Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fibs & Sins, an update

I'm frequently asked for recommendations for notation programs, and my answer is usually "depends...", with an encouragement to consider a variety of programs rather than get stuck in a software monoculture. I mostly use Finale 2007, and sometimes use Harmony Assistant and Turandot, and have recently played with Lime and Lily Pond. I am happy with Finale 2007 and find it both flexible and powerful, but that flexibility and power has come at the cost of a substantial investment in learning the tricks of the program, and the assistance of a few third-party plug-in, especially the indispensable TGTools made by the composer Tobias Giesen. However, I have paid close attention to reviews of the latest Finale update (2008) and have noticed a real trend among power users of Finale to either skip this update or to switch to Sibelius, due to the apparent decision of the staff at Finale to invest more in additional features rather than improve the performance of existing features, including a couple of persistent bugs. I have also been impressed by the fact that Sibelius staff maintain a presence in public fora and appear to bend over backwards with customer queries. Finale staff are often, frankly, a bit surly -- bug reports are responded to with diffidence and suggestions for improvement get form letter responses. It also seems to be company policy at MakeMusic, which owns Finale, to ignore public fora, like the Finale Users' List. Finally, I have looked at the public financial statements of MakeMusic, and I have some concern for the future of the product. I really don't want to be stuck with orphaned software, especially with orphaned software that depends upon the registration system initiated in 2006 or 2007. Because of this, I've decided to make a Sibelius cross-purchase (there are special offers this month) as insurance against further developments at MakeMusic. Again, I really like Finale, can do almost anything I want with it, hope the best for its continued development and I don't plan on using Sibelius, with its inflexible entry methods, with any frequency but a bit of insurance seems warranted.


Elaine Fine said...

Thanks for this Daniel. I'm thinking of doing the same when I (eventually) switch from windows to mac. Do you know how well Sibelius translates Finale's Enigma files?

David said...

I have a PC and use Sibelius, but if you have a Mac, I'd recommend checking out Notability. It's designed by Keith Hammel, a composer, and from what I've seen it is much more flexible and powerful than either Finale or Sibelius. But unfortunately for me, it's for Macs only.