Controlling Grouped Magnetic Layout in Sibelius

Q: I’m trying to move bar numbers on a score in Sib 7 (mac) independently. I’ve got them centered on every measure below the last staff (bass)and below the winds so they show up sort of in the middle of the score as well.

I’ve assigned them a distance that works for the most part, but there are a few that need to be wiggled to avoid collisions. When I move them on one staff, they of course move on the other thus causing a collision on that staff. Is there a way to assign a row differently on a score so they can be controlled independently?

A: In addition to being able keep individual objects from colliding with each other, the Magnetic Layout of Sibelius has the ability to group, or “lock” similar types of objects together, so that they avoid collisions as a group.

Generally, when preparing music, it is desirable to keep similar types of text, such as Tempo Marks, Rehearsal Marks or Bar Numbers in the same vertical and horizontal location relative to the staff for every occurrence wherever possible. In addition, lines such as piano pedal lines are typically grouped along a common baseline, as are dynamics or chord symbols, if the music is inside the staff without ledger lines. Placing these objects at a consistent location relative to the staff or note allows the musicians and the conductor to focus on reading the music without distraction.

The Magnetic Layout Feature of Sibelius automatically groups a number of similar Text and  Line objects together:


Sometimes, when showing Bar Numbers centered under every bar in a score, Sibelius will prioritize the uniformity of the grouped object over the placement of individual objects. This is desirable behavior in a variety of cases, but sometimes, you run into a situation where, for instance, dynamics appear too far from the staff they are associated with:


Ideally, the dynamic at bar 57 should appear above, rather than below the bar number. Sibelius has provided a solution, by allowing the user to turn off the Magnetic Layout for a single object.

In Sibelius 7.x, select the bar number appearing above the text so that it is highlighted, then choose Object > Off from the Magnetic Layout Group of the Layout tab. In Sibelius 6, turn Magnetic Layout for an individual object off in the General Pane of Properties.


Depending on the distance your bar numbers are from the staff, (in my example, they are 6.5 spaces below), your expression text should regain its rightful place under the notes:


Of note here is that there was no attempt to MOVE the individual bar number, I just turned off Magnetic Layout for this one object, which creates a one-shot “opt-out” for two individual expressions to find their proper attachment point.

You can turn Magnetic Layout back ON in the same way.

Magnetic Layout works in Parts as well, and individual cases can be tweaked in the same way. For instance, in treble clef parts where you have bar numbers showing at the left edge UNDER the staff, and are also showing multi measure ranges. You set the multi measure rest numbers to appear one space below the staff, but when the parts are laid out, the bar numbers at the left edge are avoiding a collision with the clef tail, and, because the bar numbers are grouped, the multi measure rest range text appears lower than normal:


Simply select the bar number at the left edge, and turn off its Magnetic Layout (which will freeze it in its current position) and the multi rest range text will pop back to its correct, closer to the staff position.

This technique works for all sorts of objects in Sibelius. For instance, suppose you have dynamics generally appearing along the same baseline 2.5 spaces below the staff. However, in one place, you have a very low note (or several notes) with ledger lines, and any attached dynamics are using Magnetic Layout to avoid collisions. So far so good, except that any surrounding dynamics on that system are all now much too far below the staff.

No problem. Select the dynamic (or small group of dynamics, if the ledger lines comprise a short passage). Turn off (freeze) Magnetic Layout for the individual dynamic or smallest grouping you can get away with, and the surrounding dynamics will all pop into their proper places.

That’s all there is to it!

~ robert

3 Replies to “Controlling Grouped Magnetic Layout in Sibelius”

  1. Robert, this is very helpful! Question… in parts, I like my bar numbers on every bar, beneath the barline, and almost touching the bottom of the staff. To get the bar numbers to sit right, I select “after clef” in the horizontal positions menu. This works just fine except in treble parts in the key of C. Because there is no key signature, the first bar number on each system is too close to the clef which causes all of the bar numbers to be moved DOWN to avoid the collision. I don’t want this. I want ONLY the first bar number to be moved to the right just enough so that it can stay touching the bottom of the staff. Like I said, in any key EXCEPT C, it’s no problem. I’ve tried adjusting the “avoid collisions by moving x spaces” in the magnetic layout options, but this moves ALL of the grouped bar numbers to the left instead of just the first one. Obviously, I can select each problematic bar number and move them by hand, but this is tedious and takes too much time. Is there any solution for this?

    Additionally, in an effort to keep the bar numbers uniform, if a bar number has to be moved down to avoid a collision with a note or tie/ slur, I simply hide that specific bar number so that the others can stay uniform. Again, this is tedious. Is there a faster way to specify that I want clashing bar numbers to be hidden without doing it by hand for each problematic bar number? In a full orchestra score with 100+ bar numbers in 20+ parts, this can take an enormous amount of time. Surely there is a way to automate it? Thanks!

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