Sibelius 8.3 released with individual note colors, other fixes


update-downloadToday Avid released Sibelius 8.3. As with other 8.x releases, it is a free update for all 8.x users with an active license (virtually anyone with Sibelius 8.x other than those who may have had a month-to-month subscription).

Sibelius 8.3 introduces the ability to individually color notes, improves upon 8.2’s sliding feature by more intelligently grouping rests, and improves the independent enharmonic spelling feature introduced in 8.2.

Individual note colors

As reported last month, the new feature in Sibelius 8.3 is the individual coloring of notes.

Sibelius has long had the ability to color notes, but if you applied a color to one note in a chord, the color would appear in all notes and articulations in that chord.

Individually coloring notes in a chord has long been on many a user’s wish list, including Bob Zawalich, who, along with Kai Struck, wrote an elaborate plug-in using graphics as noteheads to work around the limitation.

In Sibelius 8.3, you’re able to color notes and articulations individually without needing the plug-in workaround.

ManuScript has access to this as well. Sibelius product designer Joe Pearson said, “In fact, this is the heart of the feature. We’ve been able to extend the existing ManuScript color APIs so that most plug-ins will naturally already be compatible with the new functionality. We’ll be updating those plug-ins which aren’t. Of course, users will also be able to individually color noteheads manually using the tools in the Ribbon.”

You can see the results instantly by running the shipping plug-in Note Input > Plug-ins > Notes and Rests > Boomwhacker Note Colors:

Results of the Boomwhacker Note Colors plug-in in Sibelius 8.2 and earlier
Results of the Boomwhacker Note Colors plug-in in Sibelius 8.2 and earlier
Results of the Boomwhacker Note Colors plug-in in Sibelius 8.3
Results of the Boomwhacker Note Colors plug-in in Sibelius 8.3

The shipping plug-in Note Input > Plug-ins > Notes and Rests > Color Pitches has been updated so that coloring individual notes is possible with that tool.

Bob Zawalich has already updated the following downloadable plug-ins to work with Sibelius 8.3, adapting them to process individual colors:

Find Colored Objects was not updated, but a comment was added to its download page description saying to use Filter Colored Objects and Go To > Selected Objects as a replacement.

If you’re interested in the details of the ManuScript language and using it to manipulate note colors, go to the Quick Start dialog within Sibelius, and click on Learn > Documentation > What’s New.

Improved rest consolidation when sliding notes

Sibelius 8.2 introduced a promising new feature with which a note a or passage could be moved left or right by the use of the new shortcuts Command-Option-Left Arrow (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Left Arrow (PC) and Command-Option-Right Arrow (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow (PC), respectively.

Slide too far, though, and you left a trail of unconsolidated rests behind:

Sliding notes in Sibelius 8.2

This has been significantly improved in Sibelius 8.3. Rests will now intelligently group back together when you slide notes:

Sliding notes in Sibelius 8.3
Sliding notes in Sibelius 8.3

This improvement certainly makes this new feature a whole lot more useful. Note, however, that if you slide a note across a barline that causes it to split into two or more tied notes, (e.g., a half note in 4/4), the notes remain split and tied forevermore. Perhaps this could be further improved upon in the future; last year in an interview with this blog, Daniel Spreadbury indicated that the designers of the Steinberg program are taking these types of adjustments into account (see “Composing and representing the music”).

Improvements and fixes to enharmonic spelling in parts

The independent enharmonic spelling feature introduced in Sibelius 8.2 was a very welcome addition. Sibelius 8.3 improves upon this feature with updates to the shipping plug-ins Respell Sharps as Flats and Respell Flats as Sharps, which now work when run from within a part, re-spelling notes in only the viewed part while leaving the score and any other parts unchanged.

Sibelius designers sought the opinion of users on the intended behavior of this plug-in when viewing a part in a poll on the chat page, with most users preferring the behavior implemented in 8.3. Sibelius product designer Joe Pearson said, “Once we’ve released, do let me know how you get on with it. I’m very open to the idea of expanding the plug-in (or perhaps creating a complimentary Advanced Respell plug-in with extra options) in the future.”

The chat page also brought a bug to the designers’ attention. When invoking Appearance > Design and Position > Reset Design in Sibelius 8.2, any accidentals that were re-spelled from the Sibelius default were reset to the default spelling. This was clearly a bug and has been fixed in Sibelius 8.3. If you use Reset Design often and think you may have done so in Sibelius 8.2, you may have been affected, so you’ll want to go back and check your scores carefully.

Other items, installation

Some more fixes of note:

  • Multi-touch scrolling and zooming of the score using Mac trackpads continues to be improved in Sibelius 8.3. There have been many reports of inconsistent results since the feature was added in 8.0. The Sibelius team told me that they are hoping that Sibelius 8.3 solves all these problems and are eager to hear how users find the latest improvements to be working.
  • Several rare crashes have been identified and fixed in 8.3, and the documentation has been updated.
  • The Sibelius License Server is now supported on Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan.
  • Start and end repeat barlines would sometimes appear too thick when written together. These are now lined up correctly as before.
  • Some users reported a problem where note input would stop working when switching scores. This has been fixed.

It’s encouraging to see the Sibelius team hitting a stride with regular updates and new features. A cautionary note, though: the more rapid development cycle brings with it the increased possibility of new bugs, the like the one affecting Reset Design as noted above. It’s good to see these items fixed in the subsequent release, but if you rely on Sibelius for critical work, you might consider a conservative approach and wait for public feedback before deciding whether to download the latest update.

Sibelius 8.3 uses the same file format as Sibelius 8.1 and 8.2.

Sibelius 8.3 will overwrite any 8.x version you have on your computer, but will leave other versions intact, unless you tell the installer to uninstall those versions. You also have the separate option of copying supporting files from Sibelius 7.5, if you’re upgrading from that version.

If you have Sibelius 8.2 or earlier, you will be prompted to update by the Application Manager. It’s free for most users of 8.x unless you bought a monthly subscription plan that has already expired.

Sibelius 8.3 will run on any 64-bit system running Windows 7 or later or Mac OS 10.9 or later. Various purchase options, including subscriptions, perpetual licenses, and upgrades are available from Avid’s online store and other resellers such as Amazon and Sweetwater.


  1. Kenneth Gaw

    It’s good to see more useful and relevant development of the program.
    I think the problem with the split notes is results from the way Sibelius encodes the music. In Sibelius every note must be related to one and only one a bar, hence when a note is pasted across a barline it must divided into two (or more) notes and all memory of it’s previous existence as one note is lost.
    From what Daniel has said on his blog, I suspect that the Steinberg product attaches notes to a stave and then superimposes the barlines over the notes, splitting them as required. The important point is that the software still thinks of the split notes as one note, so that when it is pasted elsewhere it can become one note again.

    One solution for Sibelius would be to develop an intelligent paste function, that could be used in the Sliding Notes function and elsewhere. It could analyse pasted selections, then alter the notes and durations in accordance with standard notation practice.

    I suspect that the algorithms for a lot of this are already in Sibelius. When it imports midi files, for instance it does not tie two crotchets together in the same bar.

    Perhaps the developers could consider this for future versions.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Kenneth: Agreed with all.

  2. Koenraad

    >Sibelius 8.3 will run on any 64-bit system running Windows 7 or later or Mac OS 10.9 or later.
    Better than Sibelius 8 with Mavericks?

  3. Hans Nel

    Excuse me, I really don’t mean to be rude…but who the heck want’s a score to look like a country fair full of colourful balloons? Goodness, why on Earth would I want to waste time colouring in notes? Wonder what Mozart would say? Guys, there are FAR more important features that could be added, like eg. a scrubbing (note/chord) audition feature. So any ex-Finale users here (my converts) ask me how to do that in Sibelius. Note colours…even horizontal note movement…what can I say. I’m paying 89$ for only ONE good feature…the respell feature. You should programme note colour in Sibelius First! I think you should put voting in place suggesting features for immediate future considerations and let the users decide. Otherwise, I pay but get useless features that are for kids. Like I said, not trying to be rude.

    1. Amber

      These features are for educators that teach Boomwhackers and Colored handbells. What is useless to you is invaluable to me and saves me hours and hours of hand coloring notes in Photoshop.

  4. Hans Nel

    I must add that the ONLY colour feature that I found useful is when notes move red when it goes out of the instrument’s range. When I would paste some tuba notes into the bassoon part, red notes shows up at places…mow THAT is a good feature. Not that I don’t know the ranges of instruments, but it’s to quickly see the out of range notes.

    Regarding note sliding, come on muso’s…just think how many times you MIGHT want to use that feature. |I have written thousands of score and NEVER need to move a note to the left of right unless I pull a note to make a lyric more legible or when an accidental , flat or sharp touches the previous note. But I had theory grade 8 and know what notes I want in a bar. If I enter a wrong note…quickly undo and enter the correct one.

    I would really appreciate someone to put a YouTube video on that demonstrates the usefulness of these “more useful and relevant development of the program…” I’m not trying to get personal but being gentleman-like will not always get the point across.

    1. Derek Williams

      I haven’t used the note colours feature so far, but the note sliding I find very useful and use it often, for example after pasting a rhythm that I then want to be syncopated, or starting on a different beat of the bar. Now I can just slide it back and forth. This had been a feature in Mosaic that I missed when switching to Sibelius.

      Same goes for vertical alignment of rests between ledger line notes. Doing that manually used to be a real ‘drag’.

  5. Hans Nel

    WHY can one not EDIT a previous post?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hans: I’m sorry I don’t have the ability for commenters to edit their posts at the moment. Just to be clear, this is an independent blog, and although I know that the Sibelius team reads it regularly, if you want to be certain that your feedback is heard, make sure to contact them directly (you can find Joe and Sam’s contact info on the official forum).

  6. Hans Nel

    Thanks Philip.

  7. Bill

    It’s sort of humorous that the review of Sibelius 8.3 has a display ad from Avid for Sibelius 8.1

  8. Alexander Plötz

    For the record, I am one of the professional users who welcome the colored-notes features with open arms. My editing process is heavily based on color-coding for keeping track of edits to be checked or discussed. One example would be to mark all notes that have been enharmonically respelled, so the customer has an easy way to review them. Until now this was always a problem with chords, where all notes would be colored even when I only mean a single one. So this really is not just a toy. It is a really useful tool.

  9. Dave P-B

    When I first learned to read music 40 years ago, it was with coloured notes. So this feature gets an absolute thumbs-up from me. Anything that promotes reading should be encouraged. Though I doubt I will have need of it, I hope teachers find this to be a valuable tool.


  10. Thomas Wilson

    Interesting how the Sibelius team now touts a few bug fixes and a couple of minor features as worthy of new release numbers. They just fixed a major bug in the last release and are now calling it 8.3. It doesn’t feel as if they know what they are doing anymore.

  11. Steve Johnson

    I often compose or arrange right in my DAW (Cubase), and find colored notes (usually applied a staff at a time, or specific measures + staffs) useful to know where in my companion score things no longer match what I have just programmed. Rewrote that trumpet part? Zap it to orange in the score and come back later to fix it.

  12. adriana figueroa

    hi, what´s the new features about libraries in sibelius 8.3?…is it possible to continue using aria player and the libraries for this player in sib 7.1.3?
    the same question about the SSP for libraries for Kontakt, etc…
    I will waiting for your reply!

  13. Adriano

    Hi everybody :-)
    And how can one print a score’s title page in color, which was imported as a colour PDF? My printer does always interprete this as a black-and-white picture… With Sibelius 7 I never encountered with this problem.
    Thanks and regards from Zurich/Switzerland

  14. Bob Zawalich

    I suggest asking the question about the title page on the Sibelius tech forum, and include a score that demonstrates the problem.

  15. Miriam Townsley

    There is a huge diversity of Sibelius users out there. In the education sphere lots of Middle School students are using the program and the fix I want most of all (and so do my Seniors!) is note names that live update – i.e., when you move the pitch the note name automatically updates. Re previous post the note colours are excellent for teaching Serialism for example.

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