Thursday, February 17, 2005

Any Sibelius users out there?

I've been using Finale music notation software for years, but I'm thinking of switching over to a competing program, Sibelius. Making the switch, at least on a trial basis, seems like a no-brainer at this point. Given the high-price of Finale's annual (and mostly useless) upgrades, and Sibelius' crossgrade offer, if I don't do the Finale annual upgrade this year or next, I'd break even.

Over the years, I've had a number of issues with Finale. Here are a few of the big ones:

-- Their GUI is terrible; it's not intuitive, and certain functions are either hidden, or are much more complicated to use than they ought to be.

-- Many of their features simply don't work as advertised. One example, a number of years back, I upgraded to their new version which promised the ability to scan directly into Finale. The function simply didn't work even on simple lead sheets that had originally been notated in Finale. I met the developer of that software --it was licensed from Smartscore -- and he told me flat out that it didn't work well.

-- Their MIDI functionality is often sketchy and frequently doesn't work.

-- Hyperscribe often doesn't accurately play back edits made to existing notation.

-- New versions of Finale are not backwards compatible by design. This means that if I'm working on a project with someone else where we are sharing files, and one of us upgrades, the other has to upgrade as well in order to open files created on the newer version.

The final straw, though, is this. Last year, I upgraded to Finale 2004. They delivered it months behind schedule, and several of the promised features weren't included. Finale eventually made them available via download a few months later.

A few months back, I noticed that some of my files weren't printing out properly in Finale 2004c. In particular, underlined text was printing out with the underline running diagonally down at an approximately forty-degree angle beginning somewhere under the first letter. It looked like a printer's glitch, but it was happening consistently. So, I emailed MakeMusic! to see if they could resolve this issue. Here's how they responded:
This is a known issue in Finale 2004c. This is the main reason that will still post the 2004b version on our website. Printing underline text from 2004b is fine. You can keep both versions running on your machine. This problem has been fixed in 2005.
I replied:
I'm a bit troubled by your response that "this is a known issue in Finale 2004c" since it appears from your statement that Makemusic! has no intention of fixing the problem. (Incidentally, there was no mention of this "known issue" on Finale's website. Ed.)

My expectation that underlined text will print properly is not exactly an obscure one and its not an unreasonable requirement. I shouldn't have to choose between EPS export (available only in 2004c) and having underlined text print properly; especially when EPS export was promised for 2004.

The fact that the problem is fixed in 2005 is irrelevant to me because I don't intend to upgrade to 2005.

You've acknowledged that the problem is in fact Finale's. How does Makemusic intend to fix it for me?
They replied:
Any time that an installer is cracked open and code is changed to add new features or fix current ones, there is the risk that another part of the program will be negatively affected. This is true with all programming and is nothing unique to Finale. Therefore, this usually only happens if there is something critical that needs to be fixed. It is very possible that fixing this particular problem in 2004 would break something else.

It is important that we track down any of these problems and make sure that they get addressed in the future, but they are not always addressed with a free maintenance release. Many problems are fixed in the regular upgrades. This was the case with this particular underline problem, since it was fixed in 2005.

If there was absolutely no work-around to the problem or if we were getting flooded with complaints from other users about this problem, then this would be a completely different story. The fact is that there is a work-around present in 2004 to get the result that you want and we are not hearing from 2004 users that this is a high priority. So it is very unlikely that you will see another maintenance update for 2004.

The work-around is to keep the 2004b and 2004c applications on your computer. Open files in 2004b when you need to print files with underlined text and open files in 2004c when you need to create EPS files. Files where neither of these apply can be opened in either version.
I don't think that this is an appropriate (or truthful) response. Besides, I shouldn't have to keep track of which version I'm running, especially when there is nothing visually wrong with the underlines on screen in 2004c.

So, I'm looking into Sibelius. I've been hearing good things about it for a while, and they make it quite easy to try.

If Finale wants to keep me, it'll take a lot more than repeated spamming with this "Special Offer."

Anyone else have a similar experience?