New plug-in: Add Turbo Comment

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This post is written by Ed Hirschman, a composer, arranger and co-founder of Art of Sound Music. Art of Sound Music is a sheet music publisher and retailer based in Princeton, New Jersey, representing the music of over 65 composers and arrangers worldwide. Read on to learn about Ed’s new plug-in, Add Turbo Comment.

At Art of Sound Music, our composers send us music notation files and manuscripts, and we improve the quality of notation by applying industry best practices as well as our own internal engraving standards. The engraving process can include multiple rounds of written comments going back and back and forth between our staff and the composer.

After making a first draft of notational improvements to the score and parts, we provide a PDF and separate file of questions/suggestions to the composer for review. In the early days, the questions would be typed manually into a Microsoft Word document, text file, or body of an e-mail, along with references to the bars or instruments in question. Sometimes the responses from the composers didn’t clearly show which answer went with which question, causing confusion and delay.

With the advent of the Create > Comment feature in Sibelius 6 (Review > Comments > New Comment in Sibelius 7 or 7.5), this process greatly improved for two reasons:

  1. When using Create > Comment, the instruments and bars in question are auto entered.
  2. We started using a plug-in from Roman Molino Dunn (a.k.a. The Music Transcriber) called Export Comments. The paid version of the plug-in outputs all the comments into an HTML table. I modified the plug-in to include our company branding, provide instructions and include an auto-expanding column where composers can respond:

comments-1

At that time, we stopped emailing the PDFs and Comments file to composers, and starting sharing with each via a dedicated Dropbox folder. These changes made the review process much easier, but I realized that by creating a new plug-in I could make it even easier/faster to add comments, and the comments would be more clear for the reader.

So in March 2014, I created the Add Turbo Comment plug-in. For my own personal use, I’ve added a keyboard shortcut to invoke the plug-in (Alt-T on Windows), which allows me to add comments more easily and conveniently. Here’s the main dialog box:

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If you are a user of the built-in commenting feature, this table shows how the Add Turbo Comment plug-in makes adding comments easier, faster and more consistent:

Built-in commenting featureAdd Turbo Comment plug-in
New comments are typed directly into the sticky note in the score. Depending on your screen size, resolution and zoom level, the text can be quite hard to see while you type.New comments are typed into a large dialog box and typos can be easily seen or fixed as you type.
If “Comments” is checked in View > Invisibles, you cannot add a new comment.Can easily add a comment with View > Invisibles off or on.
Every comment has to be typed in manually.Can insert one of four canned phrases with the click of a button. The canned phrases can be customized at any time.

Your last 10 free-form comments are automatically saved in a drop-down for easy reuse.

Use of these techniques enables faster work and more consistent wording across comments.
Comment color, font and font size can be manually adjusted after the comment is created through a multi-step process.Comment color, font and font size can be set before the comment is created, and all of your previous choices are memorized.

A few other things to know about Add Turbo Comment. There are options to:

  • Place your comment above the top staff even if the commented staff/staves are elsewhere.
  • Append the comment color as text within the comment itself. This is useful if you export comments into a text file.
  • Show Sibelius’s internal bar numbers associated with the commented bars in parentheses “( )”. This option is quite useful when bar numbers are not sequential from beginning to end, such as in multi-movement works.
  • Minimize the comment size so your music doesn’t get obscured by comments.
  • Suppress the staff name(s) and bar number(s) in the comment.
  • Highlight commented bar(s) with the same color as the comment itself. Applies only to selected bar(s), even when the selection contains non-contiguous staves (see image below).

To create a PDF with the comments and/or the highlights visible, go to File > Print and:

  • On PC, under Printer, select a PDF print driver (below I use CutePDF) and check “View Options” and “Print in color”.
  • On Mac, it shouldn’t matter which printer is selected. Just check “View Options” and click Use OS Dialog. Then create a PDF using OS X’s built-in PDF creator.

comments-3

I hope this has given you some insight into why I’ve created Add Turbo Comment, what it does and how we use it. It should be flexible enough to support other workflows and uses, even in a single user scenario.

Add Turbo Comment may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 or 7.5 at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Comments. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6, 7 or 7.5 by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure.

Editor’s note: Keep in mind that when you add comments to your score in Sibelius 7.5, they will be added to the Timeline by default — making this plug-in even more useful.

Ed also said that “this plug-in is dedicated to Bob Zawalich for his significant contributions to the Sibelius community and for patiently coaching me in the art and science of writing plug-ins” — a fitting tribute indeed!

Comments

  1. Bob Zawalich

    This is a great tutorial for showing how a plugin like this, which is really its own separate editing ecosystem, can change and augment your workflow. The plugin is carefully thought out, and the tutorial shows very clearly how and why it can be used.

    Plugins with this many options can be intimidating, but in a professional setting, all these options can be both useful and essential.

    Thanks to Ed for writing both the plugin and the tutorial, and to Philip for providing the platform for distributing the information.

  2. Derek Williams

    Very useful indeed, thank you Ed!

  3. Ed Hirschman

    If a few people can save a few minutes using this, then it will all be worth it!

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