Dorico is here: A review


Features in context, and those yet to come

I have mainly been singing Dorico’s praises so far, but it’s no secret that Dorico 1.0 is lacking a few things one has come to expect in a professional notation program. So… about those missing features.

I’ve thought about what would be an appropriate way to address this. It occurred to me that, with the situation being as singular as I described it in the introduction, it cannot be discussed without acknowledging the extraordinary amount of all kinds of expectations that have mounted during the last four years.

The expectations game

When Philip contacted me about writing this post, to give me some kind of idea what was needed he sent me a link to his review of StaffPad. Re-reading it, there was one sentence that stuck out:

StaffPad is quite good at recognizing flags on notes to create unbeamed notes.

“Quite good”. Mind you, that is meant as an endorsement. The program with the main selling point of reliably recognizing handwritten notation will correctly identify one of the most basic use cases… most of the time. But: it was a huge leap forward to something a lot of people desperately wished for, so everyone could agree that StaffPad was a game changer, even though it does not deliver entirely without fault on what it is setting out to do. (For the record: StaffPad is a deeply innovative and wonderfully designed software. Buy it if you haven’t already.)

The expectations game worked in favor of StaffPad: groundbreaking software at last achieves a single task, given up on by many people, having been burned before. But will probably make things more difficult for Dorico: groundbreaking software sets out to develop a unified field theory of music notation, with people cheering on a trusted team to make possible everything they have demanded in vain from their current tools for years — on top of what they can do right now, of course.

So first, let’s officially bring down a few notches the main expectation which many of us have been gleefully pushing ever-upwards (Daniel has had to remind us that he and his colleagues “aren’t curing cancer”).

Contrary to understandable and long-nurtured wishful thinking, this initial version of a highly complex software tool, aiming to set multiple new standards in an obscure field with numerous diverse user profiles, is not, indeed, perfect in every way. Let me repeat that: not perfect. There is still room for further development.

What you won’t find (yet) in Dorico

Besides perfection, however, a more difficult problem is that Dorico is still incomplete in ways that will leave users more often than not with superb, yet unpublishable scores. That is because much of the currently unavailable functionality is scattered all over different aspects of notation, and many common use cases are affected at some point or another.

Let’s try to take stock:

  • 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. [UPDATE: there is a small assortment of slashed note heads, but this hardly counts as fully implemented slash notation.]
  • Volta brackets (first, second endings, etc.) are not covered at this time (to avoid confusion: repeat barlines are impeccably implemented). There are a lot of otherwise quite undemanding scores out there which cannot be engraved correctly in Dorico today because of this.
  • The overall very comprehensive Playing Techniques omit the entirety of piano pedaling. So if you are a highbrow composer that has been inwardly scoffing at all the people panicking over pedestrian chord symbols: Karma’s a pitch!
  • 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; from all the things listed so far, these are the only ones that are currently fakeable to some extent, but that is hardly a selling point.
  • Doing a lot of musical editing work, this reviewer in particular misses a convenient feature to annotate scores. (Then again, this is possible in Sibelius but not Finale.)
  • Brace yourself: there is currently no way to transpose (again for clarification: this means local transposition as an editing feature; transposing instruments are working just as they should). A basic way to, for example, transpose a selected passage up or down a major third can’t be found in Dorico 1.0. [UPDATE: the 1.0.10 update has introduced a sophisticated transposition feature.]
  • Also not yet implemented: some pet peeve of yours that didn’t even occur to me to check.

It should be noted, though, that thinking of Dorico as a program with a lack of features gives a wrong idea of what its development status is. Steinberg’s marketing is very eager to point out that many features are going to be added soon, and this should not be dismissed as mere window dressing. (If you look at the screenshots released in the last months by Steinberg and study them closely, you will quickly find a number of tantalizing UI elements that are omitted from the 1.0 release.)

The good news here is that the developers consistently value rock-solid implementation over instant gratification. This gives reasonable cause to assume that Dorico will not find itself anytime soon in the kind of plateau situation that Sibelius and Finale are facing. The reason for any widely demanded feature not being included yet is, in all probability, not so much that the developers haven’t gotten around to it, but that it currently is still only “quite good” and not “insanely great” — to borrow from another technological pioneer. (That same pioneer didn’t include something as rudimentary as copy and paste in the first iPhone, and it still ended up turning out pretty well in the end.)

In assessing how debilitating any missing features might really be, it can be deceptive to simply make a comparison with what one is used to. Consider, for example, that in Dorico there is not yet a dedicated feature to tweak vertical staff spacing on a case-by-case basis. That means users are for now completely at the mercy of the program’s justification algorithms — a scary thought if we were talking about working in Sibelius or Finale. [UPDATE: the 1.0.10 update has introduced the ability to vertically move staves freely and with ease.]

This, however, is a wrong equivalency: as long as Dorico is given minimally reasonable space for laying out the music, its collision avoidance on the staff level is faultless. While an ability to override staff spacing manually will certainly be added at some point, its absence right now is certainly not a deal-breaker. The program once more “does automatically what you would have done anyway”.

Dorico’s performance has room for improvement

Given the amount of sophistication of Dorico’s separate features, it should come only as a mild surprise that sometimes they are not yet comfortably under the user’s control in this initial release. Content selection might be the most obvious example: at times — to me at least — it does behave in ways that are not completely predictable, and so I spend two or three approaches on a selection that feels as it should be easy to make.

My impression here is that the problem is not a clumsy implementation of selection itself (even though some semi-advanced standard selection features are, wait for it… not yet implemented [UPDATE: the 1.0.10 update has brought first improvements here]); rather, processing selections in Dorico is an advanced multi-dimensional task, where all the intricacies disregarded in competing programs have to be considered.

Fortunately, with the fundamental software architecture being focused on modular processing, improvement in this area is not so much dependent on any inherent technical limits, but on the software engineers getting around to refine the current algorithms. There is no reason to doubt that this will happen eventually.

Outside of particular features, it cannot be ignored that there are also some broader technical issues. While the occasional bug or crash is not too big a deal (especially as bug fix updates are to be expected soon), the speed of the program regarding certain edits is a letdown [UPDATE: these problems in particular have been addressed in the 1.0.10 update to the point that they are hardly noticeable any more, if at all]. Personally I am ready to accept this for the time being, in order to experience the kind of quality bought by these obviously laborious operations.

As with the issues concerning selections, I hope that the developers’ assurances of large untapped potential in optimizing the current code will prove true rather sooner than later. One of Dorico’s more peculiar quirks right now is that edits of pitch will be executed (and redrawn) subsequently for each selected note.

This is quaint to watch the first few times, but it will slow down bulk edits considerably. [UPDATE: this is not an issue anymore after the 1.0.10 update]

notes-cascadeAnother area where response lag gets seriously in the way of a smooth user experience is Setup mode: Complex changes to the Player/Flow/Layout triangle require patient users, as the program will go about redrawing the whole project the moment a checkbox is clicked. While this is happening, users are free to continue clicking on checkboxes, each time triggering new high-level edits that have to be queued in.

To add further confusion, checkboxes will be updated before the corresponding edit has been completed, resulting in an increasing discrepancy between the state of the checkboxes and the actual output (I guess you have to see it to share my annoyance). To Dorico’s credit, all lagging edits will be correctly executed in the end. Still, Jakob Nielsen woud not be impressed. It has been stated that these speed issues are a transitional situation, but as is the nature of such announcements, no time frame has been declared [UPDATE: while sorting out a large number of complex edits in Setup still seems to be not correctly in sync with the UI, the substantial speed improvements of update 1.0.10 mitigate this problem greatly].

The most important “hidden feature”: the team

There is one special feature of Dorico that I’d like to review here for its double peculiarity of being a unique selling point and also being largely invisible: the development team.

Obviously they are the most qualified group for their job, considering their previous engagement. But on top of that, they have an extraordinary track record of engaging with their customers and going out of their way to actually listen to feature requests, to discuss issues openly and to base improvements closely on user feedback.

If you are a longtime Sibelius user, you might remember a time when you could go to that software’s support forum, make a suggestion for further development, and to then after a while often see that your voice made an actual difference. For three months now, as I have had the opportunity to work with various pre-release builds of Dorico, I had the inspiring experience that this is at last possible again.

If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, the Dorico team will establish the same kind of exceptionally close relationship to its product’s user base as it had when they were responsible for making another program “the world’s best-selling scorewriter”. Don’t take my word for it; hop onto their public forum to contribute to the discussion.

Prices, availability, specs

Dorico is available for purchase beginning today.

Pricing for the boxed edition will be 579 € including VAT, or $579.99 for US customers, for a full professional license. Educational pricing for qualifying teachers and students will be 349 € including VAT ($349.99 USD), and a crossgrade offer for qualifying Sibelius, Finale, and Notion users will be available for 299 € including VAT ($299.99 USD) for a limited time — until March 31, 2017.

A download-only version is available as well; if you’re willing to purchase Dorico that way, 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.

What’s that about an eLicenser? Right now, you’re only allowed to use Dorico on one computer at a time. When you activate Dorico with an activation code, it will lock Dorico to a single computer. If you want to move your Dorico license from the Soft-eLicenser to the USB-eLicenser, Dorico will only run if the USB-eLicenser is plugged into a USB port on that computer.

It’s a clunky way to manage software licenses in 2016. Daniel Spreadbury said:

Steinberg is always reviewing its licensing technologies in the light of changing customer and business needs, and looking to the future we plan to introduce new capabilities to our eLicenser system that will address the needs of customers to run the software on their computers without the use of the USB-eLicenser while still protecting both their and Steinberg’s investment in our software.

Also check the OS requirements: Mac OS X 10.11, El Capitan or macOS Sierra, or 64-bit Windows 10. Steinberg’s policy is generally to support only the latest operating systems, although users running earlier versions of Mac OS X and 64-bit Windows systems may be able to run Dorico as well.

If you want to try a demo for free before purchasing, you’re out of luck — but not for long. Steinberg will make a 30-day demo of Dorico available in about a month. [UPDATE: A 30-day free trial is now available]

So, should you buy it?

After reading above about some of the features not yet in Dorico, you might wonder if buying now will make you have to pay again once those features are implemented. Thankfully, that’s not the case — here’s what’s been promised, directly from Steinberg:

Dorico will receive a number of updates in the coming months that will be free to existing users, adding new functionality. Some of the functionality that is planned to be added in these updates includes*:

  • Chord symbols
  • Repeat ending (1st, 2nd time or volta) lines
  • Fingerings
  • Jazz articulations
  • Rhythm slashes
  • More flexible unpitched percussion notation
  • Improvements to playback and support for third-party virtual instruments

* Please note that the list of features that will be added in free updates to Dorico is subject to change.

While the asterisk is noted, we think that Steinberg will make good on all these items without requiring users to pony up again.

So if you’ve saved up your funds and you’ve been eagerly awaiting this release — and, let’s face it, you have been — buy Dorico. Dive in wholeheartedly. Explore its features, its quirks, its myriad notation and engraving options. Understand the philosophy behind its design, and try to not be constrained by your familiarity with how other notation software works.

But don’t expect perfection, and certainly don’t delete the other programs from your computer anytime soon. It’s a 1.0 release, after all, and you’ll undoubtedly find bugs, problems, and occasional head-scratching frustration. If you work with these expectations in mind, it will help you put this new era of desktop notation software in perspective.

Steinberg is in it for the long haul, and we hope their competitors are, too. As much as Sibelius in its heyday spurred on competition with Finale, improving both platforms, we hope that Dorico will do the same for Sibelius and Finale, not to mention the other music notation products available to users today. To know the history of the Dorico team is to know that their fire is lit as much by a healthy dose of professional rivalry as it is by their undoubted passion for music notation — and that will benefit users in the end.

When it comes to the future, we’re reminded of what Sibelius co-founder Ben Finn told us last year when we interviewed him:

It is extraordinary that this niche and difficult task keeps being attempted by people. As far as the newer programs, I must say that I’m not fully up to date on all of them, but I surmise that when Steinberg comes out with their new program, having three really strong programs in the market will be more than enough, and will make it pretty much impossible for anyone else to enter the market with a professional program. Though it may not make it impossible for someone to survive in the market with an app that does lots of useful stuff but is not comprehensive.

But in terms of comprehensive professional-quality music notation, I can’t see how you could ever have more than three. Because you have to make money, and you have to pay staff. You can’t do that unless you have market share and are making some serious money. You can produce a simple program for not very much money, and either give it away or sell it for not very much, and maybe you can make a living from that. You can’t, however, create a program that requires a team of ten or twenty people just to develop it over many years. That costs millions of dollars, and that’s got to come from somewhere.

Indeed, the money has to come from somewhere. Today Steinberg will begin to tell how the market rewards their notable investment in the future of professional music scoring software. We don’t think they — or you — will be disappointed.


  1. Wilkins

    It is very disappointing that Dorico will not play Sibelius scores. So I shall not buy it!

    1. Eek

      Implementing the ability to do that would be illegal, otherwise other scoring apps would have added that YEARS ago.

    2. Carl-Henrik Buschmann

      It is very disappointing that my diesel car doesn’t run on gasoline.

      1. Carsten

        @Wilkins: There is MusicXML!

        Side notes:

        Even if it were not illegal to implement (in certain countries, it’s not): Sibelius’ (since the beginning) and Finale’s (since 2012) formats are encrypted. Therefore, it might be very hard, if not impossible to code such a file import…

        The former Sibelius Development team knows of course, how the file format has been implemented—not everything by heard though I suppose. While they could have taken away the file format documentation from Finsbury Park at the time they left, this
        would have been data theft (as this is owned by Avid).

        Other less known music notation software have open data formats, which makes it easier to implement file imports—from a technical point of view…

        By the way: How is Dorico’s file format “composed”? Based on XML? Compressed? Encrypted?

      2. Max Power

        It is very disappointing that I can’t play the Pink Floyd CD in my tape player. So I shall not buy it!

    3. Henry Howey

      It reads MusicXML

      Sibelius can export

      1. Steve

        I hope that an early adopter will report back on how much work it actually is to export MusicXML from Sib and get it formatted correctly in Dorico! Personally I’m thinking that I’d keep Sibelius around for previously-created scores but move forward with Dorico.

        1. Theo May

          I imported a range of my Sib files via music XML into Dorico– I was shocked at how accurate the default output from Dorico was. That being said, I’m no Ferneyhough, so I would imagine that depending on the notational complexity of your scores, your milage may vary!

    4. Chris

      All the more Dorico for us!

    5. Hans Nel

      Wilkins, it’s not Dorico’s fault that it’s software cannot work with Sibelius file. Sibelius files are created (by the software itself) by encrypting all the properties and objects that make up your score in a file. The ONLY software that has Sibelius’ “decrypting”‘engine (maybe a dll file) can open Sibelius files. Sibelius owns the rights to Sibelius files and will not give other companies like MakeMusic and Avid the right to decrypt Sibelius files. So you see, it’s NOT Dorico’s fault, but Avid’s “fault”. But Dorico will do the same. Steinberg will not allow other DAW’s and Notators to open Dorico files. It’s nobody’s “fault”. Software companies have the right to protect their property, don’t they? But…you are only spiting yourself by not obtaining Dorico’s. The very Sibelius you cling on was built by the very same coders that are creating Dorico! Dorico, in the short future, will surpass ALL other notation software. So, if you are like me…one who always want the latest versions of software, you should get Dorico. In time, Sibelius won’t even come close to it. :-)

  2. Carl-Henrik Buschmann

    A absolutely wondrous review, guys. Dorico seems to be a miracle come true. Imagine the work these guys have put down, my deepest and outmost respect! I want to buy them coffee.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thank you!

    2. Stefan

      Thanks, we like coffee (and tea incidentally).

  3. Jean-Paul Gilles

    Thank you for this exhaustive review of this wonderful software I will hasten to try.

  4. Ron Puente

    Hey Philip:

    Hope all is well. One question, will “DORICO” accept all of my Sibelius work? Thanks. Ron.

    1. Thijs

      You will need to go through your Sibelius projects, export them as an XML-file, and import that into Dorico.

      1. w^3

        There’s also a Sibelius plugin that can batch process folders to convert to XML.

  5. Donsta

    Looks great! I can’t wait till they add support for chord symbols. The day they do that is the day I buy it.

    1. Steve

      Agreed, this is a must-have for me. Hope it comes soon!

    2. Stan Martin

      I pulled the trigger yesterday and bought it just to get used to it. I can’t actually use it until the chord symbols are in place. 90% of my writing uses chord symbols.

    3. Bobby Rice

      I’m 100% with you on that comment. Perhaps it will be a “jazz/commercial” version of the software?

  6. Gordon Thornett

    The boxed package is a little more expensive than the download version. Do you know if it comes with any extras (such as a printed manual)? Is there any other reason to go for the boxed version (e.g. perhaps the packaged version takes a very long time to download)?

    1. Philip Rothman

      You don’t get the USB eLicenser with the download. It’s covered in the last section of the review.

    2. Aaron

      According to a reply by Daniel in a post in the Dorico forum, the box includes: 2 DVD-ROMs (containing the sound library), an empty USB-eLicenser, and a multi-language quick start guide sheet. Dorico’s program documentation is online-only; there will be no printed manual.

  7. Bob

    I realize you can’t cover everything in one review, but I’m eagerly awaiting to hear how well Dorico imports Sibelius 8 XML files.

  8. Tony Rickard

    Great article gentlemen. Honest and with the same thoroughness as Dorico! You achieved the impossible of keeping me awake and fascinated throughout my hour-long homeward commute and on a day that had a 5:30am start!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Tony! That is high praise, indeed. I’m hugely grateful to Alex and Andrew, who worked tirelessly at all hours with me to put together this comprehensive review.

  9. David H. Bailey

    Great review — I shall revisit it a few more times as I begin to get into the inner workings of Dorico. This is the first time I’ve ever bought a version 1.0 of any software, but knowing Daniel and his development team I can see great things coming along as Dorico matures.

    Thanks for posting such an in-depth review — regarding not being able to open Sibelius or Finale scores — I don’t think that’s a big deal. My Sibelius scores will stay in Sibelius format, same for my Finale scores, until/unless I need to modernize them and then it will be a toss-up whether I try to import into Dorico or simply use their native programs to make any changes.

    In the meantime I can tell that it will take a while for me to begin to get comfortable working with the various modes of Dorico so any major projects in the near future will still be done in Sibelius.

    Thanks again for the great review!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thank you, David!

  10. Peter Roos

    Excellent review, many thanks! I’m very much looking forward to getting my boxed version in the mail.

  11. Thien Bich Hoang

    Congratulation to Daniel Spreadbury and Philip Rothman and other members who were involved in this creating teams.

    Well Done Mate, Big Thanks.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thien Bich Hoang, thanks for your nice comments, and as always for reading the blog! Just to be clear, I am not on the Steinberg development team. Daniel and his colleagues at Steinberg are responsible for creating Dorico. Also, I must give the credit for this blog post to Alexander Plötz and Andrew Noah Cap, for they wrote the vast majority of it.

  12. Bob Zawalich

    Great review. Thanks to all of you!

  13. Abraham Lee

    This is an incredible review! Well done Alexander, Andrew, and Philip! Everything is exceptionally clear (especially the part about not being able to read Sibelius/Finale binary files) and was a pleasure to read with all the picture examples. I especially loved the short comparison between Dorico, Finale, and Sibelius. For me, that is a major selling point: getting to where I want to end up faster, with fewer things that need tweaking.

    The Dorico team should feel very good about where they’ve been able to bring this really amazing piece of software in a few short years. The only direction to go now is UP as long as they remain responsive to user feedback. Nicely done!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Abraham! Glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Hannes

    Will there be a trial version?

    Why should I spend money on a product I didn’t even test?

    1. Terence Jones

      Near the end of the review it does mention that there will be a 30 day trial available in about a month.

  15. randy woolf

    very very well written review. sounds exciting, but for me, no cues=no sale. professional parts have cues.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Randy! Absolutely, the ability to place cues is an essential feature in professional notation software. There are a number of other features missing that make Dorico unusable for many people at the moment. From what the Steinberg developers have said, we expect that they will add those items in due course.

      1. Max Tofone

        Thanks guys for this extensive review…

        I really like what I have read and seen so far about Dorico but I also feel that this release should have been released later with all the important scoring features in place. At the moment for my work Dorico is not an option until they had all the missing important elements and an improved playback.

        Cheers, Max

  16. Rich Pulin

    To Philip and Staff!

    A HUGE Congratulations on your exciting new product!
    The Early Childhood Music Education Foundation, a jazz-ed mentorship,
    attached to and servicing the Las Vegas School District since 1993, would like to
    participate in this launch, in ANY way that we can…PLEASE call upon us, if we can help!

    Rich Pulin

  17. Bob

    Dorico is unusable for me till it gets chord symbols, repeat ending lines, cues, etc, but there were several cool things in tutorial video 2 that made me eager to get my hands on it. For example:

    1. No meter required – very useful for educational illustrations. I don’t do this very often, so I have to look up how to do it in Sibelius every time, and the procedure is a bit of a hassle. Looks to be much easier in Dorico.

    2. I’ve been longing for something like ‘Insert Mode’ for a long time. No more copy/paste to make room for new material (or notes I forgot to enter).

    The intelligent dot-adding feature also looks good.

    Looking forward to it!

  18. VicDiesel

    Could you also do these examples in Lilypond? In the “development diaries” for Dorico I consistently found the Lilypond output better than each of Sibelius, Finale, Dorico.

    1. Abraham Lee

      If you are referring to the two “stress test” snippets, here’s the first one ricercare-1-compare-all.pdf.

      1. Philip Rothman

        Thanks for posting this, Abraham.

    2. Abraham Lee

      For the curious, here’s the Chopin prelude that Daniel showed during the London live stream: chopin-prelude-no-7.pdf.

      The only “local” adjustment I had to make was the horizontal position of the very first dynamic marking. I made two other “global” setting changes: increased the vertical space between the staves a little and allowed the slurs to be a little more curved. Everythjng else is the default appearance. It’s not a complicated score, but take it for what it’s worth.

    3. Abraham Lee

      And here’s the second of the two stress tests: ricercare-2-compare-all.pdf

      Both stress tests show 100% default LilyPond spacing/layout although I’m not entirely sure I voiced each passage properly. Anyway, here it is.

      1. Philip Rothman

        Thanks for doing this, Abraham!

        1. Abraham Lee

          You’re welcome, Philip!

      2. Abraham Lee

        By the way, I used LilyPond version 2.19.36 for my additions.

        @Andrew Noah Cap: which version of Sibelius and Finale were used in the stress tests?

        1. Harvey Richardson

          These examples are not really useful.
          I would want to see both default output and secondly an improved/edited version. For example with the Sebelius examples I would have moved horizontal note positions and edited ties to make the score more readable.

          What would be a very useful community service would be a site that would host score snippets which people could provide
          default and edited renderings from so we could compare withouth having to purchase trial applications. A trial is only as useful as your ability to learn the application in time.

  19. Sanley Auster

    “There is no reason to doubt that this will happen eventually.” Hmmmm . . . I think this should be a bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan. I’m skeptical. Today, we live in a corporate environment where there is every reason to doubt that something will happen eventually or not eventually. I worked in the music business for many years and watched the corporations and start-ups run it into the ground. I’m skeptical but maybe, just maybe, this will be the exception to the rule.

  20. Jorge Grundman

    Great, Great, Great Review! It is almost a tutorial on how to use Dorico.

    The only thing I miss from this review is if Dorico has script abilities like Sibelius Manuscript. Does it have this?

  21. Brandon

    A $500 notation program that lacks the ability to do standard things like *transpose a section of music* at release is…kind of unacceptable to be honest.

    My understanding was that Steinberg was wanting Dorico to be taken seriously as a music notation software product. Sure, it’s coming “later”, but why is it not there at release? This is bare bones stuff.

    1. Dan Kreider

      I agree, and this was my first thought upon reading the review (which was excellent, by the way). Why not wait and release Dorico without these fundamental, glaring omissions?

      As an almost 20-year Finale user, I’m very intrigued. I’ll be watching Dorico’s progress closely over the next couple months.

  22. Steven Lebetkin

    One of the nice things about Sibelius is its interface with NotePerformer whose algorhythm takes all the brain damage out of the process. Simply take the time to notate your score carefully with attention to the detail of dynamics and articulation and press the play button. The you have a really good demo of the music without programming and having to be a sound engineer.

    The question is can Dorico do this? Or is there brain damage involved?

  23. Bob Zawalich

    >The only thing I miss from this review is if Dorico has script abilities like Sibelius Manuscript. Does it have this?

    It does not currently have the ability to write plugins like Sibelius does. There is a Script window that will let you record and play back a single macro.

    A full plugin facility, using the Lua programming language is planned for a future release, but I would not expect it to be available in the very near future. There are some threads about this on the Dorico user forum.

  24. Fabian

    Great review of a great software! Thanks a lot!

    One question concerning playback: does it integrate Vst-Instruments in the articulation and dynamics of the score like it does with its own HALion instruments? In Sibelius, Vst-instruments are played with reduced dynamics…..

    Thanks for an answer!

    Best wishes,

  25. Aaron Gervais

    This was so exciting until I got to the last page and saw that you can’t create cues yet. It seems really odd to release the product with no cue capability. Basically makes it useless for professional use.

  26. Martha

    I ordered the boxed version the first day. No word about it yet–what is the wait time?
    I eagerly await. . . .

  27. Chinny

    I have used Sibelius for over twenty-five years and Finale since 1986. I use both for teaching. Although I settled more on Sibelius for that purpose. Since Avid took over, it has become increasingly difficult to use the product in the class. Just as soon as you boot up you are confronted with activation even though they have an automatic deduction from my credit card. Of course my students now know to steer clear of Sibelius. I was hoping that Dorico would come to the rescue. But unfortunately with the absence of chord symbols etc, and for a very heavy price tag of over $500 for an unfinished product, is unacceptable. It would seem these software companies are now writing the products for themselves.

    1. Peter Hamlin

      I spent about a week trying to figure out an activision issue with Sibelius — turns out if I activate on my Surface Pro 3 with the expansion dock plugged in, Sibelius will not launch without the dock. Or vice versa. I ended up reactivating without the dock so I can use it on the road, and when I’m home I have to unplug the dock when I launch, then plug it back in to reactivate.

      A long way of agreeing with you about activation annoyances in Sibelius!

  28. Paolo

    I’m surprised they didn’t use the Apple Store, with its handy way of installing on multiple computers. Steinberg has never been too friendly with Mac users.


  29. Paul Rose

    Can one scan sheet music on paper (printed or handwritten) and then edit it with Dorico? I don’t remember a mention of this in the review.

    1. Abraham Lee

      Not directly, but since it can import MusicXML, you can use any scanning software you want to create the MusicXML file and then load that file into Dorico.

  30. Orion

    Fine review. But haste needn’t lead to lousy grammar: “Being a scoring software, one would think that Dorico creates and edits scores.” What, is anyone out there (including the writer) a piece of software? I hope not, but the dangling modifier in that sentence does imply that at least one of us is exactly that. Eek. How about, “Since Dorico is a scoring software, anyone might think that it creates and edits scores.” Computers and software have grown powerful and precise, but our ability to write clearly and precisely has faded.

    1. Hans

      Off course you’re right about the grammar (as if I should know), but you must be an alien from Orion because we humans are fallible and do err at times. I suggest using “Grammarly” to check one’s comments because without it, MY post will look like Egyptian glyphs!! ;-)

  31. Peter Hamlin

    Well, thank you for this very thorough and enjoyable review. I bought Dorico and am in the initial stages of learning it.

    For me, the flexibility of players and layout will be a big game changer.

    Dorico is a very welcome new player in the music notation world. I hope it does well!

  32. Peter Hamlin

    I hope Steinberg will change the licensing. (The comments on this in the review make me cautiously optimistic.) I have a home studio and a travel computer and work on both interchangeably virtually every day. My travel computer has only one usb port.

    I just ordered the dongle to see how it goes — but a two-computer e-license would be a significant improvement for me.

  33. Martha

    Somewhere in all the reviews/blogs/forums I saw a spreadsheet of key commands. Now I can’t find it. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Martha Bishop

    1. Wolfram

      Hi Martha, you can find an excel file of key shortcuts on the dorico forum. It’s posted by Derrek and the thread was opened by JGM 51 under the title of “key shortcuts”.

  34. Sanifu

    Outstanding review Philip; thank you!

  35. Dick Lopez

    1. How does HALion Symphonic Sounds compare with MakeMusic’s Garrison Sounds in Finale (especially the Grand Piano sounds)?

    2. Can Dorico files be saved as AIFF? Or only as WAV?

  36. Martha Bishop

    I bought Dorico specifically to do early barless music. I’ve tried my best to get NO cautionary accidentals, and that aspect simply does not work properly but is vital to early barless music.

    I also very much miss the dot on the number pad for adding time to a note. It’s awkward to have to mouse it.

    Additionally I’m having a great deal of difficulty in keeping the audio aspect working unless I do certain maneuvers which don’t ever seem to save. I’m working on a Mac with Keystation 49es.

    I think the program will eventually be a super program, much more powerful than Sibelius which I’ve used for years. I eagerly await every upgrade in the hopes that it will meet more of my needs, but Meanwhile Sibelius works for my modern compositions.

  37. Davis Eccott

    Not impressed! No sound on playback! Can’t find any help to resolve problem anywhere! Very disappointed!

    1. Davis Eccott

      I now have sound on playback working. The fault was entirely of my own making. I didn’t realize that the “edit” referred to was the edit on the mac menu. I was looking for an edit on the play section of Dorico. As soon as I changed the device setup to use “built in audio” everything worked, all thanks to the great team in Germany!
      Haven’t explored all of Dorico’s possibilities yet, but it looks to be a great piece of software with many thoughtful and interesting capabilities.
      My sincere apologies if my earlier grumble caused anyone to be put off. All I can say is, don’t be put off!!!

  38. Steve

    I’m a relatively new user of notation software. I got Finale 25.1 and then 25.2, and find it maddening to use. It seems buggy, and things don’t work like the manual says it will. Is Dorico pretty stable? I’d rather have fewer features and it be robust!

  39. Hans Nel

    Ok, personal opinion so far.

    Dorico is a well fed fat toddler at the moment and is quite a tough little bugger to learn, but make no mistake, it’s growing like “Smallville” and will soon be a SUPERMAN! I really like Dorico (shortcomings and all), but their has a LOT of work being done creating it so far and I see NO competition in the near future!

    1. Hans Nel

      there (Orion)

  40. Maximumspatium

    First of all, thank you for the review!

    My enthusiasm for Dorico’s impressive innovations is quickly tempered by some obvious “legacies”:

    1) Steinberg’s legacy high-margin low-volume business model behind Dorico plaguing users with restrictive and intrusive copy protection systems like eLicenser (do you know that you have to buy their hardware key in order to run demo?)

    Steinberg‘s advertising is speaking about customer‘s freedom but what‘s about the freedom to use your legally purchased software in more than one machine? No way! This situation isn‘t likely to change soon. Otherwise, why to swallow Syncrosoft together with their nearly uncrackable copy protection if not for forcing it unto the customer to make a bunch of money?

    2) I‘m quite sure Dorico is working with its own (binary, compressed and encrypted) file format like Sibelius and Finale do so it‘s subject to the same legacy like its competitors. The legitimation of this decision doesn‘t matter much. The fact is that encrypted binary formats are useless as far as their creator becomes unavailable. This is in short the old good way to lock customers to expensive proprietary products. Did you even try to switch your score library from Sibelius to smth else? Don‘t tell me about MusicXML export! It doesn‘t work that way!

    What‘s about customer‘s freedom to use tools of their choice? Or even the ability to share your work/ideas with non-Steinberg customers? What do you think, what‘s the reason for not having an interchangeable, open file format for score exchange?

    That‘s why I ain‘t going to buy Dorico, at least in the near future. My advise would be to wait and watch where does this journey end up. Dorico‘s price is high and there is neither „Dorico first“ nor „Dorico lite“. Dorico‘s advanced features are impressive but honestly rarely needed (unless you‘re going to publish that unnatural piece by Ferneyhough :)) There are several notation products outside of this Finale-Sibelius-Dorico circle doing less but being both cheap and good…

  41. Kristian

    Being a bit lazy I’ve never bothered to properly learn notation since I mostly write music on the guitar and use tabs (with notation attached) for composing. It seems like a simple request, but is it possible to add inputting music by tab?

    Being a guitar player I find myself thinking more of the movements along the neck than as notes themselves. Harmonizing and adding melodies is alot easier if I can visualize my self playing the notes on the guitar.

    I guess at some point I should just learn notation once and for all, but untill then, I’ll stay lazy :)

  42. Deke Roberts

    Maybe I’m not understanding something here, but writing a program that would allow you to feed music written on program A into program B is not illegal, only using anything that is part of either programs A or B is illegal. This is why Open Office can read documents produced on other word processing formats.

    I will lay odds that somewhere, someone, probably in the open-source community, is even now working on writing a program for this very purpose, at which point the owners of the propitiatory software which they perceive as being under threat will tear the program apart searching for matching code, and if they genuinely can’t find any, they’ll rewite their code so that their next update won’t work with the ‘pirate program’.

    And that’s when the phrase “Cat and mouse” will start appearing in reviews.

Leave a Comment

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