Working with master pages in Dorico, part 2


In Part 1, I explained the concept of master pages in Dorico and how to use them. If you’re new to master pages, you should read that post first.

In Part 2, we’ll look at additional functions related to master pages: adding custom master pages, inserting master page changes, and creating additional master page sets.

Adding custom master pages

When setting up your score, there may be pages that are laid out differently than either your First or Default master pages: perhaps a table of contents, or a page with extensive footnotes that requires a text frame.

The question is whether you should simply modify the existing master page and create a page override, or actually create a custom master page. Here’s a rule of thumb: If you’re doing it once, just override the master page. If you’re doing the same thing more than once, create a custom master page.

You probably need a table of contents page only once in a project, but you could set up a master page to use in all future projects. Currently, Dorico does not allow you to import or export master pages, but you can easily save a blank project and import flows to use its formatting.

Here’s how to add a custom master page:

First, make sure you’re viewing the master page set you want to modify (either Full Score or Parts).

In the screenshot above, I’m currently viewing a full score, so it’s using the Full Score master page set. If you want to edit the Part master page set, don’t select it from the dropdown. Doing so will actually re-assign the Part master page set to the layout you’re currently viewing, which is not what you want (i.e., it’ll make your full score look like a part score). Instead, you would switch to a part layout.

Once you have the correct master page set selected, click on the + (plus) button in the bottom left corner, which brings up a New Master Page dialog:

I named my new master page “Table of Contents,” and I’m going to select (None) so it’ll be blank, rather than based on an existing design. Finally, I’ll select Type: Custom since it’s not replacing the First or Default master pages.

Click OK and you can see the new master page is added to the set, ready to edit:

Double-click on the master page to edit it, and you’re now starting with a blank page:

You can use the frame button on the left panel to add text frames, and graphics if you want them. Since this is a table of contents, it won’t contain any music frames.

Here’s an example of a simple table of contents page with tokens:

I created a text frame for the instrumentation using the token {@playerlist@}, which lists the players as they appear in Setup mode. And each of the flow titles are listed as {@flow1title@}, {@flow2title@}, etc.

Inserting master page changes

Now that you’ve created a master page for the table of contents, you need to add it to the score. For this, you’ll need the Pages panel:

You might be tempted to click the first icon at the bottom left to insert a page, but this is not what you want, as it will create a page override. Instead, right-click on the first page and select Insert Master Page Change.

Assign the Table of Contents master page to page 1 and select Current Page Only. When you do, you’ll notice a couple things change:

  • The page 1 icon now has a green bar above it, indicating a master page change for that page only (if you had selected From This Page Onwards, it would have a green bar on the left side as well).
  • The page count has been increased by one, since Dorico needs to display the entire flow of music, and the page you inserted doesn’t contain any music.
  • Page 2 now uses the Default master page. If you want page 2 to use the First master page, you’ll need to add a master page change to that page (again, only for that page).

Here are two more examples of custom master pages you might use. The first is a variation on the Default master page, and adds a text frame to the bottom for footnotes:

Of course such a simple change could be achieved by overriding the Part master page as needed, but remember that master pages are useful for layout consistency. So if you are using footnotes frequently, you may find such a custom master page helpful (and you’ll probably still modify the size of the text frame to fit the footnotes you need).

Here’s a custom master page which is helpful for Part master page sets: a blank page to insert for page turns.

To manage page turns for your part layout, you can easily insert a master page change on any page and use this custom master page (again, for that page only).

Adding master page sets

When you first set up your project, Dorico automatically creates two master page sets: Full Score (all score layouts) and Parts (all part layouts). But if you want a particular layout to follow a different template, you can easily create additional master page sets within a project.

To create a new master page set, click on the Master Page Sets panel on the right to expand it.

Then select either the Default Part or Default Full Score master page set and click the + (plus) at the bottom left to duplicate it. Choose the design that most closely matches the new set you wish to create. You can now rename the new set and edit it independently as a unique template for your desired layout(s).

I hope you found this series on master pages helpful. Many thanks to Jason Loffredo, Leo Nicholson, and other Dorico users who contributed suggestions for custom master pages.

I also offer tutoring in Dorico, either individually via video conferencing, or on-site for educational institutions. Whether you’re a new Dorico user, or you already use it and want to increase your efficiency, contact me.


  1. Waldbaer

    Thank you for this nice tutorial! The examples alone make it worth reading: It’s one thing to know about possibilities theoretically, another to see it happen. But also the details are interesting (meaning of coloured edges here and there) and fun to read (“this is NOT what you want”)!

    I’m looking forward to experiment more with this… two additional useful features I’d expect for (part-)layouting would be:
    1. Create new master pages from overrides (one caveeat of master pages I see is that they work best if you know what should happen before it does – that’s seldomly the way things go, at least with me, I have to admit)
    2. Copy system breaks between parts (in large ensembles, often many parts are similar and need manual breaks at the same positions, so this could save a lot of time over doing this manually)
    Or did I miss something on these fronts?

    1. Dan Kreider

      Thanks for your comment. You didn’t miss anything: these two features are not currently available, and I agree they’d both be nice!

  2. Israel Lai

    Love this. Now all we need is the ability to create master page sets ACROSS projects, so I don’t have to recreate my cover page and performance notes master pages every time!

    1. Waldbaer

      I could not agree more. The solution importing flows into old projects does not work very well – neither I do this at the beginning of a project (normally I first enter the music and then format it) nor is my impression that old (big) project files are reliable enough to start with them over and over. Often they have some mysterious bugs in them as well as lags (e.g. Halion instruments not connected to players any longer). So I really prefer to start cleanly, but importing master pages would speed things up and should not be too complicated.
      So, @Dorico team: Please let us import/export master page sets!

  3. Harry Derrett

    For me as a new user of Dorico, this was a very useful article.
    Many thanks, Dan.

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