Creating Fractions & Other Symbols in Finale & Sibelius using Unicode

noun /ˈyo͞oniˌkōd/

An international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs.

More recent versions of Finale and Sibelius both feature Unicode font support. Among other things, this means a number of new symbols useful for music notation are now readily available in addition to the 256 “regular” characters we’ve always had access to. This cross – application Unicode support represents an important step for digital music preparation, as we not only have access to the comprehensive set of accented and diacritical characters used in Latin based languages, but we can now enter the text and symbols for titles, credits, lyrics and directives in non-Latin based languages such as Russian and Chinese.

One useful type of symbol sometimes used in music scores not built in to the Sibelius Word Menus or the Finale Expressions Selection Dialog in Finale are fractions.  Without Unicode, fractions need to be displayed as two numbers with a slash between them, e.g. “1/2”. Directives such as “½ section trem.” or “Slow ¼ tone bends” or “trill ½” appear frequently in modern scores, for instance, so it is great to finally be able to display these properly and easily in both Finale and Sibelius.

On the PC, you should be able to type the most common fractions directly into either Sibelius 7 or later or Finale 2012 or later using ALT codes. Hold down the ALT key, type 0188 on the numeric keypad, and then release the ALT key to insert the symbol ¼. To insert the symbol ½, use the character code 0189. To insert the symbol ¾, use 0190.

Unfortunately, there are no designated keystrokes for fractions on a Mac, and if you are like me, you may have trouble remembering obscure ALT codes, anyway.

The good news is that with Unicode support, you now can simply copy and paste these characters into your music, and recall them again quickly at any time. It just takes a couple of minutes to set up, and from then on, they’ll always be there when you need them.

To get started, double-click one of the fractions below to highlight it (or click and drag-select), then copy it to your clipboard:



In Finale 2012 or later,  select and open the Expression Tool in your score by double clicking.  (To make these fractions available in any score, start with a “New Document Without Libraries”, which will allow you to export the fractions as a unique library later. ) Select a category e.g. “Techniques” and click the “Create Technique Text” button. When the dialog opens, paste the contents of your clipboard into the Text field. You’ll see your fraction appear.

Note when pasting into System Text expressions such as Tempo: make sure that the font being used is the Category’s Text Font and not its Music Font, which doesn’t contain the fraction characters.

Ok the dialog. That’s all there is to it. The fraction can now be used anywhere in the piece, and once in Finale, it’s easy to duplicate / copy / paste to create new expressions which use the fractions for different directives (e.g. “½ trem., ½ ord.” or “½ section only”.)

If you started with a “New Document Without Libraries”, you can now use File > Save Libraries > Text Expressions to save out a unique expression library (e.g. “text_fractions.lib” that you can open / recall at any time later.

It’s worth mentioning that starting in Finale 2012, you can also select common fractions from Finale’s  Symbols Selection Dialog. Many modern text fonts (such as Times New Roman) are Unicode fonts, so their greatly extended character sets now show up in this dialog. The Symbols Selection Dialog is available in several places in Finale, including the Articulations Dialog, Chord Suffix Editor, Clef Designer, Note Shape Assignment and Stem Connections, and is also accessible from the Insert Menu when you are typing directly onto the page using the Text Tool.

As if that weren’t enough, you can create a Finalescript that will convert garden variety “1/2” and “1/4” into proper fractions in any existing files you have updated to Finale 2012.

Note that you won’t be able to simply copy and paste the Finalescript text from this webpage directly (because the HTML quotation marks won’t convert properly), but you *should* be able to copy the Unicode text of the script directly from the .txt file here, and paste it into a new Finalescript. You can also type the Finalescript below into Finale manually, then use the copy and paste technique above to paste just the fractions into the script, between the quotes. The Finalescript syntax to convert 1/4 and 1/2 is:

  1. process current doc
  2. search “1/2” replace “½
  3. search “1/4” replace “¼
  4. // end script


In Sibelius 7 or later, you can use the shortcut for Technique text and paste the fraction on your clipboard right into your score. Done.

To make these fractions available at any time, in any score, use the Word Menus. Go to File > Preferences > Word Menus > Technique Words and click the New button. “New Word” in the “Text” field will become highlighted. Paste the fraction into the field, and assign it a shortcut if you want. Make sure that “Use Music Font” is not checked for this new Word Menu item, since Sibelius music fonts do not include these fraction characters. That’s all there is to it. Any time you are entering Technique text (or wherever you created the Word Menu item), you can now select that fraction from the contextual menu, or apply it with a shortcut, essentially allowing you to type these fractions in as part of a longer text instruction at any time.

It’s worth mentioning that in Sibelius, the contextual menus for Title, Composer, Lyrics, Expressions, Technique text etc already contain a number of international accented and diacritical text characters to help you type text in a language other than English. Whenever you add international symbols or text characters / strings to any of the Word Menus, your new entries will show up in Sibelius’ contextual menus.

⇒⇒⇒Note that you can also access a large selection of Symbols from Microsoft Office. Go to Insert > Symbol > Symbol Brower… and select from the gallery. Once your symbols is on the page, you can copy it to the clipboard. For instance, you might want to quickly locate and include the symbol for “approximately equal to”  into a Tempo marking. This is a convenient way to get a variety of symbols from your Clipboard into Finale or Sibelius. 

That’s it! Creating and / or copying proper fractions and international symbols into Finale and Sibelius is a whole lot easier than ever before.

Related : A Simple Finalescript™ for Fractions in Finale 2012

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