Finale version 27.3 adds eight powerful JW tools, fixes some linked part issues


Earlier this week, MakeMusic released Finale version 27.3, the third update to Finale v27. With this update, Finale adds native installation of eight of the most popular and powerful plug-ins by Jari Williamsson. Now called JW Tools, these plug-ins now install natively with Finale, have been updated to work correctly with SMuFL-compliant fonts, contain fixes for several outstanding bugs and crashes, and will appear in Finale running on Macs with the Apple Silicon chip without the need to open Finale in Rosetta mode.

The v27.3 update also addresses some longstanding issues affecting linked parts, particularly when voicing is used (the process of automatically splitting out one score staff into two parts). In particular, horizontal spacing is fixed with grace notes, as well with the intervals of a second and unison.

This update also includes some other improvements and bug fixes.

Here is the list of items that appears when you open Finale and it prompts you to update:

The video

Once again, Jason is out of the gate with a new “Conquering Finale” video which covers the Finale v27.3 update. It will “JW Change” your life!


JW Tools

27.3 may be a rather non-descript version number, but the importance of this Finale release is outsized to the relatively modest rollout it has seen. With this update, Finale adds native installation of eight of the most popular and powerful plug-ins by Jari Williamsson. These plug-ins have been available for many years for free independently of Finale, but you had to be “in-the know” to get them from Jari’s Finale Tips site.

More recently, we had made them available on Notation Central, our marketplace for music notation software technology, as a way of exposing them to more users, but you still needed to manually install them and follow specific instructions to find file paths on your computer — too daunting a task for some users.

Although those barriers to entry were surmountable, one creeping problem could only be solved either by MakeMusic or Jari himself — the fact that, as progress marches on, the plug-ins themselves started to malfunction as they became incompatible with either the latest versions of Finale (SMuFL fonts caused problems) — or the latest computer software or hardware. For instance, the plug-ins did not open on Macs with the Apple Silicon chip, such as M1. Even though Finale is Apple Silicon-compatible, you needed to open Finale in Rosetta mode to use the plug-ins.

This problem could really only be addressed either by Jari or MakeMusic directly. With Jari winding down his many years of herculean and generous contributions, thankfully MakeMusic stepped in and has taken responsibility for eight of these plug-ins (and hopefully more in the future; we will see). Now, these tools are compatible with the latest versions of Finale, and, crucially, do not require any special installation process, making them available literally to everyone that has the latest version of Finale.

If you install Finale 27.3, you will see a new JW Tools submenu in the Plug-ins menu:

Note that in our screenshot above, we have another submenu called JW. This is where we have manually installed the previous versions of the JW plug-ins. If you have never installed these, you won’t see that. If you have manually installed any JW plug-ins in the past, they can co-exist alongside the ones that Finale natively installed, but you can safely delete the older versions of the eight plug-ins included with v27.3.

Those plug-ins are:

  • JW Accidentals: This plug-in helps to find and correct cautionary accidentals in your document. It works differently than other cautionary accidental solutions for music notation software since it first provides a list with suggested accidental changes. In the next step, the user confirms which of the changes that should be made.
  • JW Change: This plug-in changes existing elements in a document through a general user interface. The plug-in has over 200 tasks that are separated into 17 different sections. The options on the right-side of the plug-in will vary depending on the task that is chosen from the Tasks menu. Each option will have context sensitive options and a set of filters available. The filters allow for more precise control over which notation the plug-in modifies.
  • JW Copy Part Layout: The Copy Part Layout Plug-in allows you to quickly copy a linked part’s layout and apply this to the currently displayed linked part. The measure layout for each system gets locked, so the layout will remain the same in the source and destination. It will check that measures are empty in the destination part before multimeasure rests are copied.
  • JW Note Spacing: This plug-in provides 8 different music spacing options that can be applied to a specific region in a document through an easy to use interface. Be aware that if you use a spacing that is not the default for the document, it is recommended to turn off Automatic Music Spacing in Preferences.
  • JW Pattern: This is a multi-purpose plug-in that creates various patterns in the selected notation based off of the criteria chosen. The Tasks field is separated into five different sections that contain specific actions related to each category. The options available in the plug-ins main area will change based on which action is selected in the task field. Descriptions for the selected action will be displayed below the task field.
  • JW Rhythm Copy: The JW Rhythm Copy plug-in reads a source region (that is one staff) and uses the rhythm in layer 1 and applies the rhythm on a destination selection (that can be any number of staves as long as the width of the selection is the same as the source).
  • JW Space Empty Rests: This plug-in spaces multimeasure rests and/or single measure rests relative to their duration, making parts with many rests much more professional and easier to read. Multimeasure rests can be either spaced according to the number of measures or to their durations (in beats). The existing music scaling factor for the document is used. Note that this plug-in will not work correctly when the option at Document Options > Multimeasure Rests > Update Automatically is on. If this is on, you will be warned and given the option for the plug-in to turn this off for you.
  • JW Staff Polyphony: The JW Staff Polyphony plug-in is a multi-purpose plug-in for notation tasks in your score that are related to Layers, Staves, Chord Lines, and Percussion Lines. The Tasks section has a dropdown menu for all the actions available for each of these types of musical content.
JW Change running in Finale v27.3

As mentioned earlier, if you have a Mac with an Apple Silicon chip, it is no longer necessary to run Finale in Rosetta mode to use these plug-ins, unless you need to use other third-party tools like other JW plug-ins or certain VSTs.

Something else that is un-Finale-like — in a good way — about the JW Tools is that they are modeless, meaning that you can work in your score and continue to have (one or several) dialog boxes open, without needing to interrupt your work and open and close each one every time.

Although this is not very helpful on a single-display setup…

…if you have two or more displays, you can shove all the JW Tools onto a secondary display for a dashboard of power tools at the ready whenever you need them.

Another benefit of this update: All the JW Tools are well-documented in the official Finale manual, on Mac and Windows. We’ve also linked to the documentation for each one in the list above.

Let’s face it — these tools are the types of features, that, if you were designing music notation software anew, you would build directly into the program. But Finale has 30+ years of legacy code to contend with, so ultimately how the features are added is less important than the fact that they are in there one way or another. We cannot overstate the importance of this update, which makes quick work of what could otherwise be laborious and tedious.

This is very good news for all Finale users and will make a profound day-to-day difference for anyone that works with Finale.

Updates to voiced linked parts

Finale has long had the ability to not only have parts in the same file that are linked to the score — table-stakes for modern notation software, but revolutionary when it was first introduced in Sibelius 4 and Finale 2007.

Voiced linked parts, however — two separate parts that are based on the same one staff in the score, and attempt to separate out the voices — is a thornier challenge, and one that Finale has achieved with mixed results.

Simpler music fares well in voiced linked parts in Finale, but limitations have abounded. For one, many of Finale’s Special Tools and native plug-ins were inaccessible when using voiced linked parts. Moreover, painful bugs regarding the spacing of grace notes, stem directions, and the intervals of a second and a unison made using voiced linked parts impossible for anyone that cared about decent visual output when these elements existed.

Finale v.27.3 fixes all of the above issues. Longtime Finale users who have contended with these deficiencies for a decade and a half will be delighted at the news. You should find dealing with grace notes, stem direction, intervals of a second and a unison, and scenarios with ties where the layers are separated by the interval of a second much better behaved — and if they’re not precisely to your liking, you now have full access to the Special Tools to adjust these elements further in the part without disrupting the appearance of the score. In addition, manual adjustments made to slurs in linked parts now retain these edits after closing and reopening a document.

Using Special Tools in a voiced linked part in Finale v27.3

Other improvements, fixes, and availability

There are a handful of other improvements and fixes in this release.

Here are a highlights of a few others:

SMuFL fixes

  • The Latin Percussion plug-in now contains SMuFL-based support files.
  • The AlphaNotes plug-in can now use SMuFL-based characters.
  • The Automatic Dynamics plug-in now only works with SMuFL-based fonts.
  • The Score System Divider plug-in now works correctly with SMuFL fonts.

Other fixes

  • The Create Handbells Used Chart plug-in now displays modified noteheads correctly when used in a SMuFL-based document.
  • The Create Handbells Used Chart plug-in displays the correct number of bells used again. 
  • The Check Regions for Durations plug-in no longer overlooks some incomplete or overfilled measures.
  • Creating a two note slur where an articulation is present, no longer unlinks the articulation from the score. (Windows only) 
  • Embedded PDF graphics are now exported and imported to MusicXML.
  • All text inserts are now exported to MusicXML, including date, time, file date, performance time, file name, double flat, double sharp, and pass number. 
  • TAB clefs no longer export a line element to MusicXML.

Finale v27.3 is a free update for anyone who has already purchased Finale v27, and can be downloaded from your MakeMusic account, or directly through Finale, if Check for Update is selected.

If you don’t already have Finale v27.3, now is the best time to get it — they’ve significantly reduced prices on both new licenses and on upgrades, and they have extended their Cyber Monday sale through today, Friday December 2, for even further discounts by using the promo code CYBER22 at checkout.

For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.

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