Focus Set and Focus Families plug-ins make Focus on Staves more powerful

The Focus Families suite of plug-ins
The Focus Families suite of plug-ins

I’ve written a number of posts about the cool plug-ins that are available for download from the Sibelius web site, and today I want to draw your attention to two more, written by plug-in king Bob Zawalich. These plug-ins make Sibelius’s Focus on Staves feature even more useful.

If you’re not familiar with Focus on Staves, it’s a way of hiding staves with music on them. This has two main uses: to hide staves for the purposes of playback (e.g. to hide a solo or improvised passage), or to hide staves inbetween the staves that you’re working on. Imagine that you’re working on a big orchestral score and you want to look at, say, the flute staff and the violin staves at the same time: unless you zoom out a long way, those staves are always going to be too far apart for you to see the music in detail. Enter Focus on Staves: simply choose the staves you want to focus on, and choose View > Focus on Staves (in the Layout menu in Sibelius 5, 4 and 3) to show only the selected staves.

Focus on Staves is a really useful tool as it stands, but imagine that you want to quickly switch between different sets of staves. That’s where Bob’s suite of plug-ins comes in handy.

Focus Families

Focus Families is a set of plug-ins that allows you to focus quickly on all the staves in your score that are in a particular instrument family. Install the plug-ins into a sensibly-named folder – as you can see from the screenshot above, I chose to install them into a folder called Focus Families – and then simply choose the family of instruments you want to focus on, e.g. Focus Brass.

To switch between focusing on different families of instruments most quickly, assign keyboard shortcuts to these preset shortcuts:

  • Choose File > Preferences (in the Sibelius menu on Mac)
  • Go to the Menus and Shortcuts page
  • If you’re not already using your own custom feature set, choose Add feature set… from the drop-down at the top of the dialog; provide a name for your feature set, and make sure that Base on default set is switched on
  • From the Menu or category list, choose Plug-ins
  • Now choose one of the Focus Families plug-ins from the list, e.g. Focus Strings
  • Click Add… at the right-hand side to define a new keyboard shortcut
  • Type a suitable shortcut, and click OK.
  • Repeat the steps above to define shortcuts for the other plug-ins in the Focus Families set.
  • Click OK when you’re finished.

If you need to check which shortcuts you assigned in future, don’t forget that you can simply look in the Plug-ins menu, where the shortcuts are displayed.

You can also display multiple instrument families by running the plug-ins called Focus FamiliesFocus Families 2, or Focus Families 3, which will show the following dialog:

Focus Families

You can choose which families to display, and even switch on Do not show dialog again (this Sibelius session), which means you can run the plug-in to choose these families again without showing the dialog until you quit and restart Sibelius.

Focus Set

Focus Set is more special-purpose than Focus Families. Rather than automatically show just the staves in a particular family or families, Focus Set allows you to create up to 10 sets of staves that you can switch between quickly; and you can set up these focus sets for individual scores, making it simple to manage staves in each of your projects.

It is strongly recommended that you create keyboard shortcuts for the Focus Set 1, Focus Set 2 etc. plug-ins to make it quicker to switch between them. (Use the default shortcut Ctrl+Alt+F or OptCommandF to switch Focus on Staves off again afterwards.)

First, run Focus Set to create a focus set:


Click Create/Edit Focus Set… to create your first focus set.


Choose staves from the drop-down below Click in list to add staff to set, then give your focus set a name, and click Save.

You’re now returned to the main Focus Set dialog, where you’ll see your new focus set selected in the Available focus sets drop-down. Click Close to close the plug-in’s dialog, or Apply Focus Set to close the dialog and apply the chosen focus set.

Now you can use this focus set by choosing the Focus Set 1 plug-in, or assigning the keyboard shortcut you created for it.

If you need more help, a PDF containing more instructions is available inside the Focus Set download.

Do you have a favourite Sibelius plug-in? Feel free to suggest a plug-in for a tutorial.


  1. TC

    These Focus Plugins are great. Use then all the time.

    One thing I miss in Sibelius is a toggle selection command. That’s why I can’t live without “Inverse Select Notes” plugin.

    My other favorite add-ons: Exchange Staff Contents, Edit Instrument Names, Rhythm Section Assistant.

    I’m kind of plugin addict. Sometimes I wish there were a dedicated floating window so we could have quick access to all plugins.

  2. John Hinchey

    I love Focus Sets! They have really helped workflow. Kudos to Bob Z!

  3. DS Music

    Brilliant! Sibelius just keeps bringing up even more time saving ideas! Thanks!

  4. Andre van Haren

    How can I use a made set in other Sibelius projects?

Leave a Comment

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