2017: The Sibelius plug-in year in review

News

Editor’s note: Some of this content was previously published in Bob Zawalich’s October 2017 post. Once again this year, I would like to thank Bob for all of his guest posts to the blog, and for his continued selfless help and support of the Sibelius user community through his plug-in development and general assistance.

Plug-ins added in 2017

I have not been actively developing plug-ins, but there were a few that came out of my own projects, so I added these to the download page in 2017:

  • Add Fake Barlines to Bars (category Lines): Adds one or more vertical lines to each selected bar to serve as ”fake” barlines. The line can span all the staff lines or only part of them by adjusting the Top and Bottom settings as viewed in the Inspector. More about that plug-in on this blog.
  • X Y Offset (category Navigation): Sets the X and Y offsets of selected objects, as the inspector does (Absolute mode), or uses X and Y values to shift the position of selected objects (Relative mode). It can serve as a replacement to the X Y positions of the Inspector in some cases, and adds the ability to shift the positions of objects.
  • Export All Versions (category Engravers’ Tools): Exports each version present in a score as a separate score, comparable to what Review – Edit Versions – Export As Score does.
  • Convert Non Magnetic Glisses (category Lines): Replaces non-magnetic glissando lines with magnetic glisses in Sibelius 8.6 or later.
  • Combine Text Objects (category Text): Creates a new Text object by combining the text contained in selected Text objects or System Text objects, using the Text style and location of the first selected object.
  • Lock or Unlock Score and Parts (category Layout): Does the equivalent of Lock Format or Unlock Format to a full score and/or all the parts in a score, or a folder of scores. If both the score and parts are processed, the parts are processed before the score, which prevents changes in the score (especially breaks in multirests) from affecting the layout of the parts.
  • Add Simple Click Track adds a woodblock instrument to the end of a score with notes appropriate for a click track. In most situations, the built-in click track works fine, but because unmuted click tracks are not audible in scores shared through the newly-introduced Cloud Sharing feature, Add Simple Click Track can hide the added staff. (Roman Molino Dunn’s more sophisticated Click Track plug-in can also achieve this, which can be purchased at his web site.) I also updated Hide Staves and Music to let you hide a staff after it was created.
  • Filter Notes by String (category Filter and Find): Filters notes on Tablature staves, and on Notation staves if notes have been copied from a Tablature staff, based on the string number for stringed instruments.
Lock and Unlock Score and Parts, a new plug-in by Bob Zawalich

Kenneth Gaw also added this plug-in in January 2017:

  • No Duplicates Paste (category Other): Pastes a selection without doubling lines and text when bars are partially selected.

Recently updated plug-ins

As I was working on this post, I was surprised to see how much maintenance had been done on existing plug-ins. By my calculations, 61 plug-ins on the download page were updated in 2017, and a number of shipping plug-ins were also updated.

  • Pitch Values (category Developers Tools) September 5, 2017 — Added ability to trace pitches by accidental type, including (invalid) triple accidentals.
  • Respell Uncommon Accidentals (category Accidentals) September 8, 2017 — Speed improvement for large scores.
  • Instrument List (category Text) August 28, 2017 — Fixed Omit Empty Staves Option. Added options to trace lists and to not show dialog for this session, which makes it easier to use with Run Plugin on Score and Parts.
  • Identify Selected Object (category Proof-reading) August 22, 2017 — Marked to run through Sibelius 8 (no code changes).
  • Export Selection As Score (category Layout) August 18, 2017 — Marked to run only in Sibelius 6 (using shipping version for later versions).
  • Export Selection As Audio (category Playback) August 14, 2017 — Bugs fixed. This should only be used in Sibelius 6 as there is a shipping version in Sib 7 and later. It has a few features the shipping version does not so it is currently possible to use the Plug-in Installer in Sib 7+, but you should only install it into category Other to avoid conflicting with the shipping version.
  • Go To Out Of Range Note (category Navigation) August 4, 2017 — Speed improvements for large scores.
  • Go To Comment (category Navigation) September 15, 2017 — Rewritten to speed up large scores. Added location information and a Trace List button.
  • Multirests and Empty Bars (category Composing Tools)  September 15, 2017 — Speed improvement for large scores.
  • Store Data for Wildcard (category Text) was updated to provide useful identifiers for shared scores. There are  issues with sharing multiple copies of a score, such as extracted parts and scores produced by the Rehearsal Recordings plug-in. There are problems with differentiating scores in the Dashboard and differentiating scores displayed on-screen. I will be writing another post about these issues, but for now, the additional identifiers in Store Data for Wildcard should help.
New data formats in Store Data for Wildcards

Plug-in speed issues reported since Sibelius 8.6.1

There were reports in the tech support forum that plug-ins were running more slowly in Sibelius 8.6.1. You can see lots of details here.

I did some timing tests which suggested that, if anything, plug-ins were running faster in 8.6.1 than in version 7.5. But something was definitely happening. I found a few problems, none of which was actually specifically attributable to version 8.6.1.

  1. For large scores, plug-ins that process lot of notes and display a progress bar that updates on every note can be extremely slow. I updated 2 such plug-ins (Respell Uncommon Accidental and Go To Out Of Range Note) to update the progress bar only every 100 notes, and the speed was dramatically improved. (One example went from 36 minutes to 26 seconds). I also completely rewrote Go To Comments to reduce what had to be examined so that large scores would be much less affected. Speeds on different machines could be wildly different, even with the same software, but that was consistent when running a plug-in in 7.5 and 8.6.1 in each machine.
  2. Plug-ins that save settings in the plug-in Preferences database file could take several extra seconds to finish if the Preferences database was large (independent of the score size). If you ran such a plug-in from Run Plugins by Name (which saves to Preferences) the called plug-in would take several seconds longer to start up as well. The speed could be improved by removing some settings from the plug-in Preferences file as described here. This change fixed the lag time I had been experiencing in 8.6.1, which was caused by a bloated Preferences file, not 8.6.1 itself.
  3. For me, in Windows 10, turning off my anti-virus (Windows Defender) made some plug-ins run faster. Curiously it did not seem to affect Sib 7.5. I have added an exclusion for Sibelius.exe to Windows Defender but have not noticed significant speed changes so far.
  4. At least 2 Windows users have mentioned that running plug-ins in Sibelius 8.5 or later when the (new format) Inspector is active slows them down considerably – it actually seems to slow everything down, so the issue may not be limited to plug-ins. I have not seen this on my machine but it is worth trying to turn off the Inspector if you don’t actively need it.

Plug-ins in any Sibelius version may run slowly on large scores, and admittedly I rarely tested plug-ins on big orchestra and film scores. I will add some scores like that to my testing suite. I suggest that users update Respell Uncommon Accidentals, Multirests and Empty Bars, Go To Comment, Go To Out Of Range Noteand Open Selected Parts if you use these plug-ins and have large scores. Also, cleaning out the plug-in Preferences file can save several seconds on every plug-in run, and can change the feel of how plug-ins run.

I suggested changes to speed up the shipping plug-in Combine Tied Notes and Rests, which I hope will be made in a future Sibelius release.

Changes to plug-ins to handle non-magnetic glisses in Sibelius 8.6 and later

Magnetic glisses in Sibelius 8.6 are an extension of the Note Slide property. Plug-ins written before Sibelius 8.6 were not aware of the magnetic glissandi properties, and if you run them in 8.6 or later on a score that contains magnetic glisses, they will be turned into slides. You can reset the slide style in the Inspector if that happens.

I have updated some of my downloadable plug-ins so they will retain the magnetic glissandi properties when run in 8.6 and later. You should update these plug-ins if you are using them in version 8.6 or later:

You should not need to use the Raise Pitch Chromatically and Lower Pitch Chromatically plug-ins in Sibelius 8.6 because there has been support for chromatic transposition with the Shift+PgUp/PgDn keys since Sibelius 7.5.

The plug-ins listed about were updated mostly to prevent the conversion of magnetic glisses into slides. Harp Gliss Playback had a different kind of problem. Originally it required you to select 2 notes and it would add MIDI messages to gliss between the notes. I had added the ability to look at a passage selection and find gliss lines, then calculate the likely notes to be glissed, and guess the tuning. After Sibelius 8.6, magnetic glisses were created by default; these are not Line objects, but rather properties of notes. With a Line you can tell the start and end points, but for a magnetic gliss you only know the note where the gliss originates, and have no idea where the gliss ends. There was no longer enough information to let me make a reasonable guess for the Line end, and not enough information to convert the magnetic glisses to Lines. I added a warning to the plug-in when run in Sibelius 8.6 or later that it would not work with magnetic glisses. The best workaround I could come up with was to export the score to a version prior to 8.6, which converts the magnetic glisses to Lines, and then run Harp Gliss Playback on the resulting music. You could then copy the harp music and paste it back into the original score.

A number of shipping plug-ins were updated to handle magnetic glissandi lines by the Sibelius developers. These will be updated for you automatically when you install Sibelius 8.6 or later.

There may be other plug-ins that were written prior to Sibelius 8.6 that have not been updated to handle magnetic glisses. If you are running 8.6 or later, check any magnetic glisses after you run plug-ins to make sure they are not converted to slides.

Changed and added features

A number of plug-ins were modified to make them more powerful or easier to use. Find controls were added to the plug-ins Run Plugin On Score and Parts and Create Insert Symbol Plugin to make it easier to select a plug-in or symbol. Change Case, Save or Restore Selection Outline, and Plugin Info were all updated to make them easier to use.

Bug fixes

Some plug-ins were updated to fix bugs that were reported by users or which I found when using them. These include Lock or Unlock Score and Parts, Convert Legacy Chord Symbols, Chord Symbols for Sib 5 Export, and Run Plugins By Name.

The Sibelius plug-in page on NYC Music Services

There has never been a particularly easy way to see all of the downloadable Sibelius plug-ins in one place, nor has it been possible to easily search for them. So a while ago I decided to catalog all of the Sibelius plug-ins and put them on my web site. I then gave the list to Philip to put on this blog (which was called Sibelius Blog at the time) where he was able to make the list sortable and searchable.

When Philip redesigned this blog and renamed it Scoring Notes in April of this year, he moved the list over to the Resources page at his company site at NYC Music Services. Although it’s an unofficial source, he keeps it up-to-date. If you’re looking for a plug-in but don’t quite know its name, use the search feature; for instance, searching for “barline” will instantly return a list of all the plug-ins with that word in the name. This list is also the best way to find the category of a plug-in for the plug-in installer.

The page also automatically lists the most recently added and updated plug-ins, which come beamed in straight from the Sibelius RSS feed.

A screenshot of the plug-in list at NYC Music Services

So that is the 2017 plug-in story. I am glad my fellow plug-in authors and I were able to keep things in this corner of the universe running fairly smoothly, with entropy kept, at least a bit, at bay. Happy scoring in 2018.

Comments

  1. Kenneth Gaw

    Thanks Bob for this excellent review, and for all your contributions throughout the year.

  2. Peter Roos

    Thanks for all your hard work Bob — it’s much appreciated, even if I may not use many of your plugins. I can remember you saying you were going to throw the towl in the ring after Avid sacked Daniel and team back in 2012, I am glad you did not.

  3. Bob Zawalich

    Actually, Peter, this is me “throwing in the towel”! I still do almost all my notation work in Sibelius, so I come up with tools to make it easier for myself, and when appropriate, I share those, and I try to keep other plugins functional.

    The difference is mostly scale. I no longer write ambitious plugins (unless I am really inspired), and I really don’t look around for problems to solve anymore, unless they affect me directly. But a few things do still get through…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *