Finale 2006 - A Review
By Jari Williamsson, July 25, 2005
With this review, I'm trying to give you an in-depth discussion of the new features in Finale 2006. It also contains a number of tips regarding the use of Finale 2006.
Please note that this review is based on the Windows version of Finale 2006. Some performance improvements and feature additions in Finale 2006 are Mac-specific, but these will not be covered in this review.
First the usual questions...
- Redraw and Speed improvements
- Playback additions
- Extended MIDI support
- Integrated GPO and VST support
- Human Playback improvements
- Studio View
- Copy/Paste improvements
- Tempo editing enhancements
- Document-embedded graphics
- Measure Numbers enhancements
- Mid-measure repeats plug-in
- Plug-ins to Split and Merge Measures
- Create Coda System plug-in
- Fit within page print option
- Chord analysis enhancements
- Textures/colors on manuscript background
- Support for Composite Libraries
- Smart Shape Line Style Libraries
- Resize Noteheads plug-in
- Auto Slur Melismas plug-in
- Updated Create Tempo Marking plug-in
- Handbells Used plug-in
- Score System Divider plug-in
- Improved MusicXML support
- Additions to the Finale PDK
- Other smaller additions and bug fixes
I currently use Finale 2005. Do I have to "re-learn" something to use Finale 2006?
- Copy and paste of musical information work a bit differently compared to earlier Finale versions.
- Text Search and Replace has been moved to the Edit menu.
A great deal of work in Finale 2006 has been devoted to speed optimization. One important area is the on-screen drawing speed, which is a continued work on the "new" drawing engine that was introduced in Finale 2004. While the redraw speed might not be that noticable at normal editing work, it's very likely that you'll notice the difference in other areas, such as when playing back large documents using scrolling playback in Page View.
Thanks to the improvements in speed of the drawing engine, features like dragging using the Hand Grabber Tool has now become quite productive. It's now a "full picture" drag, where the full music is seen all the time when the document is dragged. However, it's not yet perfect: the picture is flashing during the dragging in ways that really shouldn't be necessary, the old dashed staff marker lines (which are now obsolete) still appear, and artifacts still appear outside the document in Page View.
Other areas where speed is a big concern have also been reworked, such as opening/saving files, working with huge files, mass mover operations, playback preprocessing (including Human Playback preprocessing). Many of these operations are magnitudes faster than before.
A couple of things have been changed related to the general playback in Finale 2006:
The spacebar playback method can now scroll while it playing back. You simply tell if you want the document to scroll or not scroll.
Please be aware that this is in one way a reduction in functionality compared to earlier versions: the old spacebar playback method would always keep you at the same position in the document, while you still could use scroll using the normal playback control. Now you have to choose to either scroll all playback or don't scroll anything.
The start and stop times in the playback fields now includes beat and sub-beat, so you can now start and stop the playback anywhere you want in the document.
Due to the changes made to the playback, the old playback file (*.PLY) support is no longer available.
There's a new playback option called Observe Playback Region when saving to MIDI or audio file, which will take the playback counter settings into account when saving to MIDI/audio.
Extended MIDI support
Finale 2006 can now address 128 MIDI channels. It can now be achieved by using 8 different MIDI instances of 16 channels each, which is the technique that the SoftSynth now uses (there are now 8 different instances of SmartMusic SoftSynth, giving you the ability to play 128 sounds simultaneously). This addition is absolutely cruical for playback of larger scores, which earlier would often produce channel conflicts resulting in all types of different problems.
When new documents are created with the Document Setup Wizard, there's now an option called Use a separate channel for each staff, which will separate instruments that use the same instrument patch (such as strings, double winds, etc) to use individual MIDI channels. Please be aware that the name of the option is a bit misleading; the document setup will create separate MIDI channels for each instrument (not each staff) so piano/organ/harpsichord/etc will be set up using one single channel for the grand staff. If you want to have separate channels for the left/right hands on the piano for example, you can do that afterwards using the Instrument List.
The Document Setup Wizard also has a new setting where you can select the instrument set. This is used to make it more convenient to create documents aimed for the SoftSynth, GPO, etc.
Some additions and changes have been made to the Instrument List window. Each staff now has a global volume and pan setting which you can use to balance the instruments against each other. Please keep in mind that staff volume (as well as the pan setting) is a new concept and is not really related to velocity or MIDI volume. There's also a master volume (accessed from the Mixer) that controls the overall volume of the document. It's even easier to use the Mixer or the Studio View to change these new settings.
TIP: Fast channel mapping
In the Instrument List window, right-click on the channel field for a staff. That will display a convenient contextual menu with all the MIDI devices that has been set up and their channels, as well as marking the currently selected channel.
Integrated GPO and VST support
Finale 2006 supports the VST players that are based on the Native Instruments players, and it's bundled with a "lite" version of GPO (called GPO Finale Edition). The default files for Finale 2006 contains a couple of predefined expressions that are designed to work with the "keyswitches" of the GPO Finale Edition, in case you don't use the Human Playback support for GPO.
The VST intergration in Finale 2006 is separated from the MIDI setup. From a practical standpoint, this is a good thing for a number of reasons:
- No need to configure the MIDI setup to get VST support to work.
- The VST settings (such as information about the patches that should be loaded) are stored in the Finale document. Finale keeps track of the patches that need to be loaded for the document and loads these automatically.
- If you need to turn off the VST support for a document, you can do so by just unchecking a menu item (instead of having to modify the MIDI setup). When this setting (called Play Finale through Native Instruments VST) is checked, it bypasses the MIDI setup.
- No need to load the GPO Studio application.
- Tighter intergration with Human Playback, since HP can actually know if VST playback is used or not.
The downside is that you can't mix the intergrated VST playback with other types of MIDI playback (such as the SoftSynth).
There are 2 additional issues that you should be aware of when you are working with the intergrated VST (and GPO) support in Finale 2006:
- Documents that use VST support will take longer to load or when you switch to them, since the patches for the document has to be loaded into memory.
- Finale's Save as Audio File feature will not work with the VST support. Depending on your computer system, you might find workarounds for this:
* If you for example have an Audigy card, you can use the What-u-hear recording mode on the sound card.
* Or if you have the full version of GPO, you can record to audio from within GPO Studio (but having to launch GPO Studio will make you lose all the benifit of the integrated GPO support).
Please note: When trying to save intergrated VST as audio files, you'll get a message box saying that this feature will be available in an maintenance release of Finale 2006. So this might change in a future update to Finale 2006.
Human Playback improvements
Human Playback has a couple of new settings in Finale 2006, mostly aimed towards the new, intergrated GPO support. All new settings are located in the Human Playback Preferences dialog box.
First, the old Expression Hairpin Emphasis setting has now been divided into 2 settings: Hairpin Pair Emphasis and Auto Expression Emphasis. This is a really good change, because you now can have big hairpin changes without affecting the dynamic of long single notes.
There is now "real" support for GPO slurs (both the controller 64 in the standard GPO and the controller 68 of the "notation" version of GPO).
Human Playback also has some support for "instrumental techniques" (such as switching between pizz and arco). However, this support is too limited to be really useful in my opinion: it requires General MIDI or GPO and if GPO is used, it also requires the KS (keyswitch) versions of the GPO instruments. If this feature would have been properly designed, it should be flexible enough to work with any patches or any playback configuration and to allow custom playing techniques - things it currently does not support.
TIP: Sound comparisons
In addition to this review, there's now a separate comparison page available with sound examples, where you can compare GPO against the SoftSynth as well as Human Playback's effect on the score. You'll find the page HERE!
TIP: GPO updates
If you own the full version of GPO, make sure that you have installed the absolute latest updates, available from http://www.garritan.com/
The Studio View is a new view (in addition to Scroll View and Page View). It looks a bit similar to Scroll View, but with extra staff controllers to the left and with fixed distances between each staff. The shortcut key to Studio View is Ctrl+Shift+E.
With the staff controllers you can balance the staff volumes against each other, set the stave's left/right balances, change the playing instrument, and set the Record/Mute/Solo state for the staff. All this can be done while the document is playing back. Each staff has an output level meter where you can see the current playback volume for the staff.
The Studio View also contains the TempoTap Track at the very top, which is discussed in more detail below (in the Tempo editing enhancements section).
One really annoying thing with the Studio View is that you can't scroll/navigate in the document while it's playing back. For large scores, it therefore becomes very likely that one can't access all the staff controllers at the same time while the document is playing.
TIP: Change the opening view
In Finale 2006, the default opening view for documents is Studio View. If you want to change this default behaviour, open Program Options and change the setting in New Document Windows on the New page.
The Mixer can be seen as a pocket-sized version of the Studio View with a few differences:
- The tempo can't be changed in the Mixer but in Studio View
- The channel can be changed in the Mixer but not in Studio View
- The Mixer contains a master mixer track, where you can set the overall volume, the reverb level, as well as Mute or Solo all tracks in one go.
The Mixer is convenient if you for example want to be in Page View (instead of Studio View) and still want to be able to access the staff balance controls. It's a separate window that floats on top of the document.
One problem with both the Mixer and the Studio View is that the support for keyboard shortcuts is virtually non-existent; it's basically a mouse-only interface.
In Finale 2006, the options for copying items have been assembled into one single dialog box. The entry items appear at the top and the measure items appear below. All the settings in this dialog box are now sticky settings.
Since all the copying options appear in one single dialog box, the separate Copy Everything menu item has now been removed. One side effect of this is that you can't have a custom set of copying options while you still copy everything as you could do in earlier Finale versions.
The Clear Items dialog box also look very similar to the Items to Copy dialog box.
If you press Ctrl+Shift+V instead of Ctrl+V when pasting the music material, you'll now get a "filter" dialog box that's almost identical to the dialog box for copying items. Here you can exclude items after they have been copied to the clipboard (or to a clip file).
One good change is that there's now more control when copying clef changes. There are 3 options for clef copying: Always/Never/When Clef Changes. Another good thing is that in Finale 2006, the differences between drag copying and clipboard copying are much smaller than in earlier Finale versions.
There are still the same old issues present when copying TAB numbers between documents.
Tempo editing enhancements
You can now edit tempo changes in 2 new ways in Finale 2006:
The first way is using the new Tempo Tap feature. This is based on the TempoTap Track that is displayed at the top of Studio View. The TempoTap Track contains notes values representing the durations that you'll use during the Tempo Tap recording. The tempo changes are recorded by set the TempoTap to record mode and hit the record button. A press on the space bar key (or the MIDI keyboard) will represent one note on the TempoTap Track. This is a good method if it's important to get really accurate "human" tempi.
The second way is by using the MIDI Tool, which works almost identical to editing continous data with the MIDI Tool. This method you can use to create accelerandi/ritardandi, "humanize" tempo changes, etc. Please note that you don't have to be in Studio View to use this method.
In previous Finale versions, graphics placed in the document with the Graphics Tool had to be stored as separate files and link was created to the file. This always created a problem if you wanted to share a Finale documents with other users that contained graphics, or when the file was moved to another place. In Finale 2006, you now have to option to embed the graphics in the Finale document itself. If you create new graphics in the Graphics Tool in Finale 2006, the graphics is embedded by default. You can embed or link to file by changing the Link to file attribute for the graphics. This can be accessed, both from the Graphics Attributes dialog box and from the Graphics/Check Graphics menu item.
(Please note that this new addition does not take care of other Graphics Tools problems, such as the long-standing problem of creating EPS files on Windows.)
Measure Numbers enhancements
A new measure attribute (called Include in Measure Numbering) has been added that controls how measure numbers are handled in a specific measure. If this attribute is ON for a measure, the measure numbering will behave as it did in earlier Finale versions. When you turn OFF this attribute however, the measure will be treated as if it didn't exists in all measure number regions; that measure will never count as a measure from a measure numbering point of view and measure numbers will never display on that measures. This is a very useful option when dealing with large measures splitted into chunks, mid-measure repeats, cadenzas, etc.
Measure numbers can now also be edited (changed, dragged, deleted) by using the Selection Tool. One annoying thing is that the Delete key doesn't work for measure numbers when you're using the Selection Tool - you must use the contextual menu.
Mid-measure repeats plug-in
This is a plug-in that utilizes the new functionality of not treating measure numbers in certain measures. The usage of this plug-in is very straightforward: select the whole region repeat (including the partial measures around the mid-measure repeats) and the plug-in will create the start/end repeats and adjust the measure numbering as needed.
However, this usage is virtually identical to how the Create Simple Repeat feature works in the Repeat Tool and I personally find it very strange to split the mid-measure repeats out as a separate function, instead of merging the mid-measure behaviour into Create Simple Repeat.
I should also mention that this plug-in doesn't do any "musical" verification (like counting the beats) of the created mid-measure repeats. So if you accidentally select a region that doesn't "add up" correctly around the repeats, the plug-in will not try to prevent you from creating the erratic the mid-measure repeats.
Plug-ins to Split and Merge Measures
Finale 2006 to includes a plug-in to split one measure into 2. There are many uses for this kind of plug-in, such as cadenzas with dashed barlines, bars over system breaks (this method is more reliable than the old measure-across-systems feature), simplify music with barlines appearing differently on different staves, etc. The second measure created will not be included in measure numbering and you have the option of either have an invisible or dashed barline. In the plug-in's dialog box, you'll have the option to indicate where the split should be; you can split on half beats if you want.
The plug-in for merging measures is simple to use: select 2 measures and select the Merge Measures plug-in. The two measures will become one and the time signature will adjust accordingly. Please note that you can't merge more than 2 measures into 1 in one go, you have to repeat the procedure if you want to merge more than two measures.
Create Coda System plug-in
The Create Coda System plug-in can be of help to create an indented Coda system that appears after existing music on a system. It will also create the necessary texts as well as handle the playback routing. There's also the option to create a D.S. jump while the Coda is created.
Please be aware that the Space Systems Evenly feature will break the layout of a Coda system created with the Create Coda System plug-in.
Fit within page print option
When printing "1-up" (single) pages in Finale, there's now an option to make sure that the printed copy will fit on the paper (regardless of the document's layout settings). This can for example be useful when printing an A3 layout on A4 paper or vice versa. The setting is located in the print dialog box and is simply called Fit to page. The is a very convenient setting, since you'll not need to make any temporary layout changes to get the document to fit on the printed page.
The print dialog box has also been restructured a bit so it's now clearer which of the options are tied together.
Chord analysis enhancements
In previous versions of Finale, you could get Finale to create chords based on the contents of one or 2 staves only. In Finale 2006, a new chord analysis mode has been added called All-Staff Analysis option. With this, you can actually base the chord analysis on any staves in the document (see the tip below).
It also includes a new plug-in that can batch-analyze a region of the score, called Chord Analysis. This plug-in has a very useful set of options, such as how often to place the chords (once a measure/all down beats/every note), on which staff to place the resulting chords symbol and if it should be allowed for chord symbols to be repeated.
Finale is also now more intelligent when it analyze chords that include longer notes that spans over many beats, such as pedal point.
TIP: How to analyze chords based on notes appearing on any staves.
1. Select the Staff Tool in Scroll View
Textures/colors on manuscript background
As a result of the enhancements made to the drawing engine, Finale 2006 can now display backgrounds other than pure white as a background. The main benefit here is that can give you a picture that's nicer to the eyes when working for many hours a day. Both custom texture bitmaps (tiled or stretched) and solid colors are supported.
Finale 2006 includes many predefined paper textures that you can use. Some of them are in my opinion too fancy to be used for longer periods of time, but a few of them are really good and nice to the eyes. When you start Finale 2006 for the first time, you will by default get an ivory-colored tiled texture bitmap.
TIP: Solid backgrounds
If you instead of a texture prefer a solid paper color with less contrast than the old pure white color, you can for example try any of these colors:
(The actual displayed result might vary somewhat depending on the color calibration of your computer system.)
Library files additions
People who have followed my discussions on the 'net over the years regarding Finale libraries probably know that I think the Finale library file feature is a really bad concept, based on a stone-dead paradigm. It probably made sense in the early 90s, but now it's just an easy concept (transfer existing items to another document) made difficult. The enhancements to the library feature in Finale 2006 don't convince me I'm wrong for one bit.
In Finale 2006, you can now store multiple kinds of data from a document (such as expressions and articulations) as one composite library file. For some users this will be useful, for others it will just accelerate some of the built-in problems with libraries. There's no way to get information about what data a library file really contains, so even if you name your composite library files really carefully you might very likely run into future problems. And there's also no way to selectively load just some of the data types from a composite library.
The library files can now also store/load Smart Shape Line Styles (the lines found in the Custom Line Tool subtool in in the Smart Shape Tool).
The long-term bug that prevents you from saving/loading custom key signature is still there, so the check box saying Key Signatures in the Save Library dialog box will simply do nothing.
Resize Noteheads plug-in
The Resize Noteheads plug-in is probably mainly going to be used for shrinking the optional notes in chords, such as non-melodic notes. However, it can of course also be used to magnify certain notes in chords. Options available in the plug-in's dialog are: to resize from bottom or top, resize certain types of noteheads only, which of the notes in the chord that should be resized (this is a numerical range similar to the Page Ranges field in the Print dialog box), and the resize percentage.
TIP: Restore the notehead size
If you have used the Resize Noteheads plug-in and later on change your mind (and instead want to have all noteheads at standard size), you can use the plug-in like this:
Auto Slur Melismas plug-in
The Auto Slur Melismas is a small and simple plug-in that creates slurs in the music based on the melismas found in the lyrics. There are no options for this plug-in; it will work automatically based on the selected region.
Create Tempo Marking plug-in
The Create Tempo Marking plug-in has been updated in Finale 2006. One new features is that you can now optionaly display a text (such as "Andante", "Allegro", etc). You can now also optionally display the metronome marking, although there's no option to put the metronome marking within parenthesis. Also, the plug-in can be controlled to show the tempo marking on certain staves (All Staves/This Staff Only/Top Staff in Score and Parts/Staff List).
Handbells Used plug-in
Create Handbells Used Chart is a slightly modified version of the plug-in for handbell notation available in the full version of TGTools. It helps you to automatically create a separate system that displays the used handbells for the selected music region (or whole document). A huge time-saver if you work with handbell music.
Score System Divider plug-in
Finale 2006 includes a plug-in to add system separators between systems in scores. It's written by myself and is similar to my old JW Divider plug-in (available for download at http://www.jwmusic.nu/freeplugins/ in case you're running an older Finale version). The main differences are in the user interface; it's a bit more flexible than before and also includes an option to process the currently displayed page only.
Improved MusicXML support
The MusicXML support has been enhanced in Finale 2006:
- MusicXML Import/Export is now "correctly" located in the File menu
- MusicXML Import is also accessible from the Launch Window
- MusicXML now imports 1.1 version files (the MusicXML file format that includes page formatting)
- MusicXML exports 1.0 version files in with more completeness than in earlier Finale versions
- It's now available for Mac as well
Additions to the Finale PDK
New plug-in APIs have been added for adding and deleting measures in the music, which allow plug-in developers to to delete/add measures in the music in a faster and more controlled way than before.
As a part of the performance work made in Finale 2006, Finale is now a bit pickier with what plug-ins "sends" to Finale. A buggy plug-in that might have worked in earlier Finale versions might need to be updated to work with Finale 2006. Correctly written plug-ins will of course still work.
Other small things...
- The Mass Edit Tool now has a contextual menu for the selected region. This menu consists of the Copy/Cut/Paste commands and almost all the MassEdit menu items. Personally, I think this is a small but excellent enhancement.
- When selecting a region in the document, the selected area is now colored instead of appearing in black. Finale will use the running system's color configuration for the selection.
- Text Search and Replace has been moved from the Plug-ins menu to the Edit menu, where it makes much more sense.
- A warning message is now displayed when the user tries to print a document that is displayed in Concert Pitch, which might not be what the user intended. This message has a "Don't Show Again" option.
- The FPA (Finale Performance Assessment) application has some updates.
- SmartScore Lite has been updated. The main update is that it supports greyscale images, so HP "All-in-one" scanner users will avoid the dithering problem in the previous version.