Use keyboard shortcuts to apply text expressions in Sibelius


You probably know that Cmd-E or Ctrl+E are, respectively, the Mac and PC shortcuts to apply Expression text in Sibelius, and that Cmd-T or Ctrl+T apply Technique text. If not, now you know!

Further, you may very well know that, after typing the command for Expression text, with the cursor blinking, holding down Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (PC) and then typing f, m, n, p, r, or s get you the dynamics in the stylized music font (Cmd-Opt-Shift-Z on Mac or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Z on PC is for the z). If that’s news to you, check out this video on the subject.

You may even be quite aware that, also with the Expression text cursor blinking, typing Cmd-Shift-C (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+C (PC) is the shortcut to apply the text “cresc.” and that Cmd-Shift-D (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+D (PC) is the shortcut to apply the text “dim.”

Don’t believe me? Try this: with the cursor blinking, right-click (or Control-click on Mac) the screen to bring up the Expression contextual menu. There they are:


Note that you can, of course, click on any of these items to instantly apply them to the score.

Applying shortcuts to items in a word menu

That’s great, you say, but if only there were a way to really get on this shortcut bandwagon and use it for other text… well, there is! Read on…

Open up File > Preferences > Word menus and take a look around. This is where Sibelius stores what words appear in which contextual menu. Different words appear in the Expression text menu (where the text appears in italics, below the staff) than appear in the Technique text menu (which appear in roman type, above the staff).

Here, you can add words to each contextual menu, and apply shortcuts. To use, say, Cmd-Shift-A for “arco” in the Technique text menu, simply type that keystroke into the Shortcut box and click Apply.


You can use any shortcut you like, as long as the keystroke isn’t already used by your computer’s operating system. You can even use the same shortcut for two different word menus, like Cmd-Shift-D for “div.” in Technique words and for “dim.” in Expression words. And you may have noticed that using Cmd-Shift-A for “arco” poses no problem, even though Sibelius uses that same shortcut for Home > Select > More.

That’s because word menu shortcuts are only active when the cursor is blinking for that particular text style in which you happen to be working at the moment. (If you use Finale, the concept is kind of similar to Metatools: you can use S for a staccato in the Articulation Tool, and S for a slur in the Smart Shape Tool.)

With that concept in mind, here are a few more Technique shortcuts I’ve set up:

  • Cmd-Shift-A for “arco”
  • Cmd-Shift-D for “div.”
  • Cmd-Shift-M for “mute”
  • Cmd-Shift-O for “open”
  • Cmd-Shift-Z for “pizz.”
  • Cmd-Shift-S for “solo”
  • Cmd-Shift-T for “tutti”
  • Cmd-Shift-U for “unis.”

Adding a new word menu and using it in a text style

You can even create a whole new word menu and use it in a text style. Here I’ll use it to create a custom word menu for the characters in an opera, so I don’t have to re-type them every time the character enters a scene.

First, in File > Preferences > Word menus, click New. In Menu name, name it something appropriate. I’m working on Virgil Thomson’s Lord Byron, so I’ve named my word menu “Thomson characters.” Click Apply.

Then add items to your word menu, with shortcuts, as described earlier in this blog. Be sure to click Apply after adding each item and shortcut, or your changes won’t stick. Use the Move Up or Move Down buttons to control the order in which the items appear.


Next, set up a text style in Text > Styles > Edit Text Styles. I selected “Technique” and clicked New Text Style… to base my new next style on Technique text.

I named mine “Vocal part”. Set the properties of the style as you like, and in Other, choose your new word menu in the drop-down list:


OK out of the dialog, and use your new text style with its own custom word menu. You can even set up a shortcut to quickly use your new text style by going to File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Text Styles and choosing your new text style from the Feature: list.

These shortcuts certainly come in handy when working on a large score with lots of markings. Have a few shortcuts you like to use? Let us know!


  1. Rex Thomas

    LOVE them shortcuts!! ;-)

  2. Kenneth Gaw

    This is really useful.

    Thanks Philip.

  3. Kenneth Gaw

    I should have said that your blog gave me an idea for dealing with double accidentals. I’m working on something which uses a lot of them at the moment, so I assigned Alt+8 for double sharps and Alt+9 for double flats, both on keypad one. This avoids having to move away from the first keypad to create them, which if definitely more convenient.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Kenneth: Terrific! Yes, it’s not evident, but you can assign shortcuts to any of the keypad items. For some reason, a quarter-sharp is predefined by default (the equal sign) but none of the other microtones or double accidentals are.

  4. Bernie Cossentino

    I use these shortcuts all the time. It’s too bad one can’t customize text attributes (bold, italic…) for different words within a text style, short of having to create yet another text style.

  5. Bob Zawalich

    (for Bernie:)
    You can, of course go into edit mode on a piece of text, select the characters you want to make bold, and type ctrl/cmnd-b (ctrl/cmnd-i for italic, etc) without having to change the text style.

    Is this what you want to do, or do you have something else in mind?

    1. Bernie Cossentino


      I do this presently all the time. It’s become so automatic for my fingers that I don’t even think it anymore! :)

      Nonetheless, it still is a couple of extra steps that could be avoided. I often use “simile” in italics for technique text in jazz and pop charts (yes, placed above the staff). Most other technique text is in normal style. Hence my initial comment.

  6. Nathanael Tronerud

    I’ve accidentally unbound the S key from the slur line (evidently referred to as “Line 12” by Sibelius internally). How would one manually assign a key to the slur, or to any line for that matter?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Nathanael: Try File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > Line Styles > Slur above. Add the S key here.

  7. Bob Zawalich

    It is 8 years late for this comment (sorry Bernie!) but I just noticed this post on the Facebook forum. You can use formatting keywords like \I\ for italic or \B\ for bold in Word Menu text, so to get italic simile, type \I\simile\i\. The closing \i\ will stop the formatting, so you can add more text and it will not be italic. Leave off the \i\ if you want following text to be normal, as in \I\simile\i\ followed by non-italic text.

    There is a list of formatting keywords in the ManuScript Language Reference (File>Plug-ins>ManuScript Language Reference).

    These may not all work in Word Menus, but at least the bold italic and \$keyword\ ones appear to work in SIbe Ultimate 2021.12 at least.

    \n\ New paragraph
    \N\ New line
    \B\ Bold on
    \b\ Bold off
    \I\ Italic on
    \i\ Italic off
    \U\ Underline on
    \u\ Underline off
    \fArial Black\ Font change to Arial Black (for example)
    Character style change to Music text (for example)
    \f_\ Font change to text style’s default font, including removing any active character
    \s123\ Size change to 123 (units are 1/32nds of a space, not points)
    \v\ Vertical scale in percent
    \h\ Horizontal scale in percent
    \t\ Tracking (absolute) in 1/32nds of a space
    \p\ Baseline adjustment: use normal, subscript, or superscript
    \$keyword\ Substitutes a string from the Score Info dialog (see below)
    A consequence of this syntax is that backslashes themselves are represented by \\, to avoid conflicting
    with the above commands.
    The substitution command \$keyword\ supports the following keywords:
    Title, Composer, Arranger, Lyricist, MoreInfo, Artist, Copyright, Publisher and
    Each of these correspond to a field in the File > Score Info dialog.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *