Finale 2014 released; MakeMusic: “Others take music notation software development for granted”

Finale 2014
Today MakeMusic released Finale 2014, the latest version of its flagship music notation program. Sporting the tagline “Own the Future,” MakeMusic is taking clear aim at Avid’s handling of Sibelius with their statement: “While others take music notation software development for granted, Finale is doubling down to provide you and your music a clear path to tomorrow.”

After initially trying to suppress the accidental release of product information, MakeMusic embraced the idea of sneak previews through a series of fun posts on the Instagram feed of senior product manager Justin Phillips:

Now with Finale 2014 out in the open, we can more surely discuss its merits. This being the Sibelius blog, after all, I won’t do a detailed review; the incredible Jari Williamsson does an excellent job of that. What follows is a comparison of Finale 2014’s marquee features with their Sibelius 7 counterparts. The intent is to be as objective as possible; after all, at NYC Music Services we use both Finale and Sibelius regularly, and personally I have been a Finale user since 1994 (version 2.0).

1. Full screen mode and Retina Display support for Mac notebooks. Finale 2014 is the first Finale version to support these features; Sibelius has always included a full screen mode on Windows and supported it on Mac with Sibelius 7. Retina support came to Sibelius over a year ago with version 7.1.3.

According to Justin, “The full screen mode uses Apple’s method for this, so we work well with Spaces and other full screen apps/multi-monitor support (especially in OS X 10.9).”

2. OS X Mavericks support. Finale 2014 supports it; Sibelius runs on Mavericks but with some problems. No details have yet been given regarding a fix, either by Avid or Apple. Note: Finale 2014 will only run on Mac 10.7 or higher (no Snow Leopard support).

3. New file format – but no 64-bit support. Finale 2014 (including FinaleScript) has been re-written on the Mac in Cocoa to modernize some of its dusty code and inconsistent dialogs; Sibelius 7 underwent a similar overhaul. Disappointingly, however, Finale 2014 is still not 64-bit. Sibelius 7 introduced native 64-bit support upon its initial release in 2011.

4. Backwards compatibility and “future-proofing”. Previous versions of Finale were unable to export files in earlier Finale file formats, commonly known as “backsaving”. The best option in recent Finale versions was to export files in MusicXML format, which lost a lot of native Finale data. This, coupled with the rapid yearly development cycle from 2000-2012, caused headaches for anyone collaborating and sharing Finale files.

In Finale 2014, MusicXML export has been retained, but there are two new advances. The first is that MakeMusic says that the new file file format “ensures that future Finale versions will all be able to share files with this same format.” In Jari’s review, he explains further by saying that “Finale 2014 should be able to read files from all future Finale versions directly.”

The second advance is a new option to export Finale 2014 — now with a native “.musx” extension — into a file in Finale 2012 format, which will have the “legacy” extension “.mus”.

Justin provided some additional information: “The plan for new .musx files is so that no export or save as is needed in future versions, so a file created in Finale 20XX can be opened in Finale 2014 with no special export needed.”

Of course, Sibelius has always been able to export files into earlier file formats — Sibelius 7 can export all the way back to Sibelius 2.

5. Newly designed tool palettes. Recent Finale versions offered a choice of 11 (yes, 11) styles of the tool palettes, each more garish than the next. Old-timers like me could even choose the “Traditional” option which evoked nostalgia for the days of the Macintosh Classic. Thankfully, these palettes have been redesigned, and the user’s ability to choose styles removed:

The one and only choice for the main tool palette in Finale 2014
The one and only style choice for the main tool palette in Finale 2014

There is no analogous tool palette in quite the same way in Sibelius; love it or hate it, new Sibelius icons were introduced in Sibelius 7 via the Ribbon.

6. Support for open/atonal key signatures and “keyless” instruments. This has been a huge deficiency in Finale since its early days. If you had a piece in an “open key” where no key signatures were ever shown in the score or parts, you had to set each instrument to “Chromatic transposition”. Tedious, but possible — but if your score included sections with both open and traditional key signatures, the workaround multiplied to include placing Staff Styles on each of your transposing instruments during certain sections. And if you wanted to show your horns without a key signature and other instruments with key signatures, as is often done in orchestral music…serious Finale contortions awaited you.

Thankfully, Finale 2014 finally supports these options, and it may well be the case that the file format had to be re-engineered in order to accommodate these features. In any event, it’s welcome news that these options are possible in Finale, and Finale bests Sibelius by offering support for non-standard key signatures, as found in maqam and other types of music. Sibelius has always had true support for open keys and keyless instruments since version 1.0.

Finale 2014Sibelius (all versions)


  1. Me

    …but, still the results in Sibelius are far more better. waiting for Sibelius 8

  2. Justin Phillips

    Thanks Philip for the kind words and writeup!

    If anyone has any feedback for me or MakeMusic regarding Finale, I can be reached at @justin_finale on Twitter, or via our Customer Support team here: (feedback submitted to support ends up on my desk).


  3. Steve

    Re point 7: this is not exclusive to Finale 2014 – LilyPond has been doing this for years.

  4. ericdano

    One BIG problem is that TGTools does not work with Finale 2014. The full version of TGTools. I use this all the time with Finale and it seems to be an abandoned plugin now.

  5. Philip Rothman

    Steve: Thanks. I’ve updated the post.

  6. Christopher Smith

    Thanks for a great comparison. Very illuminating.

    I can’t believe that grace notes in linked voiced parts are STILL broken! But then, Sibelius doesn’t even have voiced parts, but if you have grace notes in your score then Finale won’t have voiced parts either!

  7. Bernd Philippsen

    It´s incredible: 2 years time for reflection, an then the bad old mazy click-orgy!
    It should be clear, that layout-exspectations of performers should be responded by a layout-exspectation-automatic, just like “magnetic layout”. But…nothing! The “final” disappointment…

  8. Jorge Silvestrini

    Seen the new features, just downloaded the demo and being playing with it. Using the Handwritten Style (Jazz Font) I still find out 3 mistakes from the previous 2012 version.

    The tempo marking is incorrect.
    Chords that are minor play like MAJOR.
    Staff Style slash don’t translate correctly to the parts from the score.

    More reviews to come. But I’m really not seeing an improvement at least for my workflow of things. I will keep testing.

    Also, you can’t use the ESC key anymore to get out of entering chords. Requires me to get the mouse and take my hands of the keyboard.

  9. KmF

    Saw Justin’s post above… sad to say he’s no longer with MM. They laid him off (“restructuring”) about a week after he posted this..

  10. Audiofanzine

    Tough call between Sibelius and Finale 2014, but finally, at least according to our readers sibelius won over with Finale 2014 just behind:

  11. Greg Williams

    Thank you for this post Philip, i check out this software and it appears that this is a excellent tool, it is easy to use and it really satisfy the user.

  12. Joe

    What is the difference between pro and academic?

  13. Matt

    I am desperately trying to finish engraving my Requiem Mass for the choir and organist in Finale 2014 and I am stumbling over so many completely ridiculous software weaknesses, having only previously used Finale at the strong-arming behest of our now FORMER department chair. I am switching BACK to Sibelius, no question. Finale is a broken toy at best. Great for sketches and theory assignments, but totally useless for professional level engraving. That’s $300 I will never get back and 27 hours of my music life wasted on chasing Finale’s bugs. What a crock.

    1. ericdano

      This is bull. What “weaknesses” are you talking about? Finale useless for professional engraving. Hardly.

  14. Musica200

    Using Finale for more than 10 years, several versions (actually 2011b), each time expensive and I have more & more problems,
    Obliged to re-write several pieces, to get something decent to engrave.
    Very funny with a symphony !
    Lacking or changing, from one version to the other some dynamics or other tools, the entire piece becomes awfull (me even not understanding why thi sf is foating here & there etc.
    Help, when it comes is useless, excepting for loosing time.

    Well I hate more & Finale, but fear to loose everything when changing !

    1. ericdano

      I’ve had minor little things happen when I open scores from earlier versions, say Finale 2002 or 2003, but nothing that a few clicks don’t take care of.

      1. Musica200

        Thanks ericdano,
        I’m not lucky :-(

        But also very upset as the techncian finds no way to help.

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