Working with page numbers in Sibelius

Tutorials

Have you ever tried clicking on a page number in Sibelius in order to edit it, only to be confused when you couldn’t select it? Do you wish you could display page numbers in the center of the page instead of on the right and left edges? Are your page numbers so small that you need a magnifying glass to see them? Do you want to just get rid of your page numbers altogether?

If you’ve lost sleep over this, or even if you’re less neurotic but are still looking for the answers to these questions and more, read on.

Changing or hiding page numbers

Many tasks having to do with page numbers are accessed by the dialog box at Text > Numbering > Page Number Change:

Page number change

It is worth noting that every Sibelius score has automatic page numbers, which cannot be deleted. By default, the first page number is hidden.

If you want to hide all the page numbers in your score, you’ll find that you can’t select these automatic page numbers and hide them in the way you can with most other objects. Instead, you’ll have to do this through the Page Number Change dialog, first by selecting the first bar of your score, and then switching on Hide page numbers.

(You can also do this in reverse: with nothing selected in your score, access the dialog and make your selection. Click OK to exit the dialog. The cursor will be blue, meaning that it is “armed,” and then you can click the location where you want the action to take effect. In fact, this is the only way you can apply a page number change to a blank page such as a title page, or a page inserted for the purposes of a page turn – more about that in a moment.)

Want to show that first page number that was automatically hidden? Choose the Show page numbers option.

Any changes made through this dialog will be recognized as a page number change that overrides the automatic page numbers, which means that the page number is now selectable and can be hidden by clicking on it and choosing Home > Edit > Hide or Show (shortcut Ctrl+Shift+H or Command+Shift+H). Any page number changes can also be deleted by selecting the page number and pressing Delete — but keep in mind that by doing so you have merely reverted to Sibelius’s automatic page numbering, and not deleted the page numbers entirely.

You can start your music on a page number other than 1 by checking New page number and entering your desired page number in the box, and then applying the page number change. If you decide, say, to start the page numbering at 2, Sibelius intelligently recognizes the page as an even page and will adjust the placement of header and footer text accordingly.

Incorporating title pages and blank pages into your numbering scheme

Should you wish to add title pages before your music, do it in the usual way by choosing Layout > Document Setup > Title Page. Sibelius will start numbering from the first title page, so if you have, for example, inserted 4 title pages, the first page of music will be page 5.

Here’s a complex case that is easily handled by Sibelius. Say you have, in order:

  1. A title page with no page number
  2. A blank page to be printed on the reverse of the title page, with no page number
  3. Four pages of prefatory material which you would like to number i-iv
  4. The first page of music, which should be page 1, but for which the first page number should be hidden

Follow all that? Here’s how to do it:

  1. With nothing selected in your score, choose Layout > Document Setup > Title Page and add 6 blank pages
  2. Again, with nothing selected, choose Text > Numbering > Page Number Change, uncheck New page number and select Hide page numbers. Click OK and click on the first title page
  3. With nothing selected, choose Text > Numbering > Page Number Change, select Format: i, ii, iii…, check New page number and type “i” and select Show page numbers. Click OK and click on the first prefatory page (the third page of your document)
  4. Now select the first bar of your score. choose Text > Numbering > Page Number Change, select Format: 1, 2, 3…, check New page number and type “1” and select Hide first page number. Click OK

You can start to see that the innocuous-seeming Page Number Change dialog is really quite powerful!

If you happen to insert a blank page somewhere in your music (by choosing Layout > Breaks > Special Page Break), Sibelius will retain your numbering scheme through the blank pages, unless you choose to override it by adding another page number change.

Changing the position of page numbers on the page

You may have been disappointed the discover that you can’t just select a page number and drag it any which way. There is good reason for this: page numbers are almost always displayed at the same position, relative to a left or right page, on each page.

To change the vertical positioning of page numbers, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Open Edit Text Styles by clicking the dialog launcher button in the Text > Styles group on the ribbon.
  • Choose Page numbers from the list of text styles, and click Edit
  • In the System Text Style dialog that appears, choose the Vertical Posn tab, and then adjust the vertical position in the score or parts relative to the top or bottom margin

vposn

To change the horizontal positioning of page numbers, access the same dialog, but choose the Horizontal Posn tab, and select from the options:

hposn

  • Page numbers are conventionally located on the Outside edge of the page (meaning left-aligned on even pages and right-aligned on odd pages), and this is where Sibelius places them by default
  • Another popular option is to make the page numbers Centered
  • Choosing Left or Right will always place the page numbers on the left or right side of the page, respectively, regardless of whether the page is odd or even — helpful for single-sided scores

You have three further, somewhat more obscure options:

  • At left of page, align to ‘No names’ staff margin, roughly translated, means that Sibelius will align the page numbers to the left edge of the music, and not the defined page margins
  • Unchecking Snap to margin would ordinarily mean that you could drag the page numbers, but since Sibelius prevents page numbers from being manually positioned, altering this box does nothing whatsoever
  • Relative to first page margins only tells Sibelius that it should always align this text to the margins of the start of the score, ignoring any margin changes later on (produced via special page breaks). You should typically keep this checked

Specifying a page range (“Page x of y”)

Fatigued conductors may be heartened if they know there are only a few pages remaining. Semi-joking aside, it is possible, as of Sibelius 7.1.3, to say, for instance, “Page 95 of 100” automatically.

This is actually done not with the default page numbers, but with a header (or footer) using wildcards:

  • Create header text, perhaps by opening Edit Text Styles and creating a new text style based on, say, Header (after first page) and name it something like Page number custom
  • Place the text in your score in the usual way by selecting it from the Text > Styles gallery
  • Type the text “Page \$PageNum\ of \$NumPages\” where \$PageNum\ reflects the current page number, and \$NumPages\ is the total number of pages in the score (keep in mind that this will dynamically change until you print or export your document)

If you are using Sibelius 6 or earlier, you can use Bob Zawalich’s plug-in Get Page Count, which stores the number of pages in a score (at the time the plug-in is run) into the Other Information field of  File > Score Info. This makes the number of pages available for use in text fields (such as “Page x of y”) if the \$MoreInfo\ wildcard is used. (The full text would be “Page \$PageNum\ of \$MoreInfo\”.) If the number of pages changes, the plug-in should be rerun, but any wildcards will be automatically updated, so it is best to run this plug-in once your page layout is fixed.

Changing the font size of page numbers

Have you ever reduced your staff size and wondered why your page numbers were so tiny? It’s because, by default, page numbers in Sibelius are set to scale with the staff size, which is a silly setting. Typically page numbers should stay the same size regardless of the staff size (unlike expression or technique text, which should scale appropriately).

Fortunately, the fix is easy: open the System Text Style dialog for Page numbers in the manner described earlier. Under Basic formats, check Keep absolute. Reasonable point sizes for page numbers are in the 10-14 pt. range.

basic formats

Different page number changes in parts

It is entirely possible to have page number changes in the part that are independent from the score — a great feature that is exclusive to Sibelius. Simply create a page number change anywhere in the part, using the Page Number Change dialog as described above, and the page number change will apply only to the part in which you are working.

You can define a part, or the score, to start on a page other than 1 by creating a page number change, as illustrated earlier. There is another way to do this in a part, by going to Parts > Layout > Part Appearance > Current Part and selecting the Layout tab. In the Page Numbers section, type in the first page number of the part:

page numbers

How would you use this feature? A real-world example can be provided from recent music preparation we did on Douglas J. Cuomo‘s opera, “Doubt,” which premiered earlier this year. The music for each act was spread over several Sibelius files which were completed out order, from which we needed to create a complete set of score and parts that seamlessly fit together. Each file made full use of Dynamic Parts, meaning that the score, vocal score, and parts for each scene were all contained in one file.

In order to keep track of everything, we created a spreadsheet to track the start and end pages of every part in each file:

pages

This way, we could very quickly apply the page numbers and we would know we would be correct with respect to page turns and the like. When it came time to print the parts, we simply exported the PDF files from each Sibelius file, merged the files for each part together (we used Acrobat Pro) and then printed everything.

Conclusion

Page numbering is one of those things we don’t usually think about. Most of the time the page numbers don’t need to be adjusted from their defaults, but when they do, Sibelius offers robust options for handling them — you just need to know where to look.

Still have questions? Have other tips about working with page numbers that you’d like to share? Feel free to post in the comments.

Comments

  1. Bernie Cossentino

    Hello Philip,

    Nice blog on the page numbering. I always use the header’s wildcard for my page numbering (thus hiding the default page #’s). The only thing that bothers me is when I proceed to add new instruments to an existing template (or score) that contains said wildcard header. As you may well know, newly added instruments default the page numbering scheme independently. Thankfully, one can delete (i.e. copy into buffer) and repaste the header wildcard from the master score so that they’re reapplied throughout all parts. However, I still have to go back to each new instrument part in my score and hide the default page numbers all over again so that they don’t overlap with my custom headers.

    Maybe you have a better (one step) approach around this? Granted, although I have both versions, I’m still using Sib 6 more than 7. Perhaps this was improved in Sib 7?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Bernie, that’s a good question, and I have encountered it as well. I can’t think of an immediate solution other than what you’ve done.

  2. Cliff Bradley

    Hi Bernie, I’ve just been trying to work around the same problem. The solution (hack) I found was to download the Adobe Blank font (free) and then set it as the page number font in Sibelius (edit text styles…). The default page numbers then display blank and won’t bother you whether they’re hidden or not. Of course, the caveat is that anyone else opening your sibelius file would also need the blank font installed, or the numbers will re-appear again. (not perfect, but a start I guess…).

  3. Declan

    I didn’t have any luck using the methods you suggested on 7.5 so I changed the font colour to white. Thanks anyway! Appreciate the tips here.

  4. vivien arnold

    Hi, I have been working of Sibelius Student 6 for several years. Am now trying to publish an opera but the publisher wants all the music files (each musical number is a separate file) without page numbers. I don’t seem to have any ‘change page numbers options’. Can anyone help?

  5. Steve Cohen

    Your opening paragraph mentions displaying page numbers in the center of the page. I’m not seeing instructions for this, only how to hide the automatic page numbers. Is it possible to have page numbers (page 2 and on) appear as “— # —” with # being the page number?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Yes. You will need to use the Header (after first page) text style. The header text will be:

      — \$PageNum\ —

      1. Steve Cohen

        Thanks! That worked, although I had to work out for myself that you need to click the first measure to make an entry you want to appear on page 2 and on.

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