Dorico – what’s your Preference?


We all have our preferences — chocolate or vanilla, mountains or the beach, football or football. When it comes to music notation software, you might have your preferred application to work in, but then there are the Preferences, with a capital P, within that application that can significantly shape your regular work.

Dorico is still relatively new compared to other software, and as a result, more preferences — er, Preferences — are being added with each update. If you dove right into working with the software, you might not have thought to even visit the Preferences.

Take a peek and you might find everything as you like it, or you might find a few settings worth changing. Whether or not Dorico is your preferred program, let’s find out what Preferences it offers to help you get the most out of it.

How to get there

How do you to get to Preferences in the first place? The key command Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) and the comma (,) will pop you right there. This is a universal shortcut in nearly any program, so try it out in other software you wish to fiddle with.

You can also go through the menu: Dorico > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (Windows).

General preferences


Music engraving, like football, is a game of inches. Or is it millimeters? Choose your preference for imperial or metric units here, along with your preferred language, paper size type (ISO or North American), and default text font family (such as Academico).

Window and View

Did you know Dorico has two different themes? We’re not talking sonata-allegro form here; these are visual themes. The default theme is Dark but you can easily switch it to Light.

I like it! Why not try it, at least to brighten things up for the summer?

While you’re here, you can turn off showing the Hub, change your default zoom size, specify the default view type (Page or Galley), and choose whether or not you want the system track to show by default.


Further along, you’ll find all sort of defaults for your project folder, backup folder, and auto-save — including the option to specify the interval of auto-saves and whether or not to disable the feature entirely.

Now that Dorico has gone through two major versions and a slew of updates, the fastidious among us might want to archive projects created in an earlier version without changing them. To help you avoid saving over a file accidentally, there are a couple of options in Opening Projects:

Only the first of these is checked by default, so if you want to be extra-cautious, check both options.

When you export PDFs, do you like to slice and dice the names of those files like a gourmet salad? You can, thanks to the options in Exporting Files. Here, you can compose recipes using ingredients — really — and customize your filenames to your heart’s content. This is actually very useful to export layouts (parts) in score order using the $n token so that it’s one less step for me to organize them when you send them to us to print (it’s OK… we’re used to it).

Key Commands

Dorico allows you to set your own custom keyboard shortcuts — boy, does it ever. (A tricked-out key command settings file is one of the little gems powering Notation Express.)

We’ve already covered how to set your own key commands in another blog post, so take a look through that article for some helpful tips.


If you’re using Dorico, chances are that you’ve had experience working in another program, and indeed you may find yourself using Dorico to open files created in another program and exported via MusicXML.

Dorico does an excellent job dealing with MusicXML files straight away, but it also may seem like it has a mind of its own, which may please or displease you depending upon your needs. Either way, you have a number of controls at your disposal in Preferences.

By default, some of these controls are checked and others are not. Each option is clearly explained, so we won’t review them here. But if you import MusicXML files a lot and have found that you need to do some cleanup in Dorico after the fact, have a look here to see if adjusting these settings can get you even better results and save you a step — or two or three.

Keep in mind, however, that each of the roughly 150 applications that export MusicXML do so differently, so sometimes the imported file is only as good as the MusicXML information that is created in the first place. Or, put more crudely: garbage out, garbage in.

Note Input and Editing

You have quite a few options here, especially pertaining to percussion input.

In addition, one editing option that Sibelius users may appreciate: the option to change the default click-drag behavior to the Hand Tool instead of the Marquee Select Tool, the latter of which is set as the default Dorico option (the reverse is true in Sibelius).

Quick tip: To temporarily switch to the non-default tool in Dorico (i.e., make a marquee selection if you’ve chosen the Hand Tool as the default), hold down the Shift key.

(Sibelius user? Command (Mac) or Shift (Windows) temporarily switches in that program.)

(Finale user? Option+Command (Mac) or Right-click (Windows) to temporarily switch to the Hand Grabber Tool.)

(Ah, we digress…)


I love NotePerformer. I’ve made it my default playback template:

I don’t love all the NotePerformer windows that automatically appear when I open a project, obscuring the music:

Luckily, I can disable this behavior in Preferences > Play > VST Plug-ins by unchecking Open VST plug-in windows when opening projects (which is checked by default):

Elsewhere here, you can find options to control the behavior and appearance of the playhead, set various recording and quantization options, change the unit of measurement in the mini transport, and set up your audio devices.

What’s your Preference?

Do you have a favorite preference setting that helps you work in Dorico? Or did you learn about a few here that will help you in the future? We’d, uh, prefer it if you let us know by leaving a comment!


  1. Derek Williams

    Really useful, thanks Philip!

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Derek!

  2. Terence Jones

    As you’ve already mentioned it here, do you know if there’s any plan to update Notation Express to take advantage of the new Streamdeck XL? I only ask as I’m seriously considering buying one shortly to work with Dorico. :)

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Terence! Yes, I’m working on a Notation Express XL profile, so to speak. I just received the Stream Deck XL unit a week ago, so bear with me!

      1. Terence Jones

        Awesome, thanks for the swift update! :)

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