music notation software. This blog is an invaluable resource.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Kenneth, much appreciated!

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