Creating PDFs from Sibelius


Update – September 16, 2013: The following post from 2008 pertains to Sibelius 6 and earlier versions. For instructions and tips on how to create PDF files from Sibelius 7, see this blog post.

Nowadays many Sibelius worfklows end with creating a PDF file. “PDF” stands for “Portable Document Format,” and it’s an open standard invented by Adobe that allows documents created by any application to be viewed on any other computer, without that application or a viewer for that specific file format being available. (Lots more detail on PDF can be found at Wikipedia.) You might also know a PDF file as an “Acrobat file,” so named after Adobe’s commercial application for creating PDF files, Acrobat, and the free viewer that used to be known as Acrobat Reader, but is now known simply as Adobe Reader (despite the fact that Adobe Reader only reads PDF files and not files created by other Adobe applications… but I digress.)

PDF files are so useful because you can send them to anybody and they will be able to view and print them exactly as they look on your own computer. Of course, you have the option of sending somebody a Sibelius file that they can view and print in Scorch, but often you need to send PDFs to e.g. your local print shop. So how do you make a PDF in Sibelius? More after the jump.

On both platforms, you have the option of using Adobe’s commercial Acrobat software. This is recommended if you’re producing PDFs for publication, and want to be assured of the highest levels of compatibility and quality. PDFs can get pretty ornery with regard to things like font formats, so if you getting paid depends on the quality of your PDF, you might consider Acrobat a wise investment.

What about if you don’t want to spring for Adobe’s heavyweight contender? There are free alternatives on both Mac OS X and Windows.

On Mac OS X, it’s simplicity itself. Simply open the score from which you want to make a PDF, choose File > Print, and in the Print dialog, click the little PDF button at the bottom of the dialog. A menu appears when you click the button: click Save as PDF, choose where you want to save your PDF, and that’s it!

(A side note: you may find that the resulting PDF looks a bit blocky on-screen in Apple’s Preview application, though it will print fine, and it also looks fine in Adobe Reader on both Mac OS X and Windows. If this bothers you — and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t — you can use this AppleScript from Sibelius user Paul Cantrell. Unzip the file you downloaded, and you’ll see a little AppleScript icon. Drag your PDF onto this icon, and the PDF will be magically fixed such that it looks good in Preview. Alternatively, if you use Save as PostScript rather than Save as PDF in the Print dialog, and then double-click the .ps file created by this process, the PDF you end up with will also look good in Preview.)

On Windows, you will need to download and install some extra software. All PDF creators behave like virtual printers, i.e. in order to create a PDF, you print to a PDF printer driver, which produces a file rather than a piece of paper. There are lots and lots of free and inexpensive PDF creators out there for Windows, but the one I personally favour is PDFCreator, which is free and open-source. After you have downloaded and installed PDFCreator, an extra printer will appear in your Printers & Faxes applet in Control Panel. Now when you want to make a PDF, simply choose PDFCreator from the list of printers at the top of Sibelius’s File > Print dialog, and click OK. You’ll be prompted to choose a filename, and after a few moments a PDF will be created.


  1. bob

    I know how to make a PDF. I used to know how to make several pages into a PDF book. Any clues will be greatly appreciated.

    1. syd

      Did you ever get this question answered? I’m trying to create a book with 11 separate Sibelius song files I can take to the printer as one PDF file.
      Any tips?
      I’m using Sib 6

  2. bob

    Another question on the road is how to continues a score mvts. without the time signature at the end of a mvt.?

  3. CAWKA

    It’s cool looking pdf’s with Creator, but when I create pdf with difficult chords, creator didn’t see small symbols, and they appears incorrectly! For example: Gb13(b9) appears wrong in creator: G13()..Can you make a special update for Sib6 to create pdf’s from program directly (like in Sib7). Thanks! P.S. I know that I can export to Graphics (tiff) then to creator, but it takes TO MUCH TIME!:)

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