Note: This post about Finale 25 is from August 2016. Read about the updates to Finale since then:
Making good on a promise to release an upgrade this summer, today MakeMusic released the latest version of Finale, its 25th in the history of the notation software. In doing away version numbers by year, as had been the custom since the 1990s, MakeMusic has committed to “release more incremental versions, as we did with Finale 2014.5, which add new functionality (not just bug fixes) without charge to our current customers,” according to notation product manager and senior editor Mark Adler.
Finale v.25 does come with a price tag, however. Similar to past major upgrades, the price for new customers is $600 retail and $350 with valid academic or worship credentials. Existing customers will pay $149 for upgrades from previous versions of Finale. A competitive upgrade is available $149 for users of Sibelius, Notion, Encore, Score, or Overture. PrintMusic users wishing to trade-up to Finale can do so for $400. A free 30-day trial is available.
For months, in a departure from the usual secrecy around upgrades, MakeMusic has been sharing details of the new Finale on their official blog. Regular readers of that blog (or this one) therefore won’t be surprised at what’s included. The focus for this release has been “streamlining and modernizing Finale’s codebase,” Mark said. “We do this to improve performance, maintain compatibility with future operating systems, and to set the stage for future improvements.”
To that end, the most notable element of the new Finale version is the overdue but welcome transition to being a 64-bit application. Even the most entry-level computers are 64-bit machines, as are modern operating systems. The difference between 32-bit and 64-bit may not sound like much, but if an application is 64-bit it effectively means that it is limited only by the available memory on the computer, whereas a 32-bit application can only handle 4 GB of memory. Practically speaking, 64-bit applications are more efficient and, in the case of Finale, it will finally be able to accommodate 64-bit sound libraries.
Generally speaking, other than those described below, there are no major changes to Finale’s interface from 2014 or 2014.5, so existing users will feel comfortable right away with Finale v. 25.
Finale v.25 will only run on recent operating systems — Mac OS Yosemite (10.10) or higher, or Windows 7 (64-bit) or higher will be required. Full details about system requirements are listed on Finale’s web site.
The change to 64-bit means that all shipping plug-ins have been updated. Popular plug-ins such as Jari Williamson’s JW Freeware Plug-ins, Robert Patterson’s Patterson Plug-in Collection, and Tobias Giesen’s TGTools are all being updated as well, as the the 32-bit versions of these plug-ins won’t work in Finale v.25.
In addition to the update to 64-bit, Finale’s other notable new features are:
- ReWire support
- Correct transposed instrument audio on note entry
- Staff attribute to independently display time signatures in a score and part (to better facilitate film-score style large time signatures)
- Contoured dashed slurs
- Additional Garritan sounds and updated ARIA player
There are a number of smaller fixes and changes as well, which we’ll summarize later. A full list of what’s new in Finale v.25 for Mac and Windows may be found on MakeMusic’s web site. For now, read on for an overview of the more significant changes.
64-bit, speed, and workflow
Nothing can drag you down like waiting for Finale to complete a spacing change, making a selection, or just navigating. While not blazing fast, Finale v.25 improves on Finale 2014.5 in a number of areas, and shows huge improvement in plug-in processing time, playback processing time, and certain operations involving lyrics.
When Finale 2014.5 was released last year, I compared it against Finale 2014 and Finale 2012. I’ve run the same comparison here with Finale v.25. (Since that time, I had upgraded my operating system from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to 10.11 El Capitan, which resulted in faster speeds across the board, so I re-ran all the tests).
My test machine was my Mac Pro (late 2013) with 32 GB RAM, solid state 1 TB storage, 3.7 GHz Quad-Core running OS X 10.11.5.
All results in seconds (bolder is best/fastest).
My first test was on a 224-bar orchestral score (52 pages) with 33 staves. As was the case last year, results were mixed. Finale v.25 fared better than 2014.5 but not quite as good, generally, as 2014 or 2012.
Next up, a huge opera score: 454 pages, 2357 bars with 24 instrumental staves and 16 vocal staves. Lyric performance has long been a problem with Finale in larger files. The improvements in Finale v.25 were stunning: Selecting lyrics in the window, a task that took 9 or 10 seconds in Finale 2012 through 2014.5, was accomplished in a fraction of a second in Finale v.25. Very impressive!
My next test file was an orchestral work, 223 bars in length, 63 pages with 30 staves, and many meter changes. When I ran this test last year, Finale 2014.5 performed poorly, and I was told that the development team had discovered a bug in rendering time signatures. Fortunately, it appears that this bug has been fixed, as Finale v.25’s performance improved, for the most part, to 2014 levels, although changing the time signature at the end of the score suffered more than other versions, for some reason.
The biggest change here was Human Playback processing time. Finale 2014.5 more than halved 2014’s performance, and v.25 halved it yet again. In other words, a file that in 2014 took 26 seconds from pressing play to hearing music now takes under 6 seconds.
The shipping plug-in Patterson Beams was also markedly improved, completing a task about 40% faster than previous versions.
I then tested a file provided to me by MakeMusic last year: a 93-page concert band piece with 1129 bars and 21 staves. Again, here the biggest winners were plug-ins and playback (though not as much of a difference between 2014.5 and v.25 as the earlier file). Other results were comparable to previous versions.
Of course, these tests represent a small sample of the variety of tasks that Finale users do, and the files themselves are a tiny fraction of the many types of scores that one can generate with Finale. But at least from these samples, Finale v.25 holds up at least as well as recent versions, and demonstrates real improvement in some key areas.
Unfortunately, a limitation still exists on the size of a Finale file itself, even with the change to 64-bit. It is still only possible to have a maximum of 32,767 active frames (bars containing music) in a Finale document. Most users aren’t be affected by this, but for those users working with very large scores like operas, you’ll still have to manage multiple files to get around the limitation.
When Sibelius introduced ReWire support in Sibelius 6 way back in 2009, it transformed how I worked with scoring software and sequencers. Before then, playing back a notation score and an audio file in sync was a chore. With the ability to use ReWire to connect Sibelius and my DAW (Logic), though, I could test out orchestrations in time with an audio mix or video, or even add Sibelius instruments to my Logic mix.
When demonstrating the feature at film scoring workshops, I was often asked if Finale had the same ability. I regretfully had to say no, but no longer — thankfully ReWire is now supported in Finale v.25.
Basically, you open your DAW of choice, add a bus or aux track, add Finale as your input, and then you have to open Finale. Finale will run as a slave to Logic, meaning that any tempo markings in Finale will be ignored in favor of the tempo indications in Logic.
As I did in 2010 with Sibelius, I’ve made a video demonstrating how to set up ReWire with Logic and Finale and how it works.
Correct transposed instrument audio on note entry
I have to admit that this was always one of my pet peeves about note entry in Finale. When entering notes for a transposing instrument such as a clarinet into a transposing score, Finale would display the written (transposed) pitch but provide audio feedback as if the score was a concert score. In other words, for a clarinet in B-flat, you’d see a written D but hear a concert D instead of a concert C. Score playback would be correct, but if you were accustomed to entering music in a transposing score, it was disconcerting.
After nearly 30 years, this has finally been corrected! Mark Adler demonstrates it here:
The Sibelius equivalent of Transpose MIDI on Input switched on is File > Preferences > Step-time and Flexi-time > Transposing Staves > Input sounding pitches. The Sibelius equivalent of Transpose MIDI on Input switched off (the new Finale default) is File > Preferences > Step-time and Flexi-time > Transposing Staves > Input written pitches.
It does not appear to be possible to make Finale v.25 behave like it did in the past with transposing instrument note entry, which is good.
Separate Staff Attribute for time signatures in score and parts
When linked parts were introduced in Finale a decade ago, it was made possible to have different fonts and sizes for the time signature in the score compared to the parts. However, it wasn’t possible to actually alter the display state of a time signature in a score versus the part except with a staff style which only appeared in the part.
The most obvious use case is in film scores which use huge time signatures which span many staves in the score, but regular size time signatures in the parts.
This question has come up more than once in workshops that I’ve given, and by the time I give the workarounds with the staff styles, eyes are glazing over.
Thankfully, this has been made a whole lot easier in Finale v.25. Now, separate options are available for each instrument: Time Signatures in Score and Time Signatures in Parts. For instance, to make your score look like the example above, but have the parts display the time signature, you’d use the following setting for all parts except the top staff:
These options also appear in the Global Staff Attributes plug-in and as a staff style.
To learn how to actually make those large time signatures in the first place, check out Tim Davies’s Finale Tips page on his blog.
Contoured dashed slurs
The only real engraving improvement in Finale v.25 is the addition of contoured dashed slurs to the Smart Shape arsenal. Previously, we only had their inferior cousins, dashed curves, to work with. The dashed slur has replaced the curve near the top of the Smart Shape palette. The curve is still there but it’s relegated to the bottom.
Dashed slurs are most often seen in critical editions to indicate an editorial addition not present in the manuscript, or to show the presence of a phrase as distinct from a true legato slur.
Dashed slurs inherit the properties of regular slurs with respect to placement, contour, thickness, and other options. The dash length and the space between the dashes is set in Tools > Smart Shape > Smart Shape Options, and it will be the same as other dashed lines in the main Smart Shape palette, such as the dashed line and dashed bracket.
If a file saved in Finale v.25 is opened in 2014 or 2014.5, dashed slurs will appear as regular slurs.
Additional Garritan sounds and updated ARIA player
Finale v.25 comes with about 3 GB of Garritan sounds. The release notes say that the new additions include “the Concert D Grand Piano from Garritan Personal Orchestra 5, recorders, dulcimer, didgeridoo, full choir, and many other sounds from the Garritan World Instruments and Instant Orchestra libraries.” A third solo violin has been added, as well as a complete second violin section separate from the first violin section, for better differentiation in orchestral writing. Other new “second” instruments include tuba, harp and church organ.
The Finale web site has a full list of the included instruments, with those marked new for Finale v.25.
Garritan was acquired by MakeMusic in 2011, and a selection of its instruments have been part of a standard Finale installation for many years. The Garritan orchestra sounds don’t compete against the higher-end sound libraries, although certain instruments sound quite nice when used with Finale, and overall they offer a good compromise between being lightweight and sounding realistic.
The ARIA player has been upgraded and now has a much easier tree-style navigation on the left-hand side, to make it easier to see and use all your Garritan libraries.
At least on my Mac, Finale v.25 installed the Garritan libraries in my Users/Shared folder. Previous installations were found in the Applications folder. It should be safe to delete these older libraries to reclaim disk space, but if you are using older versions of Finale, and want to access any new instruments, like the Concert D Grand, you will need to replace the GIFF.soundmap in the older version with a copy of the GIFF.soundmap from v.25.
Other items of note
If you used the Mirror Tool or the Tempo Tool, you’ll find them gone in Finale v.25. They probably won’t be missed.
As mentioned earlier, the Movie Window is removed and replaced with ReWire.
The file version remains the same as that used by Finale 2014 and 2014.5, using the .musx extension, and files saved in Finale v.25 can be opened by those earlier versions. Finale 2014 includes an option to save a file in Finale 2012 format, and of course includes MusicXML exporting and importing capability with a number of improvements.
The Select Score and Parts for Printing dialog box, which used to appear as an intermediary dialog prior to printing, has been incorporated into the Print dialog box. It’s a questionable decision; the streamlining is appreciated but the small viewable area is not terribly welcome for larger ensembles:
The Finale v.25 logo is slightly different from that of Finale 2014.5:
On your hard drive, once installed it will appear distinctly from other versions and will be simply called “Finale”. It will not overwrite any earlier versions of Finale and can be used simultaneously with earlier versions if you wish.
There are a number of other bug fixes in virtually all areas of the program, more than 125 in all, according to MakeMusic.
Availability and final impressions
Finale v.25 is the first version to not be offered on optical media. Customers ordering a box from MakeMusic or a reseller such as Amazon will instead receive a USB drive containing installers for the program. A download option from MakeMusic’s store continues to be available, as does a free 30-day trial.
As mentioned at the top of this post, pricing is as follows:
- The price for new customers is $600 retail and $350 with valid academic or worship credentials
- Existing customers will pay $149 for upgrades from previous versions of Finale
- A competitive upgrade is available $149 for users of Sibelius, Notion, Encore, Score, or Overture.
- PrintMusic users wishing to trade-up to Finale can do so for $400.
Although MakeMusic CEO Gear Fisher alluded to adding a subscription model for Finale during our conversation last year, there is no subscription option for Finale v.25.
Mac OS Yosemite (10.10) or higher, or Windows 7 (64-bit) or higher will be required to run Finale v.25.
The challenge of updating a mature and complex software application like Finale is hardly trivial. It’s been stated that the primary purpose of this release is to modernize the program, and bringing it into the 64-bit world is an important and necessary step. The low-hanging fruit like removing certain tools and plug-ins is welcome, too.
The thornier challenge will be what to do with certain other aspects of the program. Our old frenemies like the Shape Designer and Chord Suffix Editor are still around, serving necessary purposes but looking seriously outdated. The myriad tools and nested dialog boxes must be streamlined to match the innovations in modern workflows, hardware and operating systems. Plug-ins, especially Jari Williamson’s JW Freeware Plug-ins, do many essential tasks that should be incorporated natively into the software. If Jan Angermüller can deliver on plug-ins promised for later this year, it will be a boon for productivity and shows the raw power and flexibility still possible with Finale.
And yet, some basic tasks still lack solutions. If anyone knows of a way to automatically stack articulations so that they don’t collide, I’m all ears!
Finale v.25 is a good release in that it paves the way for these future improvements and finally gets current with modern computer architecture. It also feels like it is finally the end of a process that began nearly three years ago with the release of Finale 2014 and its new file format, during which MakeMusic experienced major corporate and staff changes.
It’s worth repeating the company’s intention as quoted in the beginning of this post: “Moving forward we plan to release more incremental versions, as we did with Finale 2014.5, which add new functionality (not just bug fixes) without charge to our current customers.” Hopefully Finale v.25 lays the foundation for this next chapter.