Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Latest Sins & Fibs

Norman Lebrecht is raising alarms about the future of Sibelius music engraving software. Sibelius's parent company, Avid is, indeed, reorganizing and selling off other portions of its business, but, I've been in contact with the public relations office at Avid and they indicated they are committed to retaining the product  with aspects of the Sibelius unit being reorganized.  The full statement is: "Yes, Sibelius is staying with Avid and is an important part of our business going forward. We are happy with Sibelius' business. We're not commenting yet on details of the reorg out of respect to affected employees."  As I learn more about the reorganization — the questions are obvious: does this mean moving development or service outside of the UK? first among them) — I'll try to post what I learn here.


I've been using computers to notate music for about 25 years. From time to time on this blog, I've given updates on my notation software practices. I have six or seven notation programs on my computer and regularly use three or four of them.  The free and open source program MuseScore continues to improve and already offers output good enough for most users. It would be an excellent program for most University music students, for example, and an especially welcome one, given the high costs of education today. But for the most sophisticated professional applications, the two most-widely used programs remain Finale and Sibelius. For many users, Fin and Sib have approximately equal capacity and the choice between the two is going to be based on which one has a more comfortable input and editing style, which is essentially a personal choice.  In general, I believe that Finale has a steeper learning curve, but it is ultimately more flexible (in terms of entry and editing methods) and powerful (in terms of the variety of outputs possible.) But this edge has been slight and many users do find using Sibelius to be more intuitive. Up until the lastest round of version upgrades, I have kept both the latest Finale and Sibelius on my two notating machines, and I have been happy to have had and used both, alongside some other programs (including my beloved orphan Graphire Music Studio and the very interesting Harmony Assistant; for kicks, I also recently took another spin with Berlioz, a program emulated the traditional engraving process.)  However, with the recent upgrades, I decided to go with Finale 2012 and not with Sibelius 7.  Finale 2012 offered one essential new feature (unicode support) and the firm which owns Finale, MakeMusic, has wisely acquired the sample company Garritan and has promised to not offer an upgrade in 2013, getting (finally!) out of the annual upgrade-by-small-increments cycle.  As to Sibelius 7, they introduced some new interface features, in particular the so-called ribbon, which they have indicated that they are absolutely committed to, but happen to make the product all but unusable for a myopic old composer like myself. So I've skipped Sibelius 7; when I have work I have to do in Sib, I'll use Sib 6, otherwise, most of my work will be done in Fin 2012. 

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