Update: Finale version 26 was released on October 10, 2018; read our full review.
Earlier this week, MakeMusic announced its intention to release version 26 of Finale, its flagship music notation software. In a post on the official Finale blog, product manager Jon Tschiggfrie said, “Generally speaking, improvements will focus on streamlining your workflow and will begin with the time it takes to install and get up and running with the new version. You’ll enjoy smarter default engraving, performance enhancements, new features, bug fixes, and refinements to included resources such as templates and libraries.”
Regarding pricing, Jon said, “This will be the first paid upgrade since the release of Finale v. 25 in August 2016; all six product updates released since then have been free-of-charge to Finale v. 25 owners.” MakeMusic later confirmed that there are no planned changes to Finale’s pricing from the current prices, which range from $99 for university and college students to the full retail price $600. The price for Finale users who wish to upgrade is $149, as is the price to crossgrade from a competitor’s product. Anyone who purchases v. 25 within 30 days of the release of v. 26 will receive a free upgrade. There was no mention of a subscription option.
MakeMusic did not specify a timetable for the release, although in a Facebook video in which he appeared with general manager Fred Flowerday, Jon said, “We’ve been working on [version] 26 for a little over a year, and doing a lot of great work during that time, but we don’t have a set release date — sometime in the next few months is what we’re looking at.”
“This one’s a bit vague,” Fred acknowledged, “but we’re going to have some teasers, campaigns, and other events to let everybody know what is coming more specifically.”
From 2000 to 2013, MakeMusic routinely produced paid upgrades and released them yearly. Each version had new features but also changed the file format, and led to a short development cycle in many respects. As a public company at the time, MakeMusic was limited in the types of forward-looking statements it could make, and was beholden to quarterly earnings reports, which played a role in driving the annual upgrade scheme.
Since August 2014, when MakeMusic became a private company owned by Colorado-based Peaksware, Inc., the company has been able to change its development approach. The paid upgrade cycle has lengthened to more than two years, and while a few new features have appeared, MakeMusic’s recent Finale development efforts have largely focused on behind-the-scenes improvements like making Finale 64-bit, better Unicode support, and greater MusicXML functionality.
Here are our reviews of the five maintenance updates since the initial Finale v. 25 release:
In another relatively recent change, MakeMusic has been offering previews of new features well before they become available. I asked Mark Adler, MakeMusic’s director of production and senior editor, why MakeMusic decided to announce version 26 without committing to a release date. He said, “We receive numerous inquiries this time of year from academic institutions asking if there is a new version coming soon, as they need to plan for the upcoming year. Once we start to tell these customers the there is a new version coming, the ‘cat is out of the bag,’ so it is best for us to take control of the message and make the public announcement now.”
Mark said that in version 26, in addition to sporting new features and bug fixes, Finale’s default documents, libraries, and templates “will now contain much more comprehensive expressions, chord suffixes, and articulations libraries. Users will no longer have to type in standard tempo markings, then wonder if they spelled Larghissimo correctly. Or, if a user wants to use 2-character chord suffixes rather than 3-character suffixes, they will now find their desired chord suffix convention has been created for them.”
More details will be forthcoming, but Mark said, “Much like we did for Finale v. 25, we plan to release details periodically to the public as we approach the release of Finale v. 26. And, like our last major release, we certainly will be interested in feedback and comments about our previews. It was this very feedback from users that helped inform decisions around our v. 25 release.”
Somewhat ironically, as the Finale development cycle has stretched out, the cycle of computer operating system upgrades — particularly Macs — has accelerated. “Apple’s yearly OS upgrade is always a challenge,” Mark said. “We are currently testing with each new Mojave beta and addressing any issues that crop up so to be sure that Finale v. 26 will be compatible with Mojave.”