Get accidentals to display correctly on cross-staff notes in Sibelius (updated)


If you work with cross-staff notes in Sibelius, sooner or later you will encounter a situation like this:

Don’t see a problem? Perhaps it will help to see the music on a single staff:

That’s right — these are all supposed to be major chords. Our left hand is missing a critical A natural in the sixth chord and a B natural on the last chord. In addition, a number of cautionary accidentals are omitted, which, while not strictly needed, could be useful if the music were not so obviously triadic.

Let’s focus on those essential accidentals. You may be thinking, no problem, we’ll just add the natural from the Keypad. Not so fast…

The naturals are active already, even though they don’t show — and pressing it on the Keypad removes the naturals simply makes the notes flat, which is not what we want here.

This is a long-standing problem with Sibelius, and until recently I’ve gotten around it by adding in the naturals as symbols. But it turns out there’s a way to get those accidentals to display correctly — actually two ways, thanks to solutions posted in a recent forum topic by Wim Hoogewerf and Jeremy Hughes.

I find Wim’s solution a bit more straightforward, so I’ll describe it here.

First, select the note(s) and choose Bracket accidental from the sixth Keypad layout.

Then select the bracketed accidentals.

Then, hide the bracket accidentals using Home > Edit > Hide or Show (shortcut Command-Shift-H on Mac or Ctrl+Shift+H on PC).

Then, use the same command to show the accidentals. The bracket is removed, but the accidentals remain.

You will probably want to re-space the music by selecting the passage and going to Appearance > Reset Notes > Reset Note Spacing to tighten things up.

UPDATE: After first publishing this post, plug-in guru Bob Zawalich reminded me that his plug-in Display Accidentals in Selected Notes (category Accidentals) can automate most of the above steps, from the time you’ve selected the notes on which you want the accidentals to display. Simply select the notes to be processed in the first step above, and then run the plug-in with these settings:

Jeremy’s solution involves selecting one of the previous notes and temporarily altering it. If you’re interested, you can read his full procedure at the forum.

Now, if that weren’t enough, there’s another opposite problem with cross-staff accidentals where they can display when you don’t want them to in certain circumstances. We covered that conundrum in a blog post a few years ago, so head over to that post and read all about it if you haven’t already. The plug-in Display Accidentals in Selected Notes helps there, as well.

Did you find this post useful? Perhaps you have a trick like this of your own? If so, please let us know in the comments!

Update: After first publishing this post, Neil Sands reminded me that this problem and a workaround has been floating around for at least ten years, back in the days of Sibelius 3.0, when Ben Finn was still replying to help queries.


  1. Kennerth Gaw

    Thanks a lot, Philip. This is really useful.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    Just wanted mention that the plugin Display Accidentals In Selected Notes that you link to as a way to hide accidentals can also be used to show them (as an alternative to the methods described here).

    Use the option Force Accidentals to be Visible and uncheck Change Visible Accidentals Only, and any selected notes will be given visible accidentals, even cross-staff.

  3. Liviu

    My name is Liviu.
    The upper or lower mordent in chromatic mode does not work correctly (Sibelius 7.5.0). How can I fix this problem?
    Thank you

  4. Andy

    Thank you, thank you. This has been driving me nuts.

    1. Philip Rothman

      If we can help even one person, one time, it’s a success :-)

  5. Derek Williams

    Brilliant, thank you Bob!

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