Dorico 1.2 review, part 1: Cues, new notation techniques, and other improvements

Reviews

We’ve all known that Dorico 1.2 has been on its way for a while, and we’ve even known what the main new features would be. But if you expected it to be comparable to August’s 1.1 update — which was packed to the brim — you’d have underestimated the scope and importance of today’s release of Dorico 1.2 from Steinberg, which is the final planned update to the 1.x version of Dorico.

Therefore, we will publish our review of Dorico 1.2 in multiple parts. Today’s post will cover the groundbreaking new cueing feature, as well as improvements and developments in several general areas of notation and workflow.

Subsequent posts, which we will publish soon, will cover the other two major features of the 1.2 release: fingering and percussion consolidation / drum set notation. [Editor’s note: Here’s our review of the fingering features.] Yet another post, also coming soon, will cover how playback has evolved since the initial release in 2016. If you were looking for coverage of those latter items today, please don’t be disappointed! Be sure to check back here for the next parts of this review.

Introduction

About fourteen months ago I concluded the Scoring Notes review of the initial Dorico release with a list of the most glaringly missing high-demand features. With Dorico 1.2 released today, how much of that list is still relevant? Let’s have a look:

  • There are no chord symbols yet, something everyone knows already. A subgroup of those caring about this will further be disheartened by learning that slash notation and jazz articulations are not offered in the initial release.
  • Volta brackets (first, second endings, etc.) are not covered at this time. […]
  • The overall very comprehensive Playing Techniques omit the entirety of piano pedaling. […]
  • Engravers and copyists have to swallow the fact that, for the time being, they cannot create cues in any way.
  • Educators will have to do without fingerings for a while […].
  • Doing a lot of musical editing work, this reviewer in particular misses a convenient feature to annotate scores. […]
  • Brace yourself: there is currently no way to transpose […].

There is an obvious moral to be found here: as a reviewer, never ever wear your heart on your sleeve. But I also notice that the addition of features has followed the priorities implied by my list pretty closely, so… here’s hoping for the next update’s killer feature: Sticky Notes!

While my Dorico reviews won’t ever win prizes for their dispassionate neutrality, I think it is fair to say that the pure volume of advancements is impressive on its own. To the things listed above, add…

  • Linked dynamics
  • Staff and note spacing tools
  • Sophisticated voice editing
  • A plethora of useful filtering operations
  • The addition of many more options to control global settings

… all of which actually happened before today’s 1.2 update. At this rate, the developers are going to run out of new things to implement somewhere around the 3.2 version, I’d guess.

But of course, quantity is meaningless without quality. Last time, I quoted a fellow beta tester’s statement of “I love this about Dorico. It’s going to go from ‘Can’t even do chord symbols’ to ‘Market leading chord symbols’ overnight.”

Well, let’s talk about…

Cues

The cueing feature introduced with Dorico 1.2 is nothing less than a game changer.

I entered the world of computer-aided notation in earnest only a short while after the release of Sibelius 6, and therefore did not experience first-hand the fundamental impact of Magnetic Layout, effectively creating a time “before” and “after”. Dorico’s cues, at last, give me a pretty good idea of how such an event feels “before cues” — without being messianic, perhaps we shall call it “B.C.”

So, what is the big deal?

Until today, inserting a cue in any of the prevalent scorewriters was first and foremost a copy-and-paste operation; one of the most useful meta-tools for cueing in Sibelius is literally called Paste as Cue. In the “B.C.” era, once you have copied music from the source passage to the destination staff (hopefully withouth accidentally pasting it to an incorrect position), from that moment on the material is a static part of the destination staff, just like regular notation. Turning the copied notation into a cue does not mean that the program has a dedicated model of what “a cue” is. It merely means the application of some settings and edits to otherwise conventional notation.

In Dorico 1.2, it is not necessary to copy any notation that is to be the source for a cue. It is not even necessary to select it, or see it — in the strictest sense, the music that is to be cued does not even need to exist yet.

To create a cue for a Player, go to the position that you want it to appear at, then do one of the following:

  • Type Shift+U to open the new cue popover directly; or
  • Choose Write > Create Cue; or
  • Click the new button in the notations toolbox on the right-hand side of the window to open the Cues panel, then click Insert Cue.

From here, type in the name of the instrument that you want to cue from. It will probably only need one or two keystrokes, since the program checks your input against all available instruments of the Flow (except those of the Player that you are cueing into) and offers all matches as a drop-down list. Once you have chosen the appropriate instrument and confirmed by pressing Return, the cue appears.

Cues can be placed in the same bar as music to be played. Dorico automatically adjusts rests and voices without further intervention required.

It bears repeating, though, that the result is something fundamentally different than regular notation pasted in from another part of the score. In fact, it is not even possible to select (in Write mode) any notational element of the cue. I find that quite appropriate, as cues are not really part of the actual music; a cue can be added or removed and this doesn’t change one bit of musical meaning.

Cue properties

What is created instead is a reference to the source instrument — a dynamic connection that will automatically update the content and appearance of its cue notation. A cue reference is a durational element: if you summoned the popover from a selection outside of Note Input, a cue will cover the extent of that selection; if you create the cue during Note Input, the default extent of a quarter note is used.

As is the case with other durational objects (like hairpins, pedal lines or gradual tempo changes), cues can be moved while retaining its current length with Alt+Left/Right Arrow, and lengthened and shortened with Shift+Alt+Left/Right arrow. That means that you need not spend too much thought about the optimal cue length right at the start. Just create your cue, and if you were not really sure about how much to cue, experiment a bit. If your cue ends up starting or finishing in the middle of a bar, rests are added automatically so that the position of a cue is never ambiguous; you can prevent those padded rests by way of a property, although usually you shouldn’t.

As can be seen above, Dorico automatically determines the appropriate stem direction for a cue and also positions the label indicating the cued instrument above or below the staff accordingly. Both stem direction and label placement can be overridden locally in the Properties panel.

The label’s text is set automatically based on the cued instrument. There are many settings in Engrave > Engraving Options to adjust the default content and appearance of cue labels. For sophisticated cueing it is not exactly rare, though, that a cue’s label deviates from such a simplistic template, like when additional instruments (playing along in unison or at another octave) are indicated, or when a cue is simply labelled “Brass” to empahsize the entry of a whole section, even though maybe just the top trumpet line is actually cued. Such custom labels are possible by activating the Start text property and providing an alternative text string.

There is also a second text label built into Dorico’s cues, which can appear at a cue’s end. If it is set, in Engraving Options, to appear generally for each cue, then the default text will be “Play,” as is customary in certain jazz or show contexts. Just as with the common instrument label, the text can be overridden locally.

The advantages of cues as references

One of the most obvious advantages of cues as references is, of course, the hugely diminished risk of accidentally causing a rehearsal breakdown when introducing a last minute change to material that serves as a vital cue for a number of other musicians.

Let’s assume you just finished carefully preparing the parts for your third symphony and there are just five minutes left to keep the hard deadline for e-mailng the stuff to your publisher — when, to your horror, you realize that an important horn solo does actually not match the harmony established by the strings. With static cues from the “B.C.” era, this is the moment to panic. You would have to go through every part, just in case, and if there is a cue you have to adjust it manually, without introducing new errors, the clock is ticking! With Dorico 1.2, though, you just correct your error in the full score, and you need not waste even half a second of a thought on looking for and adapting any cues that might depend on the passage that you just changed.

Imagine what it could mean if you hadn’t been able to correct this in time: people would play it wrong for, who knows, the next two hundred years, or longer!

A word of caution, though. While Dorico keeps track of all changes that occur within existing cue references, it cannot (yet?) keep up with you if you make an edit so existential as cutting the whole source passage out and redistributing it into another instrument instead. In that case, all cue references for the passage keep pointing to the original instrument, thus cueing — nothing.

Fortunately, there is a tool provided that helps avoid such a trap. The new view option View > Highlight Cues will conveniently mark up all passages relevant for cueing. Destination passages (the actual cue notations) appear in yellow, while source passages are highlighted in blue. So, if you really have to make some last-moment changes to a carefully cued project, make sure to have that option turned on, and be extra mindful when you find yourself making a change within those boxes.

The opaqueness of the highlights adjusts to the zoom level, becoming more opaque at a birds-eye view, while appearing more translucent as you zoom in, in order to see the notes clearly.

If, instead, there is a need to visually de-emphasize cues (to concentrate on the actual music in an already densely cued part), another new view option is useful: activating View > Note and Rest Colors > Cues will show cues as greyed-out.

Dynamically changing cue notation

A somewhat less obvious advantage of cues being references is that the cue notation itself can be changed dynamically. While cues will most often be starkly reduced versions of their sources (usually boiled down to just rhythm and pitch), on occasion it is imperative to include other information. In the “B.C.” era, that meant to carefully filter the passage that one was about to copy, including or excluding the right secondary elements, like slurs or crucial dynamics. From that point on that was it; if one wanted to reconsider, it meant copying and pasting from scratch.

With Dorico’s cues, users can decide at any point what kind of additional information should actually display with a cue. The global way is to set a preferred appearance in Engrave > Engraving Options > Cues > Included Notations. But it also can be done for each cue individually, with properties. In particular, users can freely decide whether to include — if present in the source notation — articulations, slurs, dynamics, lyrics, playing techniques, ornaments and generic text objects.

On the other hand, sometimes a conventional cue can even contain more information than really necessary — instead, it can be more useful to just show a rhythm. This, too, is just the setting of a property in Dorico 1.2, with an extra property to override the default distance above the staff:

If an unpitched instrument is cued, then it appears as a rhythmic cue by default. Unsetting the Rhythmic cue property for such a cue reference will put the cue notes on the middle of the staff, but this position, too, can be overridden if so desired.

As the most radical change of appearance, a cue can be set to not display. Maybe you are about to ask what the point is of creating a cue and then not showing it. This is useful, however, in some situations where there are different Layout constellations for the same Player, and different cueing solutions are needed. As an easy example, consider a case where, for an orchestral piece, two different sets of parts are offered: the regular approach with one part per woodwind instrument, and a second set where two woodwind players share a combined part.

In the first case the cue for the first oboe is vital. In the second case it is pointless. A comparably simple situation like this one is possible, if awkward, with the expanded “B.C.” approach of “Copy-And-Paste-And-Then-Carefully-Hide”; more complex problems of that sort quickly become headscratchingly difficult. In Dorico, any such sophisticated cueing puzzle is trivial, since the notation of a cue, if hidden, does just not exist in any actual form in the Players staff — a hidden cue does not even break a multi-rest bar.

Clefs and octave transpositions

I consider cueing the free-form discipline of music preparation, in the sense that it is the area of the field with room for experiments to find optimal solutions, and that, given the luxury of enough time, it often calls for an editor to get creative.

A frequent challenge is how to best handle cues that do not fit comfortably into the clef range of a destination instrument. As can be expected, Dorico handles the tedious basics here by sorting out the correct transpositions, and even giving special treatment to octave-transposing instruments. The question how well it provides support with the more advanced problem of presenting the general pitch range in an optimal fashion is more complicated, though — not in the least because there often will be considerable dissent between any two editors what the optimal solution for a particular problem would be.

For automatically choosing a clef for each cue, Dorico 1.2 offers two approaches, and they are quite straightforward. I think it is a good idea to take a moment and look at both at some detail, though, since a user’s choice here actually affects workflow — something that is unusual for a setting found in Engraving Options (under Clef at the start of the cue).

The program’s factory setting is Use clef of source instrument, which overall does pretty exactly what it says. If the clefs of source and destination match, Dorico will, reasonably, not draw any redundant clef. The advantage of this setting is that a large percentage of cues will stay nicely within the staff, which, generally, is a good thing. But it also means that there will be a number of cues that end up with unnecessary clef changes, where the cued material could have been just as well notated in the instrument’s valid clef. Additionally, at times certain clefs that, in the opinion of many engravers, should not ever be assigned to instruments for which they are not common (think a tenor clef in a clarinet part) will end up inevitably in such instruments. Both problems are mitigated by a clever exception: if the cue is from a tenor clef passage to one in alto clef (or vice versa), no clef change is applied, since the difference in staff position will be just a space anyway. Still, dependent on how much of a nitpicker you are, you might be bothered by the amount of additional proofreading that you will end up doing.

As an alternative, the opposite approach of Use clef of destination instrument can be chosen. Again, this does exactly what it says… although what sounds like a decision about clef changes, means, if you think about it, a decision against any clef changes. This reliably prevents the problems for the previously described approach, but it comes at a price: whenever the cued material is pitched in a region that is far outside of the staff, there will be a lot of unsightly ledger lines.

The following juxtaposition shows the results of both settings, albeit in extremely simplified form: first with source notations that could be comfortably notated in any one of clefs present on the destination staves (left of the double barline); then with source notations written in the extreme registers of their respective instruments (right of the double barline). Please keep in mind that the example is completely schematic and therefore not applicable, apples-to-apples, in real-life situations. Its purpose is to make clear the consequences of each setting, not to promote one over the other. In fact, the decision which setting to use for a particular project may at times depend closely on the instruments/vocalists involved.

(Click for PDF)

Whatever a user’s reasons to change the program’s default output may be, doing so is simple. Activating the property for a cue’s clef offers the four common clefs of Treble, Alto, Tenor and Bass. These choices are preceded by the slightly misleading option None, which does not mean the application of the “invisible” clef. Instead, it instructs Dorico to “use” whatever clef is valid at that point in the part; therefore, because an explicitly stated clef is redundant, Dorico draws “none”.

Depending on whether the current Layout is transposed or not, the property to change a cue clef will be labeled either Transposed clef or Concert clef (technically, those are two separate properties, and only one of them is exposed at a time).

If a cue ends up with a clef change (by default or by override), Dorico will draw the appropriate restoration clef at the end of the cue automatically. Consecutive cues, as long as they abut properly, will repress any useless restorative clefs in between.

While restoration clefs, when occuring at a barline, will appear in front of the barline, an actual cue clef at the same position will be drawn after the barline. If you have worked for a long time with cues in other programs, this might strike you as odd, even wrong. However, it actually is a time-honored convention in hand-engraved materials, with some clear advantages; that it has gradually disappeared over time is largely a consequence of previous software packages not supporting it. There is currently no way to change this behavior in Dorico, something that, personally speaking, I think is a good thing.

It is also possible to transpose a whole cue by octaves (up to three, in both directions), which very often can be preferable to using clef changes. Currently, the program will apply octave shifts for default output only ever to handle cues from octave-transposing instruments, it will not use the feature to keep cue notations within a good range as an alternative to clef changes.

The transposition will be indicated by way of a plain text suffix to the cue’s label; this can be prevented with the additional Show octave transposition property. Regular octave lines are not yet supported within the context of cues.

Cue suggestions

If you are nothing like me and consider cueing more a chore than an exciting sport, you will get great satisfaction from the Suggest Cue feature, found in the right-hand Cues panel. There one can provide Dorico with a timing (the default is thirty seconds), and the program will then analyze the current Flow, marking up all points where a Player has rested longer than this time value. An easy trap to fall into, especially for users that do not make too much use of Dorico’s playback features, is that this approach will only lead to reasonable results if all tempi in a score are set so that the internal (playback) tempo is a good actual match for the intended tempo of a performance. Keep that in mind before trusting the program’s suggestions blindly.

All suggestions are provided as a list in the panel, and clicking on a list item navigates to the position in the Layout. A second list provides an overview of any instruments playing music in the passage preceding a potential cue. This makes cueing very straightforward and convenient and… dare we say, boring? If you don’t mind losing the existential pleasure that comes with the hunt for the perfect cue, then this is the feature for you.

Cue spacing

Lastly, there is one more feature of Dorico’s cues that deserves mentioning — mostly because it is so subtle that it might go unnoticed if I don’t point it out. In best-practice music engraving, cue notations won’t be spaced horizontally the same way that regular notation is. This is one of the many techniques that experienced engravers use to make it really clear that a cue is just a cue and not some actual music that a musician might be tempted into playing out loud. It can also save quite a bit of overall space, and therefore page turns.

If a software allows to change note spacing manually in some way, this was always possible, provided a user had the know-how, the time, and really strong nerves. In Dorico 1.2, tighter spacing for cue notations is a fully automated integrated feature. The default contraction for cue spacing is 70% of regular spacing, a value that can be changed on a Layout-by-Layout basis in Setup > Layout Options > Note Spacing.

Cue note spacing at 70% (default)
Cue note spacing at 100%

Concluding thoughts on cues

With all these breathtaking innovations, it is important to acknowledge that Dorico’s cues still have some limitations, albeit most are really only noticeable in rare circumstances.

  • Smart assignation of clefs is still in a nascent state. The two currently available approaches (see above) both have their advantages and disadvantages — for now it is advisable to double-check the program’s automatic choices.
  • Currently, cues will always reference all voices that are present on the source staff, and all notes of any chords in a voice. This means that it is not possible to just cue, let’s say, the melody of a piano if the right hand is also playing additional material below.
  • Another consequence of Dorico more or less providing a “literal” quote of the source is that this prevents (the almost never needed) rendering of a cue as an equivalent, but more free adaptation of the cued passage.
  • While a cue as a whole can be transposed in octave intervals, it is not yet possible to apply regular octave lines to selected passages of a cue. In fact, octave lines in the source notation are taken out completely for a cue, so any unwieldy melodical ambitus that called for an octave transposition will turn up again in the cue.

It should also be noted that there is a straightforward workaround for most of these cases: simply provide a parallel Player in Setup Mode (assigned the instruments that advanced cues are needed for) and then put in the actually desired source notation there. This, obviously, will break the dynamic nature of a cue, since the actual instrument is not referenced anymore, but it still provides all the other perks of the new feature.

A public service announcement for Windows users

Before we proceed to other, more diverse features, a word of caution for users (updating or first-time) on Windows: if your audio hardware does not come with its own ASIO drivers, the ones coming with Dorico will be put to use, and they will, by default, hog your system‘s sound capabilities. So, lest you panic because starting Dorico suddenly chokes off your favorite YouTube video, you’d better take care to go to Edit > Device Setup and check whether Generic Low Latency ASIO Driver is chosen, in which case you should open the Device Control Panel and uncheck the box labelled Allow ASIO host application to take exclusive control of selected port configuration. Having thus averted a crisis, you may celebrate.

Newly added notation techniques: l.v. ties, scaling, niche notations

Laisser vibrer (l.v.) ties

Looking at the examples for the cueing feature, you might have spotted a small detail that maybe you find just as exciting – Dorico 1.2 has a proper implementation of laisser vibrer ties, also known under their abbreviated form of “l.v.” ties, or as “dangling,” “open,” or “phantom” ties.

In other programs, any dedicated support for such ties tends to linger in development purgatory, ever-almost-making-the-cut for potential addition, were it not for the fact that it can be just barely achieved as a reasonable workaround with already existing features. Tellingly, a Google search for “lv ties in [Finale / Sibelius / MuseScore]” will bring up, as top results, not any links to the official documentation, but instead to several forum discussions on how best to fake that notation in absence of a native implementation. LilyPond is the exception, as so often — but then again, every non-basic notation in LilyPond generally starts with a Google query.

At time of this review’s publication, “lv ties in Dorico” leads to similarly disheartening results, but in a year from now, mysterious future reader, you probably find that this has changed. Searching for “lv ties in capella” is not useful at all.

The property to make a note appear with an open tie is found at the very end of the Notes and Rests sub-panel of the Properties panel. Note that Dorico’s open ties are not mere static glyphs; overall they function exactly like regular ties. They can be dragged with the mouse in Engrave mode, and all the property edits available to regular ties can be applied to open ties as well. Engraving Options now contain setting for the default length of open ties, further differentiating between cases where they belong to regular notes, grace notes, or as lead-in and lead-out notation for truncated cues.

The laisser vibrer ties settings in Engraving Options

Scaling

A newly-added feature with wide-ranging consequences is scaling, found in the Common sub-panel of the Properties panel. The vast majority of score items can now be set to one of four pre-defined scale settings, independently from the size that an item has due to its function. The four presets, to sum up the obvious — and which will be familiar to Sibelius users — are Normal, Cue, Grace and Cue Grace; the global scaling factors for Cue and Grace are set in Engraving Options (under Cues and Notes), in case that you prefer something else than Dorico’s default values of 75% and 60%, respectively.

The really nifty thing, though, is the additional Custom Scale property, which allows to apply arbitrary percentage values for scaling. Custom scaling, mind you, happens on top of any predefined scaling factor, so if it is used on a passage already containing predefined size deviations, the mutual relations are kept.

I had initially planned on demonstrating the scaling features on a few well-known pieces and situations, like a cadenza, a Chopin prelude, maybe a piece from the sixties, with notehead size indicating dynamics. But if we are honest and search deep within our hearts, dear readers, we know what we really want to see. So here is a short excerpt where I applied random scaling values to individual score items. Enjoy.

Niche notations

And speaking of weird-looking scores, there are a few new conventions supported in Dorico 1.2 which are of importance to relatively small, but passionate musical communities.

Very few readers will be accustomed with the first example, just because it is brand new. Developed by Keda Music, Universal Indian Drum Notation is an attempt to bridge the highly specialized world of classical Indian drumming with other musical sub-cultures, by providing a somewhat standardized notation accessible to practitioners of western standard notation. It remains to be seen whether this succeeds, but one thing the system has going for itself is a smooth new clef:

Sorry, this is closest we get to percussion features in this part of the review.

A notation system probably more familiar to many readers, if only in principle, is the Figurenotes note coloring system, one of multiple approaches to adapt and simplify standard notation for a wide range of pedagogical contexts — and hopefully not the last addition of that kind. Functionally, it is, of course, similar to the already existing feature to display noteheads with their respective note names, which is why the setting for making it the default appearance for a whole Project is found right next to the latter in Engrave > Engraving Options > Notes > Notehead design. As with the note name feature, Dorico handles the application fully automatically, which holds true even when the system is not used globally, but merely by applying name / color appearance to individual notes, via Edit > Notehead.

Lastly, the notational technique to link pitch with specific notehead appearances is taken one step further with a fully automatic implementation of four shape note systems (the 4-shape system by Walker, and the three 7-shape systems by Walker, Funk and Aikin, respectively), again found in Engrave > Engraving Options > Notes. Shape note notation is based on solfège, the ancient technique of learning diatonic music by linking scale degrees to certain syllables. So, in contrast to merely matching a particular pitch to a notehead, Dorico must also take into account the prevailing key signature, as a shape note scale is not based on absolute pitch, but starts on the root of the key.

Note how the note shapes change according to key signature.

I can report nothing more and nothing less than that the program manages to do this flawlessly.

Improvements of existing notation features

There has also been further development on existing notation features. Any somewhat exhaustive list would be long and boring, but following are some notable examples.

The algorithms for automatic rhythmic spelling of rests, for one, have been improved so that certain incorrect spellings on the sub-beat level do not happen anymore. Remember that rests are usually not even put in anymore by the user in Dorico; the rests just appear to correctly pad out the remaining beats. But that means that users should be able to always rely on Dorico handling these “implicit” rests correctly. While the incorrect spellings only affected a very small number of scenarios that ventured deep into the demisemihemidemisemidevijuniors, it is reassuring to see that the developers still put in the extra work to get the fundamentals right even for fringe cases.

In our recent tutorial about mensural notation I mentioned my generally contained enthusiasm about tuplets spanned over barlines. The new property Split notes at spanned barline allows to elegantly mitigate the main problem that I see with that notation. If you feel compelled to span your tuplets, please use that property. Speaking of the tutorial: with Dorico 1.2 it is no longer necessary to fake the alla breve symbol for the historic use of that time signature when representing a 4/2 meter.

At any system break or frame break it is now possible to override the default appearance of staff labels (showing instruments by their full name, their abbreviation, or not at all), something that I found surprisingly useful in some scenarios. Be aware, though, that the override affects all labels of the system, it is not yet possible to edit individual labels independently.

One of the few mainstream chord symbol use cases not covered by the introduction of the feature in the previous update has been added: the representation of modes and scales, something particular useful when dealing with stretches in a chart that a soloist is to elaborately improvise over. Modes can be entered directly into the chords popover, just like regular chord symbols. But it is also possible to switch any existing chord symbol to a modal expression. Dorico will then automatically find the most appropriate, indicating any altered scale tones if necessary. As usual, the default output can be changed manually.

Fewer restrictions in Engrave mode

One of the most awkward limitations, given Dorico’s overall flexibility, was that text labels for instrument changes could not be edited by the user. In fact, it was not even possible to select them. With all the cleverness of the fully automated instrument changes, this was frustrating, because a label would often not appear exactly at a position where one would want it, or one might have preferred a slightly different text for a label than the default one, or maybe one would have even preferred to have no label at all — there was not much to do but to accept Dorico displaying the generally right thing, but sometimes in the wrong place or form. Now, however, these labels are freely movable in Engrave mode, and their text can be overridden.

A similar limitation has been lifted with glissando lines, which, while probably being the smartest of their kind on the market right now, could not be nudged in any way. Again, one was left to accept what the program came up with on its own. While 98% percent of cases might have been flawless, the remaining ones made you wish for the precise positioning control that is available with today’s update. Dorico stays smart even when being overridden on such granular level: if the line is dragged in a way that the text would end up upside-down, the text object is appropriately flipped over to the other side of the line. Since a line position where this happens makes actually no real sense, I would guess that this is no dedicated feature. Instead, it is an example for how well all the independent engraving engines play together, with one of them taking care of drawing the actual line, and another one taking care of drawing text, making sure that it stays legible whatever the context may be.

Multi-bar rests have been mostly static objects until now, too. They can now be selected, and — in Engrave mode — their H-bar width can be fine-tuned and the position of the bar count number can be changed vertically (very, very, useful) and horizontally (yeah, why not).

Workflow

With each update, Dorico becomes a bit faster, it seems. The loading and editing of larger scores has once more improved, although there is still a considerable delay whenever huge amounts of playback data has to be considered, especially when switching between parallel projects. The option to just not load fancy playback data, something very much longed for by strictly-notation persons like me, hasn’t made it into this update. On the other hand, the modeless dialogues (Notation Options, Engraving Options, Layout Options, and so on), which previously took astoundingly long to open, are now one of the most effortless things to handle in the program.

Signposts

One very simple new feature with great impact: it is now possible to hide all currently active Signposts with a single command: View > Signposts > Hide Signposts. A signpost, for those who do not recall, is a colored flag in the score, standing in for some notational entity that is not displayed, but might still need to be selected by users (there are signposts for time signatures, layout breaks, tuplets, chord symbols, and so on).

While signposts are a great improvement over the previous era’s concept of merely hiding objects, until now they were quite clunky to work with at times, because each type of signpost had its own toggle to control whether it is displayed or not; to make things extra awkward, these toggles are buried in a long sub-menu. With the new command, it is possible to have a useful choice of displayed signposts and then just get them out of the way for a moment without having to actually turn off any. Think of it as Sibelius’s great Hide All (invisible objects) feature, but with the added convenience of no invisible objects.

Add Intervals popover

A new command Write > Add Intervals Popover has been added, with the default key command Shift+I. This popover makes much of the functionality provided by both the Add Notes Above or Below and the Transpose dialogs accessible directly via the keyboard.

To use the popover, select the notes to which you want to add notes or transpose, then type Shift+I. Many options are possible, including transposing (begin input with t), specifying the quality (i.e., perfect, major, minor, diminished, augmented, and diatonic), and multiple intervals at once.

Counterpart Layout

Another useful workflow improvement comes with the Window > Counterpart Layout command (shortcut: W), which allows one to quickly switch between the score and a part (and vice versa), based on the current selection, which will be familiar to Sibelius users. A word of caution: since in Dorico it is possible to have more complicated relations than the conventional “one score = many parts”, the concept of “Counterpart” becomes a bit ambiguous in such more complicated setups, and one might not always end up where one would have predicted. However, this is only a concern in projects that venture outside of the conventional score.

Other notable improvements

A fundamental change has been made with the Force Duration functionality (which is used to override the program’s automatic rhythmic spelling) in connection with ties. Until Dorico 1.2, when users created tied-together notes with Force Duration activated, each thus created note was its own entity, selectable in Write mode. Now, the same procedure will result in a tie chain that behaves much more like a regular one: clicking one link of the chain will select all its links at once. While I hadn’t enough time to really test out the consequences of this new design, I wanted to point it out here just in case, as it is not getting — at time of publishing — particularly much publicity in the official documentation. Which is to say: if you experience some mild confusion when working with Force Duration, take a moment to check whether making yourself aware of this design change clears things up.

Print mode has a much more convenient overall feel now, just by addition of a view option to display a whole page (as opposed to the hitherto exclusive continuous presentation), and by making it possible to select all available Layouts for processing at once. Sometimes, it’s really the little things.

From the category “Really, that wasn’t there yet?”, there is a new Go To Page command and a filter for selecting or deselecting notes by pitch. Lyrics, too, can be filtered in more sophisticated ways now.

Users can set their preferred measurement units in Preferences, affecting the whole application. Choose between points, millimeters, inches, and centimeters.

Prices, availability, specs

Dorico 1.2 is available for purchase now. A 30-day trial is also available.

For current owners of Dorico, the Dorico 1.2 update is available to download now, free of charge.

Pricing of Dorico 1.2 has not changed from 1.1. The boxed edition is 579 € including VAT, or $579.99 for US customers, for a full professional license. Educational pricing for qualifying teachers and students is  349 € including VAT ($349.99 USD).

A special note for those owning a competing notation program: the crossgrade offer, originally set to expire on March 31 and extended to June 30 and again to September 30, 2017, is now extended indefinitely. The price for qualifying Sibelius and Finale users is 299 € including VAT ($299.99 USD). Notion users are no longer eligible for the crossgrade.

A download-only version is available as well; you’ll save $20 from the prices listed above. The reason for this is that you will have to buy a USB eLicenser separately if you want to transfer to it your Soft-eLicenser at some point. It’s included with the box but it will cost you $28 if you purchase it separately.

OS requirements for Dorico 1.2 are Mac OS X 10.11 or later, or 64-bit Windows 10.

Next parts of this review: Percussion notation, fingering, playback

Stay tuned in the coming days for the next parts of this review on this blog, which will cover percussion notation, fingering, and playback improvements!

In the meantime, peruse the Dorico 1.2 version history document, which lists all the many changes in detail, and read Daniel Spreadbury’s official blog post announcing today’s release.

Comments

  1. Darcy James Argue

    Great review! One thing that is not clear to me is whether cues and actual notation can coexist in the same measure — for instance, when an instrument has an entry on the “and” of 4 in 4/4, can the earlier part of the measure contain cues?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Darcy: Yes, this is automatically and easily done in the ordinary course of adding a cue. Appropriate rests are added. I have added an example to the post to demonstrate this.

    2. Daniel Spreadbury

      Yes, and you can also make cues overlap if need be. We’ve tried our best to make the feature as flexible as possible.

      Darcy, I’m also happy to say that we implemented pretty much all of the things we talked about back in the summer after your famous Twitter thread on chord symbols (wish I could find that thread again now): the issue of the omit 3/5 in chords with higher alterations, modal chord symbols (including alterations), an option to allow left-aligned chord symbols to be offset a little bit further to the left, and better handling of C ped./C only root-only chord symbols. I even tweaked the default length and position of the + and – signs in Bravura (hopefully that will make you happy too, Philip).

      1. Philip Rothman

        Hi Daniel, thanks for this reply! I’m sorry that your comment got caught up in the spam filter for some reason yesterday.

  2. Mark Arnest

    I have basically avoided cues in Sibelius because of how unwieldy they are. I just tried some in Dorico – incredible! I could not have imagined it could be so easy.

  3. Bob Zawalich

    Great review – nice work, Alexander and Philip!

    Reminds me of the good old days when new versions of Sibelius would have things like this in them…

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