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Looking for Notation Software advice

Two Questions:
Over many years I've made use of both Finale and Sibelius (and before that Professional Composer), but I've used neither in recent years. Now that I need a notation software program again, I'm seeking some updated advice. I'm aware of the Sibelius debacle, so I'd like to steer clear of it; however, I appreciated its usefulness in dealing with genres such as Anglican chant. I'm curious to hear your advice about the latest and greatest.
Also, I don't presently have a simple keyboard available for input. What is your advice in this regard? I'm looking for something small enough to fit on a desk and not too expensive.
I look forward to some expert advice. Many thanks!
Replies (24): Threaded | Chronological
on September 25, 2013 4:24am
I use Finale 2012. Some colleagues who have upgraded to Finale 2013 are not so happy, as there have been some problem, but I don't know the specifics. What I do know is that Finale will do just about anything you want with the right directions. Another "testament" to Finale is that a lot of publishers use it for engraving music. User manual is very lengthy, but there is technical assistance available on the web. 
There are 25-key MIDI-USB keyboards that are small and inexpensive. They have an octave shifter to increase the range beyond the 25 keys. Be sure to have a numeric keypad, either on your computer keyboard or a free-standing one. With Finale, the thing that can really slow you down with "Speedy Entry" are the note values if you don't have a numeric keypad.
Good luck.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 25, 2013 4:46am
I picked up Sibelius when they first came out with a hybrid (Windows/Mac) version. I've only updated as far as 2.1 and have had one small issue with it, nothing that really warrants an explanation but I'll be happy to give it if requested. As far as the 'debacle' goes, I've not been affected one bit. I've enjoyed Sibelius straight out of the box and have never looked back.
As far as the keyboard input goes, I've never had a MIDI keyboard to input notes, it's always been the number pad and QWERTY keyboard for me!
on September 25, 2013 5:00am
What's the Sibelius debacle? I need to install a program on my new computer and want to inform myself, as well. Have been a Sibelius user for a while and not heard anything...
on September 25, 2013 7:39am
I am a long-time user of Sibelius and still find the program the best of the alternatives. I know of two issues related to Sibelius. First, in version 7 the interface was completely revamped, causing users like me to go back to version 6 rather than completely re-learn how to use the program. The interface also is designed in such a way that it takes up considerably more vertical screen space than version 6, which is at a premium even with a large monitor. Second, the company that bought out Sibelius "released" all of their programming employees. The company states that development of the program will continue with off-shore programmers, but many feel that it signals the beginning of the end of development.
on September 25, 2013 7:39am
I use Sibelius 7.1  and love it.  I've used Sibelius for many years. I highly recommend your considering it!!!!
on September 25, 2013 7:40am
I don't know of any debacle -- Avid Inc. now owns Sibelius.  Sibelius is not drying up and blowing away.   
on September 25, 2013 8:50am
Joe. There is no Finale 2013. There will be Finale 2014 soon though.
I am a long-time Finale user, but have Sibelius also.
Finale and Sibelius are both great software, and I always tell my students to try the demo, and decide. :)
on September 25, 2013 10:51am
I use Sibelius 7.1.3 for several types of ensembles and have no problems with the program.  I find it pretty easy and intuitive to work with.
As to a keyboard for note entry, check out the M-Audio Keystation series.  Keystation keyboards come in 32-, 49-, 61- and 88-key models.  They handshake with either PCs or  Macs in a jiffy.  The 32-key model costs about 50 bucks, I think.
on September 25, 2013 3:42pm
Hi Kathryn -
I'm still using Finale 2009 and doing just fine. The keyboard recommended to me was M-AUDIO/KeyRig 49 - it has proved to be everything I needed - cheap, dependable and easy to use. I've not encountered Anglican chant, but I've used Finale for handbells, choir, piano, solo voice, concert band and music theater scores, and it has filled the bill.
Best wishes,
on September 25, 2013 3:43pm
MusicEase is another notation program you might want to consider. A number of users are music professors and/or professional composers. Many of them have used Finale and/or Sibelius. The main reason is that they can create scores much more quickly than with the other notation programs. They alsp say things like MusicEase handles tuplets better than Sibelius and that MusicEase provides better support for shape notes than the Finale add-on for this. Unfortunately there has not been a scholarly evaluation/comparison of the strengths & weaknesses of the various notation software programs for many years.
MusicEase has been around longer than Finale (it initially was developed under DOS - the pre-Windows OS). It is available for both Windows and the Mac. A free evaluation version is available. More info at
on September 25, 2013 5:44pm
Check out  It's a cloud-based notation program that's simple to use with a reasonable fee for your own account. Their qwerty inputs are simple to use as well. M-audio has a 32-key USB Midi keyboard controller for $50.
on September 25, 2013 6:04pm
Dear Gary,
When I went to the wikipedia description of this program I see that you are involved with it. I think it would have been wise to at least put a disclaimer that you have a personal interest in the product when you post on choralnet. This kind of reasonable disclosure is what is expected from people.
Paul Carey
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 26, 2013 8:10am
Dear Kathryn,
I have been an orchestrator and arranger of film and choral music for many years.  I used to always and only work exclusively on Finale.  That all changed with Sibelius 7.  Sibelius saves so much time I can't even explain.  It is not earth shattering that you should be able to insert a dynamic and then it doesn't collide with anything. Sibelius is very good at making your score look great in the shortest amount of time.  I now see Finale as a major headache compared to user-friendly Sibelius.  You'll spend hours cleaning up your scores to make them look barely presentable.  Many other orchestrators in the film music world have made the switch as well because it saves so much time.  Once you have a handle of the program, it's great! 
Also I recommend the M-audio Keystation 61 es.  Light weight, portable, USB connection. 
on September 27, 2013 5:16am
Hi Kathryn,
I highly recommend Sibelius as well. When considering ease of use, saving time, and making scores look as professional as possible, Sibelius is the preferred tool by many of the industry-leading composers, orchestrators, and engravers.
Jake Runestad, composer
on September 27, 2013 11:08am
I am deeply devoted to Finale, and have not had the problems that others describe.  I am a Mac user, and I think there may be more Finale issues in teh Windows environment. 
I use the M-aaudio Keystaion 61 and it works great!
Good luck!
on September 27, 2013 3:18pm
any free stuff out there for those of us who like that sort of thing
(eg. Scribus for making posters etc. easy, free and makes good enough image based documents for me)
on September 27, 2013 3:45pm
just looked at notflight  ...looks like i found my answer
on September 27, 2013 7:44pm
MuseScore is a good, free open source alternative.
on September 28, 2013 4:43am
Rosegarden/Lillypond free and open-source.
on September 28, 2013 5:30am
MuseScore ...another great alternative but you have to download it, noteflight is cloud-based. I will have compare these for my needs.
on September 28, 2013 2:14pm

Hi Paul;

I'm sorry. I thought it was obvious from the wording of my post that I was involved with MusicEase. Fact of the matter is that I am a professor of computer science and only secondarily involved with music. In a previous life I worked on user interface design at Bell Labs. I have been developing MusicEase for many years now and use it almost daily (both under Windows and on the Mac.). There is no paid advertising for MusicEase – information about it is only spread via word-of-mouth. To date there are a few thousand users of MusicEase.

But this is irrelevant to the point of this thread, which is: what music notation editor to choose? One should make sure the chosen software 1) allows creation of the genres of music he/she wants to create and 2) that the printed music is of satisfactory quality.

Beyond that ease of use and things like any required special functionality (like transposition, cast off, import/export types, scalability, etc.) and perhaps price should be deciding factors. To me it is very important that I spend as little time as possible in creating printed music. So that has been a focus of MusicEase from the start.

Again it would be really nice to see an in-depth comparison of the various notation software so potential customers would be able to make an informed decision when choosing.


on November 29, 2013 11:12pm
I agree this is one of the best tool I have ever seen..It is really amazing..It also favorably works for Google drive security
on November 30, 2013 6:39am
Avid sacked the entire Sibelius staff, which is not a good sign for its future. I look forward to the time when they (the orginals) write another program and allow those of us who feel that Avid may have had their own interests ahead of Sibelius to jump ship and return to the people who deserve our custom. 
on February 18, 2014 4:25am
I can recomend a new program called ScoreCloud, witch is free to use notation program! You can check out this cool video to see what its about, or just visit for more information! 
best regards! :)
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