Adjusting Tracking, aka Letter-Spacing in Finale & Sibelius

Q: Is it possible to make title text appear more “expanded” (as I might do in a Word doc?) My client has a specific font request, but his letter spacing looks wider than the same font on my computer, which is more “tight”: title-text-w-tracking A: This difference is due to letter-spacing, referred to as “Tracking” in typography. Tracking refers to a consistent degree of increase (or sometimes decrease) of space between letters to affect density in a line or block of text. Tracking has been available in Finale since very early versions, and is also available in Sibelius, starting with version 7.x. Historically, with metal type, one could only adjust the Tracking of letters further apart (positive spacing) by manually inserting additional metal “slugs” between each letter to create additional space. As you can imagine, this was extremely labor intensive. With digital type, changing Tracking is very fast, and can either be a positive or a negative value. Tracking should not be confused with Kerning; a related, but different kind of spacing adjustment most commonly associated with specific pairs of adjacent characters. “Kerning Pairs” are typically built into most modern computer fonts to achieve proper distribution of space between letters who’s spacing isn’t naturally complimentary. Negative tracking can be used to subtly fit a few extra characters (or an additional word) on a line. Positive tracking, as in the example above, can bring a nice expansive design touch to short, isolated blocks of text such as titles and headers. Tracking is expressed in a unit of measurement called an “em”, which is a proportional unit of measurement historically based on the width of the letter M of any given font at the current point size. As you increase or decrease the point size of the text, the “white space”, or “letter-spacing” distance between characters is adjusted accordingly. It’s worth noting that Finale and Sibelius are different in their letter-spacing resolution. Finale uses increments of 1/1000 of an em for Tracking adjustments (This is similar to Adobe products). Sibelius doesn’t specify, but its resolution appears to be much lower; perhaps somewhere around 1/200 of an em. Thus, in Sibelius a tracking setting of 10 opens text noticeably, while in Finale a tracking setting of 10 is barely noticeable.


FINALE


In Finale, you can adjust the Tracking for either Page Text, or a Text Expression. To adjust Page Text, such as a Title, double click the text, then choose Character Settings… from the Text Menu. Look for the Tracking field in the dialog. fin-character-settings For on page text, you can also select Tracking directly from the menu: fin-tracking-menu You can also adjust the Tracking for a specific Text Expression by clicking the Edit button of a particular Expression, then, in the Expression Designer dialog, uncheck the “Use Category Fonts”, and select the Character Settings button. fin-exp-design-character-set


SIBELIUS 7.x


In Sibelius 7.x or later, you can adjust the Tracking for a Text Style globally, or make an individual tracking adjustment to a specific piece of text using the Inspector. To adjust the Tracking for a Text Style, select Edit Text Styles from the Styles Group of the Text Tab, then enter a value for Tracking under Advanced Formats: sib-text-tracking To adjust the Tracking on a case-by-case basis, select the text on the score, then open the Inspector to adjust the Text tracking for a single occurrence of Staff or System text: sib-tracking-inspector

Tracking control is not available in earlier versions of Sibelius.

That’s all there is to it.

~robert

for my friend and colleague Penka Kouneva.

8 Replies to “Adjusting Tracking, aka Letter-Spacing in Finale & Sibelius”

  1. Hello,
    On my Windows 7 and Sibelius 7.5 Tracking option doesn’t have any effect. I’m changing its value but no effect taken. Why?


    1. Hi Alex – For existing text already on the score page, try selecting the text and applying “Reset Design” after applying the tracking to see if that doesn’t update it.

      ~robert

      1. Hello Robert,
        Thank you for reply. It seems nothing changed. The point is even preview sample “A quick brown fox” in the “Boxed text” window doesn’t change, when I’m changing value for Tracking option (for other options I see changes. Only for Tracking nothing changes). Here is screenshot:
        https://i.imgur.com/q2uoOcm.png
        That’s strange…


        1. Ah – thanks for clarifying, Alex – the fact that it is not updating may be Windows specific, then. The “Quick Brown Fox” preview text on the Mac in the Edit Text Styles window updates immediately to reflect current values for Tracking, Angle etc.

          It also updates on the page immediately if you open the Inspector, select some text and then adjust the Tracking from the Inspector.

          if you are still having issues with this, you may want to take it to the Avid Tech Support Chat to see if any Windows users there can help. Good luck!

          ~robert

          1. OK, thank you.
            I was looking at your other articles, and some of them look like answers on questions. I thought where it is possible to ask question. I wanted to ask about green playback line, which appears everytime I create new project. It’s a bit irritating, because I don’t want to see it by default, and everytime I have to remove tick to make it disappear.

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