Work in multiple Dorico modes simultaneously


Dorico’s separation of modes of working — Setup, Write, Engrave, Play, and Print — is unique among the various desktop music notation programs. It’s fundamental to the program’s design philosophy: “Modes in Dorico Pro represent a logical sequence of the workflow phases of preparing music, but you can switch between them at any time as required for your own workflow,” according to the documentation.

For example, if you’re used to just selecting an item and nudging it to change its position in another program, it’s a little different in Dorico. In Write mode: “By design, you cannot move notes and items graphically on the page in Write mode. Graphical adjustments are only possible in Engrave mode.”

And it’s vice versa in Engrave mode: “By design, you cannot delete any notes or items, change their rhythmic positions, or change the pitch of notes in Engrave mode; this prevents mistakes when engraving.”

Well, you’ll just have to get used to switching back and forth between the modes. That seems to be the end of this discussion… Or is it?

Buried a bit further in the reference is this nugget: “You can open multiple project windows for the same project, for example, if you want to work on multiple layouts at the same time. You can also show a different mode of the same project in each window, such as having one window show Write mode and another show Play mode.

Hmm. Interesting! What if we open one window in Write mode and another in Engrave mode at the same time?

To open a new window for the same project, go to Window > New Window or press Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-T.

Of course, this works especially well if you have a large display or multiple displays:

But we’ll demonstrate on this little slice. Notice how the top window is in Write mode and the bottom one is in Engrave mode, and the second window has a suffix of “2”.

Moving the dynamic expression in Write mode changes its rhythmic position, while moving it in Engrave mode is a fine adjustment, changing its position relative to the note to which it’s attached. Likewise, changing pitches is done in Write mode, while staff or note spacing adjustments are made in Engrave mode. In each case, the changes made in one window are instantly reflected in another, and there is no need to toggle between modes.

This manner of working may take some getting used to, but it can be quite useful if you develop a regular editing workflow.

“Hat tip” to Doug LeBow who suggested this topic to me at the NAMM Show a couple of months ago. Thanks, Doug!


  1. Douwe Eisenga

    Great tip ! Thanks!

  2. Paolo T

    This is one of the best aspects of Dorico. Analytical, yet not forcing you to work blindly.

  3. Peter Hamlin

    Wow!!! I never thought of this. Brilliant!

    I mostly like having the logical separation of functions, but I can see rare situations where this will be very handy! Thanks!

  4. Waldbaer

    Quite interesting tip! I somehow never thought about that, although it should be quite obvious… I just got used to ctrl/cmd+1/2/3/4/5 all the time. That is performing not that great on slower machines, though.

    It might also be useful to have an uncluttered live preview of Print mode while tweaking the layout in Engrave mode. All the marks and handles sometimes make it hard to keep a clear view of the whole layout, especially concerning fine adjustments with spacing.

    Another thing where I often change modes is fine tuning playback: In Write mode it is much easier to select some notes in different voices/instruments/players. Then I change to Play Mode, find one of the corresponding notes, adjust it and all selected will be changed. My standard application of this workflow: Shorten quarter notes in swing style big band arrangements. Might also be easier if I just have two windows side by side…

    I’ll definitely try this out!

  5. Peter McAleer

    Love it. OK I already do this. But a great tip all the same!

  6. Douwe Eisenga

    Mmm. once again. Happily working with three windows on three screens. I had my first crash though since the start of using Dorico three months ago. I hope it has nothing to do with working with several windows…..

  7. Dan

    Having galley view/page view or score/part open at the same time is sometimes really useful, too. It will be even more useful when there’s a feature to get them all to scroll at the same time :)

    1. Waldbaer

      Yessss! *getting warm with multi-window note editing in Dorico*
      Scroll syncing would be a perfect addition.

  8. Faraz

    how did you guys do it ? I can’t get it to work on my Laptop…
    I open two windows but I can’t resize it to fit both nicely on my screen.
    also, Dorico is not available in split views.

    1. Waldbaer

      Well, on a small screen even one window with palettes is sometimes annoyingly squashed; it might be better to change modes in most cases. If I use multiple windows side by side, it’s even more important to hide as many pallets as possible and work with key commands/popups (even on a big screen), I don’t have any technical problems, though.

  9. Peter McAleer

    @ Faraz: I’m fortunate enough to have two displays – I’ve never tried it on laptop.

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