This blog post is written by Bob Zawalich, composer, guitarist, software designer, and creator of hundreds of useful plug-ins for Sibelius. In this post, Bob covers in methodical detail the inner workings of user folders and user-editable files, what their purposes are, where to find them, and how to modify them, if necessary.
Sibelius refers to files like plug-ins, Manuscript Papers, and House Styles as user-editable files, and the files and their folders are discussed in the Sibelius Reference in the section called User-editable files.
Prior to Sibelius 4, new plug-ins, Manuscript Papers, House Styles, and similar files were stored in the same folders as the shipping versions of these files, at the location where Sibelius was installed. If you edited a shipping plug-in in the Sibelius shipping plug-in editor, the shipping plug-in was changed and you could no longer access the original unless you reinstalled Sibelius. If you made up new plug-ins or exported House styles, those files would mingle with the shipping files.
In Sibelius 4, the concept of user folders was introduced. Edited plug-ins, and exported House Styles, Manuscript papers and other user-editable files would no longer be stored with the shipping files, but would be stored in a separate set of folders.
The advantage of this is that the original files are in less risk of being corrupted, and you can modify a shipping file by making a copy of it, and Sibelius will use that file rather than the shipping version. If you delete the “user copy”, Sibelius will go back to using the shipping file.
Making user copies of shipping user-editable files
If you modify shipping files using the standard Sibelius mechanisms, Sibelius will make a copy of the shipping file and place it in one of the user subfolders.
If you have to manually create new files that are not scores, or edit existing ones, do the work in the user subfolders. Do not modify the files that are shipped with Sibelius.
Changing shipping files increases the chance of something going wrong, and will probably cause problems when you update a Sibelius version. At the very least you are likely to lose your changed and added files in an update; at worst it might mess up the update.
If you have a user subfolder with the same name as a shipping folder, and create a Plug-in, House Style, or Manuscript Paper file with the same name as a shipping file, Sibelius will use your file instead of the shipping file. As an example, you might edit the shipping Respell Sharps As Flats plug-in to modify its behavior:
The original shipping file, in my English version of Sibelius 7.5 in Windows 7, can be found at:
The copy of the file, which is the file I will be editing, is found in the user Plugins subfolder:
Note that the folder names and file names for both files are the same:
Because this is true, if you run Respell Sharps As Flats from the Accidentals menu, you will run your copy of the plug-in.
Similarly, you can export a Manuscript Paper or a House Style with the same name as a shipping file, and Sibelius will use your copy in File > New or when you import a house style.
What and where are the user subfolders?
For each installed version of Sibelius, there will be one file folder, the user folder, which a number of subfolders which hold user copies of user-editable files.
For a full description of the location for the user folder, you can look at the instructions for installing plug-ins. This will tell you how to find the appropriate Plugins subfolder for various OSes and versions of Sibelius, and if you go up one level in the file tree, you can find the main user folder.
Installing and running the downloadable plug-in Get User Folder Names (category Other) will show you all the user subfolders on your machine.
In Windows, the user folder and subfolders may be hidden, and you may need to unhide them:
- Open a My Computer or Windows Explorer window and choose Tools > Folder Options
- Choose the View tab and make sure Show hidden files and folders is switched on, then click OK.
For Windows or OSX, some of the subfolders may have not been created at installation, and will need to be created. Here is an easy way to create the folders that will include the user folder:
In Sibelius, open a score and export a House Style (Appearance > House Style > Export) with a funny name, such as DONOTUSEME. This will put a file called DONOTUSEME.lib into the user House Styles folder, and ensure that all the required parent folders are set up. Once you find your way to the user House Styles subfolder you can delete DONOTUSEME.lib, or just ignore it when you import House Styles.
Now you should use an appropriate tool to examine the file structure, such as Finder on a Mac or Windows Explorer in Windows.
For Windows Vista or later, the main user folder for Sibelius 4 to 6 should be at
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 4\
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 5\
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 6\
or, for Sibelius 7 and later,
For Mac OSX, the folders will be at
~/Library/Application Support/Sibelius Software/Sibelius 4/
~/Library/Application Support/Sibelius Software/Sibelius 5/
~/Library/Application Support/Sibelius Software/Sibelius 6/
~/Library/Application Support/Avid/Sibelius 7/
~/Library/Application Support/Avid/Sibelius 7.5/
For Sibelius 8, the “Sibelius” subfolder will not have a number, so you will see:
Here is a screenshot of the user folders right after Sibelius 7.5 was installed on Windows 7 (without using the Copy files from previous version option).
Some subfolders are not created until you do something that would store a file, such as editing a plug-in or exporting Manuscript Paper. If you need to access a folder that is not there, either create one in Finder/Windows Explorer, or go into Sibelius and create or export something that will cause the folder to be created.
Be careful spelling folder names if you create a folder manually
Sometimes the subfolder names change from version to version (Manuscript Paper is called Manuscript paper in Sibelius 6 and earlier), and it is important to spell the name exactly right (Plugins not Plug-ins, for example) so using Sibelius to force the folder to be created may be the best fix for a missing folder.
Which folders are present and what do they hold?
The major subfolders you might have to deal with (mostly because you may have to manually copy something into one of these folders) are:
- Sibelius will put files here when you Install, Edit, or New a plug-in. (File > Plugins). Installing, editing, or new’ing a plug-in will ensure that the folder is created.
- You will need to add plug-in (.plg) files to subfolders of this folder when installing plug-ins from the plug-in download page prior to Sibelius 7. In Sibelius 7 and later, the plug-in installer will put plug-in files here. Do not store files into the Plugins folder itself; always create a subfolder or use an existing subfolder (such as Accidentals) to store the plug-in. The subfolder name you use will determine the menu name for the plug-in.
- When Sibelius runs, it will load all the user plug-ins in Plugins subfolders.
- House Styles
- Sibelius will put files here when you Export a house style (Appearance > House Style > Export). Such an export will ensure that the folder is created.
- You may need to add house style (.lib) files to this folder if you are given a House Style file by someone else.
- When you tell Sibelius to import a house style, it will load all the user house styles from this folder, as well as the shipping house styles.
- If any user house style has the same file name as a shipping house style, Sibelius will load the user style rather than the shipping style.
- Manuscript Paper/Manuscript paper
- Sibelius will put files here when you Export a manuscript paper (File > Export > Manuscript Paper). Such an export will ensure that the folder is created.
- You may need to add manuscript paper (.sib) files to this folder if you are given a manuscript paper file by someone else.
- When you tell Sibelius to create a new file, it will load all the user manuscript paper from this folder, as well as the shipping papers.
If any user plug-in, house style, or manuscript paper file has the same file name and the same subfolder name as a shipping file, Sibelius will use the user file rather than the shipping file.
The other folders (that I know of) are:
- Arrange Styles
- Sibelius will put .sar files here when you edit or create an arrange style in Note Input > Arrange > Edit Arrange Styles. You may get such files from other users, and will need to copy them to this folder.
- Auto Save
- This is where Sibelius keeps a copy of the currently edited file. If Sibelius crashes while this file is open, Sibelius will offer to use that file when you restart Sibelius. Do not copy anything here.
- Chord Symbols
- Added to if you edit or create new chord symbols. (Text > Chord Symbols > Edit Chord Symbols).
- Graphic Files
- Graphics files are stored here when you import graphics files into a score. (Notations > Graphic).
- Idea files (.db) are added here when you capture ideas and add them to the library. (Home > Clipboard > Capture Idea).
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Shortcut files (.sfs) are added or changed when you create new feature sets or add new shortcuts in Sibelius 7 and later. (File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts).
- Manuscript Paper Thumbnails
- This holds thumbnail images of both shipping and user-defined Manuscript Paper files.
- Menus and Shortcuts
- Shortcut files (.sfs) are added of changed when you create new feature sets or add new shortcuts in Sibelius 6 and earlier. (File > Preferences > Menus and Shortcuts)
- Playback Configurations
- Sibelius stores files here when you create or change a playback configuration in Play > Configuration > Setup.
- Plogue Engine
- These are files for the Sibelius audio engine. They are set up at installation and not changed. Once in a while you might be told to delete this folder if something has gone wrong, and then it will recreate itself.
- Scale Diagrams
- Files are added here when you create or edit scale diagrams.
- Scorch Templates
- You can store .html files here to use as templates when exporting Scorch files.
- Score Thumbnails
- Thumbnail images of various scores are stored here. They are used in the Backstage area of File > Info.
- You can store Windows bitmap (.bmp) files here to serve as extra page textures.
- Changes made to Timeline settings in Sibelius 7.5 and later are stored here.
- Word Menus
- Files are added here when you create or edit word menus in File > Preferences > Word menus
- Worksheet Creator
- Files (.sib) are added here when you add a worksheet to the Worksheet Creator (File > Teaching > Add Worksheet).
- Files (.sib) are added here when you add a worksheet to the Worksheet Creator (File > Teaching > Add Worksheet).
What happens when there is a Sibelius update?
- If you have changed files that shipped with Sibelius, an update may replace your changed files; in the past having changed system files has interfered with a Sibelius update, so it is best not to change shipping files.
- If you install a minor update (like 7.5 to 7.5.1), the files in your user folders will not be affected.
- If you install a major update (6 to 7, or 7.5 to 8, for example), Sibelius will create a new user folder. There may be an install option to copy the user files from an earlier version, if Sibelius finds one. If you choose that option, the user subfolders from the earlier version will be copied into your new user folder, otherwise your user subfolders will be empty.
If you have user copies of shipping plug-ins, house styles, or manuscript papers, it is possible that the shipping versions had changed and you will not get any bug fixes or enhancements for those file.
For a major update, there may be new or changed keyboard shortcuts that you will not get if you have user keyboard shortcuts. The only way to get around that is to try to figure out what shortcuts you customized, and then create a new feature set and add your shortcuts back in on top of the standard set. There is no automated way to do this, or to see which shortcuts you have created.
If you have edited and changed any shipping plug-ins (possible inadvertently, when a plug-in crashes and puts you into the plug-in editor), you can install and run the plug-in Restore Edited Shipping Files (category Developers’ Tools), which will tell you for which shipping plug-ins, house styles, or manuscript papers you have user copies. You can then decide which one to keep. Plug-ins are text files, so if you have multiple copies, most file compare utilities will show if there are any differences, and what they are.
Transferring the contents of user files to different installations or different machines
In general, the contents of the user folders can be transferred to the user folders of the same or a later version of Sibelius on the same machine, or another machine running the same OS, and they will still work. You can usually copy and paste the entire user folder and all its subfolders to another machine.
If you transfer files to an installation that is an earlier version of Sibelius you are likely to have problems, and this is not recommended.
If you transfer files to an installation on a different operating system, (Windows to OSX or OSX to Windows) Keyboard Shortcuts, the Keyboard shortcuts included in Word Menus files, and Playback Configurations will not work, and there is more chance that other files will not work. Avoid doing this if you can.
The Keyboard Shortcuts will not pick up any new commands that were created in the later version, but they should work for the older commands, as long as you transfer to a machine with the same operating system.
Plug-ins, House Styles, and Manuscript Papers should work even across OS versions. Chord Symbols probably will work from the current version back to Sibelius 6. Sibelius 4 and 5 chord symbols will work in later versions.
The contents of the Plogue Engine and Auto Save folders should not be transferred. If you copy all the user subfolders, delete any contents of these folders.
Playback Configurations may have problems if there is different sound hardware or drivers on the other machine.
Where are Sibelius preferences stored?
The Preferences created in File > Preferences are not stored in user folders. In Windows, they are stored in the Windows registry at
HKEY-CURRENT_USER\Software\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 4\Preferences
HKEY-CURRENT_USER\Software\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 5\Preferences
HKEY-CURRENT_USER\Software\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 6\Preferences
HKEY-CURRENT_USER\Software\Avid\Sibelius\Preferences (for Sibelius 8)
In OS X, they are stored at
~/Library/Preferences/com.avid.sibelius.plist (for Sibelius 8)
Most likely you will not want to mess with these directly, and there is no easy way to transfer them to another installation.
Use the user folders!
For the most part, Sibelius will put user-editable files in the proper location and you will not need to worry about any of this. If you are given a plug-in, house style, or other user-editable file that you cannot install with Sibelius, be sure that you put it in an appropriate user subfolder.