Musescore 3.4 is available. While this is a relatively minor release, it does provide some meaningful usability improvements. It also sets the stage for further improvement by introducing a telemetry reporting facility that users can opt in to. This allows Musescore — if the user consents — to collect data that will help understand real-world usage patterns.
Meanwhile, Musescore is taking steps to become available and accessible to more users. The Linux AppImage packaging is enhanced to make it easier to install Musescore on Chromebooks. Additionally, a JAWS script enables blind users to enjoy the same functionality with the JAWS screen reader that was previously only possible with NVDA.
[Editor’s note: In addition to being a Scoring Notes contributor, Marc Sabatella is the Director of Education for MuseScore. He is one of the developers of the software.]
The most obvious change is that a single click is now sufficient to perform a number of operations that previously required a double click. This includes applying elements from the palettes and editing the length of lines. The idea is to make these operations easier to discover, as well as easier to execute.
This is another of the design improvements proposed by Martin Keary (Tantacrul on YouTube and elsewhere), the new head of design at Musescore. Martin has conducted a number of usability studies with test subjects to learn which features users were able to figure out on their own and which they struggled with. These studies are guiding his proposals and Musescore’s implementation of them.
In his video review of MuseScore, the Inspector was an area Martin singled out as needing improvement. While there are larger design changes in the works, the process has started by cleaning up some inconsistencies in its appearance and making better use of the space.
There are certain properties that were previously reachable only through the right-click context menu (another discoverability issue) and these have been either moved into the Inspector outright, or in some cases a button has been added to access the dialog.
MuseScore was originally developed for Linux, but it was with the port to Windows and macOS around 2007-2008 that MuseScore began to take off in popularity. Now, its origins on Linux are making it possible to run on Chromebooks.
Linux provides the underlying framework for ChromeOS, and while it has long been possible to access Linux through unsupported hacks, lately Google has made it possible for Chromebook users to run Linux apps directly. With the improvements made to ChromeOS over the past few months, plus some changes made to the Musescore Linux packaging in order to accommodate ChromeOS, it is now fairly simple to install and run MuseScore on a Chromebook.
Of the four major desktop notation software programs, Musescore is the only one to run on Linux. This has the potential to open up the use of Musescore to many teachers and students who use Chromebooks — assuming school IT departments have not disabled Linux support on these systems, which often happens.
When Musescore 3.3 was released last fall, we achieved an unprecedented level of accessibility for Musescore with respect to blind and visually impaired users. Avid has been making significant progress to the accessibility of Sibelius, as well. We very much welcome seeing more software taking accessibility seriously!
Musescore 3.4 continues this work. In addition to the free and open source NVDA screen reader, a script for the popular JAWS screen reader is also provided. Doug Lee and Peter Torpey provided technical guidance that helped make this possible. Both of these solutions are for Windows only. Work on improving accessibility on other systems continues, such as Orca on Linux, and VoiceOver on macOS.
For anyone interested in designing and implementing accessibility support, fellow developer Peter Jonas and I gave a presentation on our accessibility work at the FOSDEM conference in Brussels recently:
Notation Express for Musescore
Accessibility improvements are really about usability in general, and they often benefit everyone. Sometimes this is true in ways that surprise even us. Philip Rothman was able to take advantage of some of the accessibility features to create a Musescore version of Notation Express, the profile for the Stream Deck console and mobile app that provides a streamlined icon-based interface to notation software.
Notation Express for Musescore uses a custom workspace and shortcut set and leverages the palette search facility to control Musescore via the Stream Deck. The Notation Express Musescore profile is based on the same basic design as the Sibelius and Dorico versions, but the interface is specifically optimized for Musescore, including support for features like page formatting via spacer and frames.
Notation Express is marketed by NYC Music Services and sells for $29, with a limited demo version available for trial. Notation Express requires the Stream Deck console or Stream Deck Mobile app for iPhone (sold separately).
Philip will be my guest for the next episode of the Musescore Café, a weekly series of live streaming videos. You can tune in at 12:30 PM EST on Wednesday, February 26 and participate in the chat, or watch the archived video at any time afterwards. Philip and I will be talking about Notation Express as well as other topics relating to music notation.
The recent accessibility improvements have made it possible for NYC Music Services to create a Notation Express profile for Musescore. Notation Express is the profile for the Stream Deck console or Stream Deck Mobile app for iPhone that puts powerful notation software features at your fingertips.
Musescore.com score upload limit removed
The score sharing web site Musescore.com, has always offered free accounts as well as Pro accounts with more features. Until recently, one of the main limitations of a free account was a maximum of five scores that you could share at once. But now, this restriction has been lifted. Musescore CPO David Mandelstam says:
For a long time, score uploads have been limited for basic accounts and their owners were able to upload only five scores to Musescore or pay for a PRO subscription to remove a limit. But if you had more than five scores and your PRO ended, those additional scores got hidden.
We consider such a limit unfair because the score catalog is the most valuable thing for Musescore. Users shouldn’t be restricted from uploading content to the site. The more scores we have, the more people can find suitable content.
That’s why we’ve removed the 5-scores upload limit.
Scores that had previously been hidden because of the five score limit are now made visible again. Furthermore, duplicate user accounts that had been created in order to get around this limit can now be merged.
As an open source project, Musescore welcomes technical contributions, in addition to feedback on the forums. Musescore applied to participate in the Google Summer of Code again this year, so interested students should be on the lookout for the announcement of selected organizations later this month.