Reviewing the reviews, part 1


Although we have yet to see any reviews of Sibelius 6 appearing in the specialist press, hundreds and hundreds of customers have already upgraded to or bought Sibelius 6 since its launch in May, and a few of them have posted their thoughts online.

We’ll start with blogger Freeb, who is an A level music student here in the UK. When Sibelius 6 was first announced, he said:

Whilst there is undoubted improvement in each Sibelius version, it does seem now that the majority of the new features are “power toys”, only to be used by a small minority of Sibelius users.

I’m not sure I’d personally characterise any of the features we’ve added in Sibelius 6 as “power toys.” The features have been targeted at specific areas of music notation that are commonly used in many kinds of music (e.g. slurs, beams, chord symbols, ties, dynamics, etc.) or solving important workflow issues (e.g. Versions, ReWire, ease of setting up playback, etc.). But of course one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Freeb also took a detailed look at Magnetic Layout in the demo version. He had a number of niggles:

  • Magnetic Layout doesn’t solve collisions between notes and rests in different voices.
    This is a fair criticism, but it was also a design decision. Magnetic Layout is a very complicated feature, but one of the ways in which we tried to keep it manageable was to have some clear rules about what Magnetic Layout cannot do, including changing note spacing (so it can only move objects around within the available horizontal space, not expand or contract the note spacing to try to avoid collisions), changing staff spacing (so it cannot move staves up or down on its own to create more space), and changing the positions of notes and rests (so it cannot e.g. move a rest up or down to avoid a collision — of course it would be crazy if it could move a note up or down anyway). There are a handful of problems relating to how Sibelius deals with conflicts between notes in one voice and notes or rests in other voices, and also with things like ties to chords with different pitches than the tied-from note, etc., but Magnetic Layout isn’t the right way to solve those problems. Those problems exist at a more fundamental level involving Sibelius’s basic logic for positioning notes and rests, so that’s where they need to be addressed: and of course they remain on our list of things to look at in future.
  • Collisions between notes/ties and rests in opposing voices aren’t coloured red.
    This is also a fair criticism, but on the basis of the fact that Magnetic Layout doesn’t interfere with notes or rests, it would be difficult for us to use the same mechanism to colour notes and rests red if they collide (plus, of course, red notes already have a specific meaning in Sibelius, denoting notes that are outside of the playable range of the instrument on which they are written).
  • Sibelius doesn’t do Optimize Staff Spacing automatically in real-time.
    We debated this one long and hard during development. On the one hand, it would be cool not to have to tell Sibelius to resolve the collisions between objects attached to different staves. But on the other, we know from our extensive testing and feedback on the software going back over many years that one of the most disorientating things about using Sibelius is when things move on the screen when the user isn’t looking. Imagine, for example, a situation where you’re inputting notes from a MIDI keyboard: you look at the screen to start off, then look at the keyboard, then look back up at the screen. While you were inputting notes, Sibelius has decided to move the staves further apart. Suddenly, you don’t recognise what you’re looking at, and you’re taken out of your creative, right-brain thinking into mechanical, “what’s going on?” left-brain thinking. So we made the decision to make Optimize Staff Spacing a one-shot operation, and I think that’s the right decision.

Finally, Freeb shows an example where Optimize Staff Spacing doesn’t quite solve all the problems:


You can see here that the dynamic is coloured red, showing that it’s colliding with the articulations on the notes above. This looks like a little bug to me, so I’m glad to have seen it, and we’ll make sure that we take care of it.

Freeb’s other minor gripes include the length of the Playback window now that it has extra buttons (though they’re very useful ones!) and the page numbers on the Navigator being too pale (other users have made the same comments and we agree, so we will darken them in a future version).

In summing up, Freeb says:

It almost goes without saying that once again Sibelius 6 is a joy to use, and a great product.

Thanks, Freeb.

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