Sibelius 2023.11: Sonoma support, more system object positions, better Keypad

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Avid has released Sibelius 2023.11 for desktop and mobile. This update adds many more system object positions for greater flexibility for items like tempo marks and large time signatures, refreshes the look and behavior of the Keypad, and brings the automatic chord symbol completion feature to Sibelius for Mobile, among other fixes and improvements.

With Sibelius 2023.11 comes official support for macOS Sonoma on desktop and iOS 17 on mobile.

More system object positions

Sibelius 2023.11 makes it possible to have up to 11 system object positions, including the compulsory top staff and the optional bottom staff. No doubt, if this update were released tomorrow and called Sibelius 2023.12, there would be 12 system object positions (just kidding).

Now that you’re celebrating this improvement, you might ask: what is a system object position, exactly? And what does it mean for me?

Objects, in Sibelius, are things like notes, rests, text, time signature changes, key signature changes, lines, symbols, and chord symbols. There are some others, too, but we’ll leave it there for now.

A system is all the staves in the score, from the top-most to the bottom-most staff.

A system object is an object, such as tempo text or time signatures, that applies to the entire system — even if the object itself doesn’t appear on every staff in the score. A system object typically appears in every part; it would be confusing if tempo changes appeared in the Flute and Violin 1 parts but not the Clarinet and Viola parts, even though in an orchestral score, it typically only appears above the staves of the former. This is the essential difference between system text, which is colored purple when you click on it; and staff text, which is colored blue, to help distinguish the two.

System object positions, then, are the positions in the score on which system objects appear. As just mentioned, typically in a standard orchestral score you would want things like tempo text and rehearsal marks to appear at the top of the score (above the Flute part) and the top of the strings (above the Violin 1 part).

If you ever noticed this button in the Appearance but never learned about System Object Positions in music school, you’re not alone, but have no fear. Now you know:

Historically, Sibelius has effectively been limited to four positions (not counting the bottom staff, which is a special case). This sufficed most of the time, where you might have two (in a standard orchestral score) or three (in a standard symphonic band score). The positions themselves are set by clicking the aforementioned button:

Telling what text styles appear on which system object positions is controlled in Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles, where you can head over to the Vertical Posn tab and set these on an individual basis, in Multiple system object positions. For simpler scores, setting your System Object Positions and then checking all of the boxes for all system text is usually fine:

However, as scores got larger and more complex, many Sibelius users chafed under the restriction of only four positions. This was especially evident in film scores and other scores which made use of large time signatures, which also use system object positions. The issue is that you might have several places in your score where you want time signatures to appear, but others where only system text appears, and still others where you want both to appear.

In the following example, in Sibelius 2023.8 and earlier, I very quickly exhausted all available positions, and was left with less than satisfactory compromises just to achieve this result: The timecode appears at the top position; the clicks and tempo appear at the second and fourth position — with a hack so that the clicks have a ridiculously high “Y” setting so that they leapfrog the bar number staff; and the time signatures appear on at the second, third, and fourth position — and I’m still left without them showing on the brass and synths:

System object positions, in Sibelius 2023.8

This rather elaborate explanation hopefully illustrates why the addition in Sibelius 2023.11 of seven more system object positions is welcome news. Now, you can have much finer control when setting a score such as this. In Sibelius 2023.11, I’ve actually reconfigured this score to have seven system object positions:

  • Top staff (the first bar number staff), with timecode and click messages
  • 2nd position: Flute 1, with tempo text and time signatures
  • 3rd position: Horns 1/2, with time signatures
  • 4th position: Percussion, with time signatures
  • 5th position: Keyboards, with time signatures
  • 6th position: The second bar number staff, with click messages
  • 7th position: Violin 1, with with tempo text and time signatures
System object positions, in Sibelius 2023.11

Here is the text style setting for the time signatures in positions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7:

Keep in mind, Sibelius will add extra space above system object positions; the amount of space is controlled in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Staves > Layout > extra spaces above for System Object Positions. So, you may wish to adjust this setting accordingly. If I could have my cake and eat it too, now that we have 11 positions, it would be nice to be able to set the default extra space on a per-system object basis, since a one-size-fits-all setting here isn’t ideal. Of course, this can be adjusted by dragging the staves vertically in the score; you’ll just need to do this manually, as was the case before.

Keypad refresh

In his post announcing today’s update, Avid’s Sam Butler calls Sibelius’ Keypad “hallowed ground”, and I agree. It is, literally, the cornerstone of the Sibelius interface, and even in the most radical change to the Sibelius experience — the Sibelius 7 Ribbon — the Keypad stood its ground, unscathed.

In recent years, it’s received both cosmetic and functional updates; if you look carefully, you’ll notice the addition of buttons to accommodate the “tie into note” feature and other adjustments. With the increasing synergy between the mobile and desktop versions of Sibelius, it was time for a more comprehensive refresh, and that’s been done in 2023.11.

The first two Keypad layouts in Sibelius 2023.8

 

The first two Keypad layouts in Sibelius 2023.11

The default Keypad size in Sibelius 2023.11 is more than 25% larger than before, and now includes the Delete, Undo, and Redo buttons, just like on the mobile version. Sibelius is also drawing these as vector graphics rather than bitmapped images, which will scale infinitely regardless of display size or resolution.

It’s also clearer what the difference is between, say, the dots for a staccato and augmentation; in the latter case, the dot is shown in context with a greyed-out note. You’ll find this throughout the new Keypad: items that aren’t affected by the button, but are useful to illustrate the button’s purpose, are shadowed in grey, making it clearer to understand the button’s purpose and function. This is a really thoughtful approach, especially for new users grappling with the immensity of the six keypad layouts for the first time.

Also, like on mobile, the Keypad can now be minimized into a floating button.

If you’ve ever wanted to close the Keypad but were mystified how to get it to appear again (it’s in View > Panels > Keypad), this approach will help. If you don’t like this, you can revert to the previous behavior by going to File > Preferences > Display and uncheck Minimize Keypad to floating button.

One nitpick: on the Articulations layout of the Keypad (the fourth layout), the three mysterious boxes are still there, same as ever:

They correspond to custom articulations 1, 2, and 3, respectively, but you’d have no way of knowing this unless you hover over the button with your mouse, and even then, it will simply say, for instance, the general term “Custom Articulation 1” instead of the name of the symbol chosen. Ideally, these buttons could update to reflect the symbol you had chosen, or at least something to clue you in; as it stands now you still need to visit the Symbols table to see what’s been chosen (this will also be reflected in Appearance > Engraving Rules > Articulation).

Articulations

On the positive side of the ledger, the Keypad gains accessibility enhancements: you can navigate the Keypad and the button and selection state will be read by your screen reader. It’s also easier to see where you’re mousing around the Keypad.

Automatic chord symbol completion on mobile

The AI-powered automatic chord symbol completion feature, first introduced on the desktop only in Sibelius 2023.6 and refined in 2023.8, makes its first appearance on the mobile platforms iPad and iPhone in Sibelius 2023.11.

Automatic chord symbol completion in Sibelius 2023.11 (Avid image)

Back on the desktop, there is a refinement that will help make this feature less intrusive. There is a new option, found in File > Preferences > Other, called Suggest only on new chord symbols (not during navigation). With this selected, you can navigate the music while entering chord symbols with Space and Tab, without the AI model appearing;  only when you type Cmd+K (Mac) or Ctrl+K (Windows) again will a chord symbol be suggested by the AI model.

In addition to this, you can now click or tap on the dots to cycle through the suggested chords, as seen above.

macOS Sonoma and iOS 17 official support

With Sibelius 2023.11 comes official support for macOS Sonoma on desktop and iOS 17 on mobile. Sibelius on Mac still runs under the Rosetta 2 translation layer as an Intel application, however, so native support for Apple silicon remains on the wish list.

No major issues had been reported with Sibelius 2023.8 and Sonoma, but with Finale just yesterday providing Sonoma support in v27.4, and Dorico already having done so, Mac users that rely on these three major desktop notation software applications can use Sonoma confidently (assuming the other software you use is supported, as well).

Other improvements and fixes

There are a number of improvements and fixes in Sibelius 2023.11.

My personal favorite is support for the Lelandia font on Sibelius for Mobile. This means that if you use any or all of the three music fonts that we’ve created for Sibelius on desktop — Norfolk, Pori, and Lelandia, you can open those same files on iPad and iPhone and the scores will look the same. You’ll still need to grab those fonts separately (Norfolk and Pori are also bundled with Scoring Express) and install them on your computer for use on the desktop, but once you do that this makes it even easier to switch between desktop and mobile and get great-looking scores.

Other items of note:

  • When exporting PDFs on Mac for fonts with synthesized bold style (rather than a dedicated bold style), Sibelius will now print these correctly
  • Tie chains no longer break when any note is set with Live Playback data
  • Lyrics no longer overlap when notes on the same stave are hidden
  • The “Slide notes or rests left” Command ID is no longer missing an underscore
  • Pitch Correction Tool on the Keypad no longer crashes. Quartertone support has been reintroduced on desktop, and introduced for the first time on mobile too, which is enabled when holding Alt while dragging left and right on the Pitch Correction Tool
  • Stability improvements when importing a score from PhotoScore on Windows 11
  • Sibelius could, in rare cases, crash when quitting the app. This is fixed
  • The image displayed in the Sibelius installer on Mac is no longer cropped
  • Italian support on mobile

For other items as well as the official take on this release, consult the Avid post announcing this release. The post also have more details about the updates in the ManuScript plug-in language that were made in this release, particularly a new method to control the Erase Background control that’s available in the Inspector, among other important changes.

Finally, note that the Send Using Email feature in File > Share, introduced in Sibelius 7.5, has been removed in Sibelius 2023.11. Although it was a handy feature in its early days, the internet has changed a lot since 2014, and, given the countless ways a Sibelius file can be shared nowadays, this feature won’t be missed.

First Sibelius update for Avid under STG ownership

When reporting the news in August of this year of Avid’s acquisition by the private equity firm Symphony Technology Group (STG), we noted that “the transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2023. Upon completion of the transaction, Avid will become a privately-held company, and its stock will no longer be traded on Nasdaq.”

We never followed up that the deal did, in fact close, so let’s do that now: Avid shareholders approved the acquisition on November 2, 2023; STG completed the acquisition on November 7, 2023 in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.4 billion, and became a private company on that date.

Today’s Sibelius 2023.11 update marks the first Sibelius release for Avid as a private company under STG’s ownership.

Compatibility and availability

As mentioned, macOS Sonoma is fully supported with Sibelius 2023.11, running under Rosetta 2. The minimum version of macOS Sibelius supports is macOS 10.14 Mojave. As of Sibelius 2023.8, Sibelius will no longer install on earlier versions of macOS prior to 10.14.

Sibelius 2023.11 uses a new file format, to accommodate additional system objects. Files saved directly in 2023.11 will not be able to be opened in an earlier version of Sibelius prior to 2023.11 without first exporting them in File > Export > Previous Version. If you’re collaborating with someone else that’s using a previous version, be sure to find out what version they’re using.

The Sibelius 2023.11 desktop update is free for all Sibelius users with active subscriptions and upgrade plans. The updated installers for desktop are available through users’ Avid accounts and through Avid Link, which has also been updated. Avid also says that the licensing experience has been improved and should be more reliable.

The Sibelius 2023.11 iOS/iPadOS update is available in the usual way, and will be delivered automatically, or, if you’ve disabled automatic updates, you can manually update the app on your device.

The chord auto-completion feature only applies to the Ultimate and Artist tiers on desktop and mobile, and is not available on Sibelius First. The same is true for certain other features as well; typically our Scoring Notes coverage only extends to the Sibelius Ultimate version of the application.

A reminder that if you’re an existing Sibelius customer with an active support plan or subscription, you get the mobile version at the same tier at no extra charge. If you have a subscription to Sibelius Artist (mid-tier) on your Mac or PC, that will carry over to Sibelius Artist for Mobile, and the same for Sibelius Ultimate — a Mac or PC subscription allows you full access to Sibelius Ultimate on iPhone and iPad.

Holiday sale

This is a good time to get Sibelius, or to renew an existing subscription.

Avid is taking 20% off annual subscriptions through December 4, 2023, as follows:

  • Sibelius Ultimate: $159 (reg. $199)
  • Sibelius Artist: $79 (reg. $99)

Avid has told Scoring Notes that these same discounts will be available to those renewing their subscription in my.avid.com through the end of 2023.

Read further details about this and lots of other Black Friday offers in our comprehensive roundup.

Learn more

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.

Avid also has a “What’s New in Sibelius” page highlighting the features in recent Sibelius updates.

Comments

  1. Säde Bartling

    Thanks for the update news! Mixed information from Avid (again): according to Sibelius Operating System Compatibility Chart updated today, Sibelius 2023.11 doesn’t support macOS 14 Sonoma:

    https://avidtech.my.salesforce-sites.com/pkb/articles/en_US/compatibility/Sibelius-Operating-System-Compatibility-Chart

    1. Philip Rothman

      Well-spotted, thanks! I have alerted my contacts at Avid. Their official post does confirm Sonoma support, and personally I am running Sibelius 2023.11 on Sonoma with no issues.

    2. Justin Tokke

      This page probably just hasn’t been updated yet. Will get it sorted out, thanks for catching it.

  2. LMo

    Always appreciate your thorough info on software updates.

    Each time Sibelius rolls out an update, I’m excited then immediately disappointed that Avid still seems to not understand the value of a Dorico-like playback engine with easy-to-setup articulations. Hoping this is on their roadmap.

  3. Marko

    Greetings to the author. But also my note to those working on Sibelius development. It’s been a long time since there has been anything fundamentally important. Minor upgrades or major adjustments to new operating systems. I’ve been following Sibelius diligently since version 1.003 and there has been almost no substantial progress in the last dozen years. And since I am a long-time user with different needs (not as a composer but as a transcriber of scores and preparer of books for the press), I think there are many opportunities for new ideas. Especially in that direction. Anyway, Sibelius has been a kind of joy and excitement for me for nearly a quarter of a century, and I’m grateful for that.

    1. TOM

      You are right. No big things have been introduced for a long time. What I would at least expect is VST3 support. Without it, Sibelius is on a path to fade-out compared to the competition…
      A pity really, because the operating concept is still excellent.

  4. Glenn Egner

    There is a problem with spacing of the notes in the parts. The alterations sharps and flats collide with the notes and also sometimes the first note of the bar is colliding with the bar it self. Lots of problems with this new version. Also , sometimes the keypad disappears and the only way to get it back is closing the program and restarting. I’d love to go back to the previous version. I don’t know why Sibelius Avid, doesn’t check everything over before rushing to provide a new version. The need some testers to check it all out first…..

    1. Säde Bartling

      Hear, hear! Sibelius 2023.11 integrated a completely irrelevant pdf from my desktop INTO the score as I was copy-pasting a notation element. Also, it seems to be more crashing-prone than the previous version.

  5. Nate

    Is anyone else experiencing sluggishness when selecting and deselecting objects or staves with the newest version? Sometimes a second or two delay before the program reacts. Most other actions don’t seem to be affected.

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