Avid introduces new license activation system alongside Sibelius 2021.12 update


Avid today introduced a new licensing system for Sibelius with the intent of making it easier for customers to both activate their products and move freely among devices without loss of use. Called Avid Cloud Licensing, the new identity-based system will enable single-user activation on two computers and be managed by a new License Management page in the user’s Avid Link account, or directly from within the user’s account on Avid’s web site.

If that all sounds familiar to Scoring Notes readers, it’s because Steinberg recently announced a new licensing system, and just yesterday modified their plans to not require the computer to be online regularly to check for a valid perpetual license. Avid’s plan also accounts for this — but more on that in a moment. (This is not the first time this year that these companies have announced similar products one day after the other!)

Concurrently with the introduction of Avid Cloud Licensing, Avid released Sibelius 2021.12 for both its desktop and mobile (iPhone and iPad) apps. Headlining the improvements on both platforms is a new way of entering percussion notation that enables the user to perform a dragging motion on the Keypad to cycle through the various noteheads and articulations that are defined for that particular percussion instrument. This input method builds upon the tap-and-drag (on mobile) or click-and-drag (on desktop) gestures introduced in the iPad version, and later on the desktop in Sibelius 2021.9.

Other improvements include the inclusion on the desktop of the “transform to irregular bar feature” that was introduced in the previous Sibelius for Mobile release; external numeric keypad support for the mobile app; support for entering system and page breaks on mobile; and several other usability enhancements on desktop.

Avid Cloud Licensing

The new Avid Cloud Licensing system, which was first introduced last week for Avid’s Media Composer video editing software and is being made available for Sibelius today, is intended to give the user a simple process for activating and moving a license from one computer to another. Like the Steinberg Licensing system, the concept is not complicated. You would simply run Sibelius, click Activate License and log into Avid Link. Behind the scenes, Avid Cloud Licensing checks your license, and if it’s valid, Sibelius automatically starts.

Activating Sibelius using Avid Cloud Licensing, as described by Avid

(One important clarification — and minor branding quibble: Despite the inclusion of the word “Cloud”, this does not mean that the Sibelius is actually running “in the cloud”, like a browser app such as Noteflight, Soundslice, or a Google Doc. The “Cloud”, in this instance, refers to the way the license is activated and periodically validated.)

If you’ve already activated Sibelius on another computer, you’re notified that your Sibelius license is active on another computer, and asked if you want to use it on your current computer before proceeding.

A rolling 7-day license with the option to take it offline

Every day that your computer is online, Avid Link will “phone home” to check your license entitlement and reset the “clock” so that you can use Sibelius for seven days. This means that if you are online on Monday, you can go to your private desert island (I am accepting invitations to visit) and continue to use Sibelius until the following Monday, at which point you’d need to return to society (or at least an internet connection) for the computer to be re-validated.

However, as long as you gave that island excursion a bit of forethought and didn’t flee in a hurry, you can take your license offline using a special checkbox in the License page in Avid Link titled Take Offline. This will take a few moments and put a “persistent” license on your computer. For subscription users, this will remain active until your subscription renews. For a perpetual licensee, this license will never expire (although if your support + upgrade plan expires, you will no longer receive Sibelius updates).

If you want to take your offline license online again, you’d simply deactivate your persistent license and then reactivate it, but with Take Offline unchecked. This will restore the Cloud Licensing method.

Two seats, plus legacy license system

Avid Cloud Licensing allows for two active installations at any one time, for personal use by a single user. So if you routinely switch between a desktop and laptop, Avid Link will merely check that your license is active, and won’t prompt you to activate your license each time you open Sibelius. You’d only be prompted to activate Sibelius if you routinely cycle through three or more computers.

The current (now legacy) licensing system will also remain in place, so that currently active users aren’t immediately inconvenienced by the introduction of Avid Cloud Licensing. Those users will also receive license activation through Avid Cloud Licensing without removing their license support through the legacy system.

This is not a “third” license activation, technically — the terms of the Sibelius license agreement continue to only permit two active installations at any one time. But practically speaking, this does make it possible to install Sibelius on three computers simultaneously without needing to re-activate any of them. So, while Avid won’t officially say this is permitted, for the sake of convenience they have decided to trust the user not to abuse the license terms here. This means that, if you like, you can leave a computer on that desert island with a persistent license and not ever need to interact with the rest of the world, internet, or otherwise, and still enjoy using the software on your connected computers.

Comparison with Steinberg

For the casual observer, Avid Cloud Licensing is very similar to Steinberg Licensing. We hope and expect that, as is promised with Steinberg’s system, Avid’s new system will make it quicker and easier for users to activate the software they’ve legitimately licensed on any computer for their own personal use, while allowing the company to rightfully protect its proprietary software.

The most practical difference at this very moment is that Avid’s system is up and running now, while Steinberg’s is slated to roll out concurrently with the release of Dorico 4, which is expected in early 2022.

But you’re not a casual observer. You’re a Scoring Notes reader! For you, we’ve put together this handy comparison table!

Comparison of Avid and Steinberg licensing systems

Initial activation via internetYesYes
Maximum simultaneous activations2 (plus 1 legacy, see above)3
Activate/deactivate automaticallyYes* (see below)No; user must deactivate first
Periodic check of license requiredYes* (see below)No
Time period software can be offline7 days, rolling since last checkN/A
Option to take activation offlineYes* (see below)N/A
Institutional and enterprise license supportedNo; planned for futureNo; planned for future
*User can select the "Take Offline" option to put a "persistent" license on the computer and require periodic license validation via internet; however, user will need to deactivate license manually first before activating on another computer if all activations are in use.

Fine print; bottom line

Right now — again, similarly to Steinberg Licensing — Avid Cloud Licensing is only available for personal, individually licensed users. Schools and other institutions that have multiple users under a single account will have to wait for a similar solution in the future, which Avid says it hopes will be “available sometime in 2022.”

For those individual users, though, this is good news, assuming the technical parts all work as expected. Checking the internet for a license periodically is a handy way of ensuring an easier transfer among computers and should solve the licensing headaches that occur when a computer is backed up, cloned, or decommissioned, and Avid thinks you have more active computers than you really do. And, if “phoning home” really bothers you, and you don’t expect to be moving around computers often, you have the option to take your license offline once it’s registered, just as before.

Avid has published an entire series of FAQs on their web site to address questions about Cloud Licensing and how it works.

Sibelius 2021.12

Enough licensing talk. Let’s see what’s new in Sibelius 2021.12.

Percussion note input

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and a (very short) movie might literally be a thousand pictures. So let’s start there.

This is how you would usually input percussion using the keypad. Nothing special here:

Regular note input

In Sibelius 2021.12, however, clicking and dragging from the Keypad does this:

Percussion input in Sibelius 2021.12, by clicking, holding, and dragging the pointer

What’s happening here?

When you click on the Keypad and drag up or down, Sibelius is cycling through all of the available percussion notehead/articulation combinations, as defined in Home > Instruments > Edit Instruments > Edit Instrument… > Edit Staff Type:

Nothing has fundamentally changed in the way you actually set up percussion maps in Sibelius 2021.12, going all the way back to Sibelius 5; I find it to be quite logical, if tedious to set up; for more instruction on how to do this, watch these “oldies” from 2010, or, for good fun, this one from the 2009 archives. (This is only available on the desktop version; it’s not possible for now to set up percussion maps directly on Sibelius for Mobile.)

What has changed, or, rather, been added, is the ability to cycle through available options in real time by simply dragging the pointer. Before, you’d either need to change the notehead and articulation separately, or remember which MIDI note you’d routed to each of the “pitch”/notehead/articulation combos.

These are silent movies in this Scoring Notes article, but if they had sound as Sibelius does, you’d hear auditory feedback for each of the definitions, as you cycle through them as defined in Best sound.

Naturally, for a large percussion setup like the one above, this takes a bit of time, but especially for simpler 1-line or 2-line staff mappings, this can be quite fast.

This method of inputting percussion is long overdue in Sibelius, and the fact that it works the same on desktop and mobile makes sense, if you’re already familiar with the pitch correction gestures that debuted in the iPad version, and later on the desktop in Sibelius 2021.9.

What we need to see, though, for closer parity with Dorico and Finale — and more importantly greater utility — is a way to see the name of the sound or technique and instrument as you cycle through the notes, as we do in the other software. We’re not quite there (yet) with Sibelius.

Dorico percussion input
Finale percussion input in Simple Entry

Joe Plazak, the Sibelius product owner and senior principal software engineer, said that that the “initial keypad drag gestures took advantage of relatively simple mappings, like mapping vertical drag distance to a note’s diatonic placement on a staff. Our new percussion drag gestures take advantage of a more musically meaningful mapping, namely, mapping vertical drag distance onto the dimensional space of a percussion staff definition. This is still just the tip of the iceberg for our new gestures, and we think our users will really like what’s coming next.”

For now, though, there’s another trick: Hold down Alt (Option) while dragging; dragging up or down will continue to control the pitch, while dragging left or right will cycle through these common noteheads, even if they aren’t explicitly defined in the percussion map for that instrument:

This is helpful so you don’t need to necessarily define a sound in your percussion map in order to take advantage of this new feature.

And if you’re on iPad, you can use the Apple Pencil to make use of some hard press and vertical tilt combinations; the announcement on the official Avid site goes more into depth.

Other improvements

The remainder of the improvements in Sibelius 2021.12 are general usability enhancements. You may find your own personal favorite or two among them.

Make Into Bar

There’s a new command called Make Into Bar that has made its way to the desktop after first debuting on mobile as Transform Selection into Irregular Bar (keep those comments to yourself, please). The name has changed but the functionality hasn’t: You can enter in as much music as you like, across bars and in any time signature, and invoke the Make Into Bar command to combine it all into one giant irregular bar. Again, the announcement on the official Avid site goes more into depth, along with some important side effects you’ll want to know about if you intend to make use of this feature.

Highlights across several instruments at once

It’s always been strange that when you make a selection in Sibelius containing multiple staves and apply the Review > Highlight function, only the top staff is highlighted. Bob Zawalich worked around this for many years with his Highlight Entire Selection plug-in, but this is now properly built into Sibelius 2021.12.

General improvements and bug fixes on Desktop

  • There are two new ManuScript additions to help plug-ins access the Mixer: Staff.Distance variable now controls the distance/reverb control in the mixer; Staff.Solo True or False now has an audible effect on playback.
  • A new command has been introduced to allow you to make a selection where the Playback line is. This is particularly useful to select the music just where you stopped playback. There’s no default shortcut, but you can create one yourself in File > Preferences > Menus and Shortcuts. The new command is called Move selection to playback line and can also be found in Command Search.
  • Within the Key Signature dialog the Hide and One staff only options are now remembered within a session.
  • It’s possible to enter Korean lyrics once more.
  • When assigning a new keyboard shortcut but it’s already being used by a Style Command (i.e. line styles, clef styles, etc), Sibelius now tells you which line it is, rather than the underlying Style number.
  • The T shortcut to open the Time Signatures dialog now continues to work after opening the More dialog. The same fix was applied to all galleries.
  • The Pitch Correction Tool now reacts to horizontal drags on Tab staves.
  • Using drag gestures on the Rest button on the Keypad now correctly enters Note Input mode.
  • The deprecated Text Style command in Keyboard Shortcuts has been replaced by an entry for quickly accessing the Text Style gallery.
  • Searching the Text Styles, Lines and Symbols galleries no longer breaks accessibility features.

General improvements on Mobile

  • It’s now possible to enter System and Page Breaks to format your score. As with Sibelius on desktop, select the barline you need, and choose System Break or Page Break from Command Search. The standard keyboard shortcuts work for these too: Return and Cmd+Return, respectively.
  • Numeric keypad entry is now supported on Mobile.
  • Sibelius for Mobile is now translated into Chinese.


The Sibelius 2021.12 desktop update is free for all Sibelius users with active subscriptions and upgrade plans. The updated installers for desktop are available through users’ Avid accounts and through Avid Link.

The Sibelius 2021.12 iOS/iPadOS update is available in the usual way, and will be delivered automatically, or, if you’ve disabled automatic updates, you can manually update the app on your device.

A reminder that if you’re an existing Sibelius customer with an active support plan or subscription, you get the mobile version at the same tier at no extra charge. If you have a subscription to Sibelius (mid-tier) on your Mac or PC, that will carry over to Sibelius for Mobile, and the same for Sibelius Ultimate — a Mac or PC subscription allows you full access to Sibelius Ultimate on iPhone and iPad.

Further, Avid has reintroduced the ability for Sibelius customers with a perpetual license to get current with the latest updates and support, by bringing back a discounted option for those customers. Available only from December 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021, the “1-Year Upgrade with Software Updates + Support Plan” is $59 for Sibelius (mid-tier) licenses or $129 for Sibelius Ultimate licenses.

For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.

Avid also has a “What’s New in Sibelius” page highlighting the features in recent Sibelius updates.


  1. Matthew Hindson

    Thanks for this overview, very valuable as always!

    Re percussion entry, that is a valuable first start. The necessity to go into the instrument designer to find out what instruments and noteheads and staff positions is unintuitive and tedious.

    What would be simpler would be a new text style, eg “Percussion instruments”, to which we add to a notehead and then which intelligently assigns that notehead, sound etc to that position etc on the staff.

    That way, also, we could remove the necessity to have all those numerous one line percussion instruments. Instead, one would just put “Bass drum” onto it, and voila.

    Most of all, it would put control back in the hands of the user, rather than yet another somewhat arcane system to learn.

  2. Dave McKay

    I was pretty excited when you posted this, so I read the article and went into action to update to 2012.12 on my MacPro and MacBook Pro. All went well until I followed Avid’s instructions to delete some previous Perpetual licenses. That action ended up disabling my current active Sibelius Ultimate subscriptions. Adding insult to injury, one of the ‘error’ messages stated that my subscription had expired on Friday, March 04, 2022, and instructed me to purchase a subscription. As of this writing, March 04, 2022 is 77 days away.

    1. Justin Tokke

      Did you get your licensing issues sorted out?

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