Preferential treatment


Why should you care if your preference file was deleted? What are the Preferences and what do they do? While far from being an exhaustive list, I’d like to share some tips about preference settings that may shed a little light on, if not improve upon, the way you use Sibelius.

First, to quote the Sibelius Reference (from section 1.23): “Preferences are options that affect the Sibelius program as a whole, and which remain permanently set until you change them again, rather than being saved in individual scores. They include things like display settings, keyboard shortcuts and word menus for speeding up text entry.”

In other words, Preferences are program-wide options, unlike Engraving Rules, Note Spacing Rule, Text Styles, Default Positions, or any one of many other settings that are document-specific options.

The Reference also notes that “if Sibelius is used on the same computer at different times by different users, then Sibelius automatically remembers a different set of preferences for each person if they log on to the computer as a different user.” This is because the preference file is located in the user folder at Users > [username] > Library > Preferences > com.avid.sibelius.plist.

If you have taken the time to configure your preferences just the way you like them, it might be worth making a copy of that file and placing it somewhere else (such as in your Documents folder) in case you should ever need it. To then restore your preference settings, simply copy that file into the aforementioned location (making sure that Sibelius is not running when doing so).

To see and edit your preferences from within Sibelius, go to File > Preferences (shortcut Ctrl+, or Command+,). Here are a few worth exploring:


Do you work with a lot of scores received from other people, and find yourself having to adjust the View settings to your liking on every score, taking time fiddling with all the checkboxes in Invisibles, Magnetic Layout, Note Colors and Rulers? Ordinarily these settings are saved with each score, but you can set your own custom options so that each score you open takes on your preferred settings.

Simply exit the Preferences dialog, set the above View tab options to your liking, and then go back to Preferences and click Custom View Options. Henceforth (or until you revert to the original setting) Sibelius will bend to your will, at least when it comes to using your preferred view settings for every score.

default view options


You further have the capability to control how each file looks when you open it, including which panels are open, on which display the score appears (if you have multiple displays), the state of the ribbon (minimized or not), and the size and position of the window itself. The process is similar: Exit the Preferences dialog, set all of these settings to your liking, and then go back to Preferences and click Custom Size and Position.

Immediately above these options are more settings allowing you to control whether a score always opens in Panorama view, page view, or in the state it was it when it was last saved.


Input Devices

If, like me, you use Sibelius while using other music software like Finale and Logic, you may not want Sibelius to play back notes when you enter notes on your MIDI keyboard while working in those other programs. If that’s the case, switch off Echo notes when in background.

If you turn on your MIDI keyboard after you launch Sibelius, Sibelius may not recognize the keyboard. Re-starting Sibelius is usually not necessary; instead, simple click Find New Input Devices and your keyboard should appear in the list at the top of the screen.


Keyboard Shortcuts

Sibelius offers a very powerful customization feature: the ability for you to define your own shortcuts in what is known as a “feature set”. In addition, you can switch between these feature sets depending on the nature of your work, and a few come pre-defined, including special sets for notebook users and classrooms.

Here, I’m using my own custom feature set, and have defined Control+L on Mac (not Command+L) to filter lyrics. Similarly, I’ve defined Control+B to filter bar numbers, Control+G to filter grace notes, Control+K to filter chord symbols, Control+N to filter notes and chords, and Control+T to filter tuplets.

filter lyrics

Note Input

Are you a long-time Finale user accustomed to using Speedy Entry mode, and having trouble adjusting to Sibelius’s defaults? Try selecting Duration before pitch in Note Input Options. This will change the settings as follows, to more closely resemble those used by Finale in Speedy Entry.

note input

Paste as Cue

I generally don’t find it necessary to include anything more than pitch and rhythmic information (and lyrics, if a vocal cue) when placing a navigational cue in a part. I also prefer to manually control whether or not a clef change appears in a cue. So I use these settings:

paste as cue


It’s good to know that Sibelius remembers which playback configuration is used with each file. For instance, you can use Garritan JABB on a big band score, and Sibelius 7 Sounds (Chamber) on a string quartet, and Sibelius will keep that information stored in each file when you save it. If I’m working in a jazz score and then switch to a chamber music score, I like to be reminded that the active playback configuration will change. You can have Sibelius automatically do this, or not, under Opening Files.

opening files

Score Position

To me, it’s very disorienting for the zoom level to change when starting playback and recording. So I switch off Use different zoom.


Step-time and Flexi-time

Depending on the way you think about music, when entering notes on, say, a transposing B-flat clarinet staff, you might prefer to play “D” on your MIDI keyboard as it would be displayed, resulting in a concert C upon playback. Or, you might be thinking in concert pitch, in which case you’d like to enter “C” as the concert pitch and have Sibelius do the work of transposing upon entry, resulting in a displayed “D”. You can choose between either of these methods in Transposing Staves.

transposing staves


Sibelius’s versioning feature can be useful, but it can also massively increase a file’s size and decrease its responsiveness, especially in larger scores. To stop Sibelius’s insistence on creating a new version when closing a file, switch off the appropriate option in Creating Versions.



It’s the middle of the night. You’ve woken up with the perfect musical solution to your piece that has eluded you for weeks. You keeping humming it to yourself as you stumble, bleary-eyed, over to your workstation. Yes, that’s it! Hum, hum … you fire up Sibelius … and then the glorious strains of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra performing Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7 rain down upon you from your speakers. You lose all concentration, forget your stroke of genius, never finish your work, and spend the next six months boring everyone you know with this tale of misery.

To prevent this unfortunate occurrence from happening again, please uncheck Play music as in this screenshot, and make the world a better place.

play music


  1. Dave P-B

    A really good post Phillip. Setting your preferences as you like them allows you to concentrate on the music and not the program.
    I had to reset my preferences after installing the fist Scorch update and was surprised at how much I had customized my preferences.


  2. Dave P-B

    (Sorry Philip) – one ‘L’

  3. Mike Klinger

    Nicely done Phillip!

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