Unleash the power of text wildcards


Sibelius includes some simple but powerful features for working with text wildcards. Wildcards are text tokens that are automatically substituted with text from elsewhere. They’re useful for situations where you want the same information to be shown in lots of different places, allowing you to change that information once and have it updated automatically everywhere else; and they’re also useful for showing different information in the same place automatically.

(Fun fact: in the Italian-language version of Sibelius, wildcards are called “jolly”, which is the Italian word for “joker”, as in the playing card!)

After the jump, learn some techniques for using wildcards to their best advantage.

How wildcards work

In Sibelius, a wildcard is simply entered in text. Wildcards are things like \$Title\, which corresponds to the Title field in File > Score Info. When you’re editing the text, and the cursor is flashing, you see the wildcard itself: when you stop editing the text, the wildcard is replaced with the value to which the wildcard refers, which might be information from Score Info, the page number, the current date, your username, and so on.

Try this out: in any score, type Ctrl+T or CommandT to create some Technique text, then type:

My name is \$User\ and it is now \$Time\ on \$DateLong\

then hit Esc. Cool, huh?

What wildcards are there?

Most of the fields in File > Score Info can be used as wildcards, including:

  • \$Title\
  • \$Subtitle\
  • \$Composer\
  • \$Arranger\
  • \$Artist\
  • \$Copyright\
  • \$PartName\
  • \$InstrumentChanges\
  • \$Lyricist\
  • \$Copyist\
  • \$Publisher\
  • \$Dedication\
  • \$OpusNumber\
  • \$ComposerDates\
  • \$YearOfComposition\
  • \$MoreInfo\

There is also a bunch of other wildcards for useful things like the time and date:

  • \$DateShort\: the current short date in the format chosen by your operating system’s regional settings (e.g. dd:mm:yyyy)
  • \$DateLong\: the current long date in the format chosen by your operating system’s regional settings (e.g. dd MMMM yyyy)
  • \$Time\: the current time in the forma thh:mm:ss (24hour)
  • \$User\: the username of the person currently logged on to this computer
  • \$FilePath\: the filename and path of the current score. (This will not work until a score has been saved.)
  • \$FileName\: the filename of the current score without its path. (This will not work until a score has been saved.)
  • \$FileDate\: the date and time that the score was most recently saved, in the format stipulated by your system’s locale (e.g. dd MM yyyy hh:mm:ss)
  • \$PageNum\: the current page number.

So what can you do with wildcards? Here are four suggestions…

1. Set up your perfect manuscript paper

Sibelius’s default manuscript papers don’t use wildcards for things like the title, composer text, and so on, because they can be a bit of a surprise if you’re not expecting them: imagine never having heard of wildcards, and double-clicking a bit of text that says something like Sonata in A to edit it, only for it to promptly turn into \$Title\. If you’re of a particularly sensitive disposition, you might need a bit of a lie down afterwards.

But if you’re made of slightly sterner stuff, you can use wildcards to your advantage. If you have particular preferences about the fonts, sizes and positions of the title on the first page, composer name, headers, and so on, you can set up your preferences using House Style > Edit Text Styles and House Style > Default Positions, then create the wildcards in your score for things like title, composer, lyricist, and so on.

Now save your score as a manuscript paper via File > Export > Manuscript Paper and when you create your next masterpiece using this manuscript paper, the Title, Composer, etc. will all be filled in using the values you provide on the final page of File > New or via File > Score Info.

2. Create an instrumentation page

Works for large ensembles often contain a page at the start of the score that lists the instrumentation used. It’s easy enough to add this yourself by hand, but what if you add or remove instruments from your score? You have to keep it up-to-date.

Wildcards make this easier and more automatic. First, create one or more blank pages at the start of the score: if you already have a title page, select the initial barline at the start of bar 1 and choose Layout > Break > Special Page Break. In the dialog that appears, set Number of blank pages to 2 and click OK. If your score doesn’t already have a title page, choose Create > Title Page, set Number of blank pages to 2, and click OK.

On the second blank page, use Create > Text > Blank Page Text > Plain text, centered (on blank page) to create some blank page text, then type:


and hit Esc. Magically, the wildcard is replaced by a list of all of the instruments used in the score.

3. Set up a custom print footer

Sibelius has a built-in feature for printing various bits of useful information at the bottom of the page, so that you can keep track of different versions on the bits of paper scattered around your desk. If you’re not familiar with that feature, the options for what should be printed are on the Files page of Preferences, and the Print date and time footer option itself is in the File > Print dialog.

If you find the automatic choices a little inflexible, you can create your own customised footer using regular text and, of course, a couple of wildcards. For example, try Create > Text > Other System Text > Footer (inside edge), then type this:

Filename: \$FilePath\ Last modified: \$FileDate\

Now you will see the complete path to your file, and the date it was last saved, on the inside bottom corner of every page of your score.

4. Customise your headers

By default, Sibelius creates a header at the top of every page that says Full score in the score, and shows the name of the instrument in the dynamic parts. This is done by way of the wildcard \$HeaderPartName\, which corresponds to the Part name field in Score Info.

If you want to customise the headers in your score, it’s easy to do with the addition of some further wildcards. Make sure View > Hidden Objects is switched on, then double-click the existing header in your score. You’ll see a message asking you whether you want to go to Score Info to edit the value used by the wildcard: click No. Now edit the text as follows:

\$PageNum\ – \$Title\ – \$HeaderPartName\

and hit Esc. You can switch off the page numbers in the outside top corners of the page by going to Create > Other > Page Number Change, choosing Hide page numbers, and clicking OK. Click at the top of the first page to hide the automatic page numbers and show the ones in your customised header.

Have any tips of your own?

If you have any interesting use of wildcards in Sibelius, leave them in the comments for the benefit of other users.


  1. Steve Philipp

    Wildcards. Wow, who knew…? What fun and convenience these will present :-)

  2. Kevin Gibbs

    Definitely one of your best yet. One problem. When I chose plain text centered and wrote instrument changes, my choice of font size and atributes, bold, italic, only applied to the first instrument on the first line. All subsequent instruments were not bolded. If you use Title on blank page for the word, “instrumentation,” and subtitle for the instrument list as provided by the \$instrumentchanges\ wildcard, you’ll get a more satisfying result. At least, I did. Great job!

  3. Vivian

    One thing that has stumped me with wildcards is how to use the ones that are in score info, yet aren’t in the text menu. For example, arranger. You can add an arranger name into the File Info in it’s appropriate box, but then you can’t add it from the text style menu (in Sib 7). Colleagues have just recommended you add it as “composer” and then use the wild card \$arranger\ to pick up the text from File Info. But, that picks up the composer field specs on placement as well instead of the specs you put in for arranger in text styles editing. Is there any way to link that arranger field in File Info to the arranger text the same way that composer, title, subtitle, etc. work from the File Info? I may be missing something basic!

  4. Guy

    Thanks so much for this advice. I was sent the link via the Sibelius forum and have found a plethora of helpful guides here. thank you again

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