Importing only certain elements of house styles in Sibelius


Listen to the podcast episode

On the Scoring Notes podcast, David MacDonald and Philip Rothman discuss why house style elements matter in the course of preparing a piece of music and talk about which types of text fonts pair well with music notation. We also explore the “tyranny of the default” settings in scoring software programs and get specific about how to manage house styles in Sibelius, Dorico, and Finale. Listen now:

Scoring Notes
Scoring Notes
The elements of (house) style


In an earlier post, I explained the concept of house styles in Sibelius. A Sibelius house style is a collection of properties that gives a score a characteristic look. The properties include several fonts for text, symbols, and music.

The Appearance > House Style > Import House Style dialog has a list of the properties that can be imported, and show a list of the house styles that can be imported (the example shows the built-in house styles in Sibelius):

A user can set up properties in a score and export that collection of properties by using Appearance > House Style > Export. That style can then be imported into other scores (including Manuscript Paper scores), which is a way to share things like instrument definitions and text or line styles with other scores.

If Document Setup is checked, it will change the layout of the target score. Fortunately, thanks to an improvement made in the 2020.1 update, Sibelius can import the Document Setup independently of the other elements of the house style.

You can import only a subset of the properties. Importing anything except the Instrument definitions and its child properties is unlikely to change your score in an unexpected way, though it is always a good idea to save a backup copy of a score before you import a house style.

Importing the Instrument definitions fields can be tricky, though, because some properties depend on other properties. Noteheads, clefs and lines include symbols, and symbols include text styles, so if you choose any property that depends on other properties you will have to import the child properties as well. Importing text styles can totally change the look of your score.

Here is an example of this problem.

I have a large and complex score with distinctive text and noteheads such as:


I want to define some lines and symbols in my score, so I import a house style, carefully importing as little as I can. If I want symbols I cannot uncheck Text styles:

The house style Opus Norfolk Harp had been derived from Standard Opus (Times). Even though I really only wanted symbols and lines, the noteheads and text are now different.

score-02On the positive side, I did get my harp symbols:


So, how do we avoid or fix this problem?

Copying objects rather than importing a house style

One way to avoid the problem is not to import a house style, but instead to copy the symbols or lines you want from a score where they are defined. Doing this will import the symbol and line and import new text styles from the objects, but will not redefine existing text styles, and so will not change the overall appearance of the score.

If you do not have a score you can easily copy from, create a new score using the house style that contains the definitions you want. Now create the symbols and lines you want in the new score, using Notations > Symbols or Notations > Lines (shortcuts Z and L, respectively). Select and copy the objects, and paste them somewhere into your score.

I sometimes add some empty bars at the end of my score, and paste the objects there. After the paste, I can move the pasted objects where I want them, or just delete the added bars and the items I pasted. The symbols and lines will now be available in the Symbols or Lines galleries.

Exporting a current house style before you import

It might be tedious to create or find all the symbols you want, so you might still want to import the house style. One approach is to prepare for the change:

  1. Export a house style from the current score. If the parts have different house styles you will need to export house styles form the parts as well.
  2. Import the fewest properties you need from the house style that has the symbols into the full score.
  3. Import the house style(s) you exported in the first step into the appropriate score and parts.

If you have imported a house style, and it messed you up, and you had not exported a house style beforehand, and it is too late to undo, you could possibly find a backup score and do the first three steps.


  1. Alex

    I can’t find any information about whether it is possible to see which House Style is currently used in the open score.

  2. Bob Zawalich

    It is not possible to do that.

    House styles are just collections of properties and properties are overridden, etc. A score does not record imported house styles. This is why I am going to all the trouble of analyzing the fonts in a score to get a list of House Styles that MIGHT have been used in the score.

    I have a plugin called Import House Style History that can be used instead of directly importing a House Style. The name of the imported House Style (and optionally the date) will be appended to Score Info More Information.

    This does not record the original House Style, though if you really wanted to keep a record, you could manually add the House Style or, maybe easier, the Manuscript Paper name, in Score Info Other Information when the score is first created.

    All this requires a lot of care to ensure that you always record the information about house styles, and I really don’t know of anyone actually doing this.

    There are some other Scoring Notes posts describing plugins and mechanisms that try to guess at least families of House Styles that would be appropriate to import into a score, as a best guess as to what had been previously used in a score.

    1. Alex

      Hello Bob,
      Thank you for the detailed answer. I understood.

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