Use Shortcuts to quickly create score templates on macOS and iOS

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As a middle school band director, I often find myself working with scores in B♭ major in 4/4 time. Numerous times a semester I do the following:

  • Create practice resources for my middle school band students based on concert literature
  • Recreate a missing part in our library
  • Make supplemental resources and worksheets

A lot of this happens in the same simple key signatures and time signatures. Because Dorico does not provide me with all of the template options I need to set up these parameters, I spend a lot of time repeating setup steps each time I need one of these basic scores.

From R to L: The Shortcuts app on iPad, the Shortcuts templating action, and the resulting score in Dorico.

macOS Monterey recently shipped, and it comes with the Shortcuts app installed. The Shortcuts app started out as Workflow and was originally released for iOS as a mobile automation tool, drawing heavy influence from the Mac’s Automator application. Apple acquired Workflow in 2017, renamed it Shortcuts, and has been aggressively iterating on it every since.

(A note of caution: I have been testing macOS Monterey since July 2021, and while I have not had any issues with any professional notation software, not all of it is officially supported yet. Check this Scoring Notes blog post to keep up with the latest compatibility news.)

This year, Apple announced that Shortcuts is the future of automation on all their platforms, and I rejoiced. As someone who is a little out of their element when it comes to scripting languages, Shortcuts, with its easy drag-and-drop interface, makes creating automations easy.

When Shortcuts came to the Mac this week, Apple made numerous legacy actions from Automator available in Shortcuts, and these actions even became available on iOS.

Part of my Shortcuts library.

Creative professional apps have been slower to adopt Shortcuts than the rich ecosystem of indie productivity apps available on the App Store.

Even though apps like Sibelius, Finale, and Dorico don’t come with their own built-in Shortcuts actions, the addition of several new file-based actions from the Automator makes creating templates possible.

The shortcut below is three simple steps. I searched for each action in the right sidebar and dragged them in the order I wanted them to occur. Here’s what each step does:

  1. Looks for a score I made in Dorico that is set up in 4/4, in concert B♭ major, and with all of the instruments common to a middle school bands. You can download the template here.
  2. Saves a copy of that file to the Desktop.
  3. Opens it in Dorico.
Shortcuts can be hundreds of steps, include scripts, or simply duplicate files.

Because Shortcuts actions are consistent across all Apple’s platforms, the action works on both the Mac and iPad version of Dorico without any alterations. On iOS, the new file is created in the Desktop subfolder inside of iCloud Drive.

You can download the Shortcut, test it out, pick it apart, and adapt it to your own needs here:

Dorico Concert B♭ Common Time Band Template

You could easily select the blue highlighted variables and change where the template is stored, what app it will open in, and even add your own steps.

For example, if you select the word Dorico 3.5 in the third action, you could change the step to open the file in an app like Sibelius, Finale, or MuseScore. Or if you select the word Desktop in step two, you can change the location that the new file is saved.

Adding steps is a breeze. Lets say, for example, I want to choose if the score is in 3/4 or 4/4 time. By adding a Choose from Menu action, I can have Shortcuts prompt me to select 3/4 or 4/4. Depending on which option I choose, you can see in the action below that Shortcuts creates a sort of if-then statement, graphically laid out in hierarchical blocks.

If I select the second option (3/4), the Shortcut skips all steps nested under the first option, and moves to everything nested underneath the second option. Under the second option, I have simply copied and pasted my steps from option one, only the file that is duplicated is a different version of the score in 3/4 time.

Shortcuts can be triggered by tapping on them in the Shortcuts app, but they can also be saved as tappable app icons to the home screen. On the Mac, they can be launched from Spotlight, the menubar, and be added straight to the dock. You can even launch them from a Stream Deck.

With support for macOS Automator actions, and support from more third party apps on the way, Shortcuts are becoming more open and flexible for music professionals to create their own custom workflows, not to mention super easy for users of all ability levels.

How are you using Shortcuts? Let us know in the comments.

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