Fake it ’til you make it: New Sibelius plug-in for per-staff barline


In Sibelius, barlines are basically an all-or-nothing affair when it comes to how they appear on each staff.

As we’ve noted here not too long ago, it’s possible to have barlines on some staves and not on others, and to have “barline joins” — grouping two or more similar instruments in a system by connecting their barlines — appear between certain staves easily enough.

What’s not possible, however, is to mix it up: to have barline joins appear in some bars, but not in others. It’s possible to fake it, of course, by selecting a barline and then going to Notations > Common > Barline, select Invisible, and then manually adding in a line using Notations > Lines. You’d have to precisely match the height of your faked barline to the height of the staff, and faithfully reproduce your work across multiple staves.

Plug-in guru Bob Zawalich decided that was all too time consuming, so he created a plug-in called Add Fake Barline to Bars to automate the whole process.

Here’s a simple result:

Of course, you can imagine the plug-in being used creatively in a more complicated setting where bars of indeterminate length don’t strictly align among all the instruments.

The plug-in has a variety of settings, including one where you can mimic the look of “tick” and “short” barlines by adjusting the Y offsets.

You can also specify whether to use a line, a dashed line or a dotted line.

The plug-in is also useful in instances like this, where you may need to quickly place a dashed barline in the middle of a bar to indicate a subdivision.

If you think you will use Add Fake Barline to Bars regularly, you should also download Roman Molino Dunn’s Barline Tool plug-in, which allows you to create special barlines on many bars at once; without this plug-in you can only change one barline at a time.

Add Fake Barline to Bars may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 and higher at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Lines. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6 or higher by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.


  1. Bob Zawalich

    Thanks for writing this up, Philip.

    I would like to mention that in addition to the 3 built-in line types the plugin can use it will also look for any line styles that are used in the score, and will add these to the list. So you can create a custom line and then add one of them to the selection temporarily, and you can then use it with the plugin. You can delete the temporary line once you have used it.

  2. Derek Williams

    Ingenious Bob, comme toujours!

  3. Florian

    Just In case Bob Zawalich should read this, or someone who knows his way around coding for Sibelius:

    Could you add the feature to make other bar messures like 7/8, 15/16 etc? That would be faboulus. Or just an option to create a barline at the end of an selected area?

  4. Bob Zawalich

    The plugin does not care about the time signature – it will draw lines at the start or end of a bar. If you happen to be a member of the Sibelius Power Users Facebook group you can see a screenshot of multiple time signatures at https://www.facebook.com/groups/323691061147132/posts/1788725844643639/

  5. Bob Zawalich

    There is no option for drawing at the end of a selection. You but you can specify an offset from the start of a bar in units of quarter notes, but that will draw the line at every multiple of that offset in the bar.

    To draw lines every 3-8th notes from the start of the bar, tell it to use 1.5 quarter notes as an offset. It will put them at that offset, and you can delete all but the first line. Not great, but it is the best it can do right now.

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