8/16/16 • The latest version of Finale was announced today by MakeMusic, and it’s evident that MakeMusic has put a good deal of thought and effort into this release.
Finale is finally a true 64-bit application. On my venerable 2009 MacPro running OS X 10.11.6, after installation, I opened a few scores to poke around in. The first thing I noticed was a substantial speed increase with certain operations. For instance, on a large score, Human Playback, which was glacial in 2014.5, loads almost instantaneously. Editing within a larger file seems much more responsive.
On Mac, the system requirements are OS X 10.10 or later (Yosemite, El Capitan…). Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better. You’ll need 700MB of free hard drive space to install the software, and at least 2 gig of RAM.
Graphics on both Mac and PC are now rendered using CoreGraphics. Color and image handling is crisp and clean on my setup, even using a standard monitor.
Finale on Mac no longer requires Apple Java 6, although you will still need an earlier version of Java installed if you plan to run older versions of the Finale software concurrently.
On the PC, the system requirements are Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit compatible). You’ll need 600MB of free hard drive space to install the software, and at least 2 gig of RAM.
Signs Point to Yes: Shipping plugins are now all 64 bit as well, and word on the street is that Robert Patterson (Patterson Plugin Collection), Tobias Giesen (TGTools) and Jari Williamsson (JW Plugins) are all working on updating their plugins to 64 bit. Robert Patterson’s website states that the Patterson plugin “Codebase is updated and positioned for the future.” More information about this will be forthcoming.
Classic Eighth Beams, Count Items, and the Band-in-a-Box plugins have been removed in this version.
It’s worth noting that many of the shipping plugins are still not accessible in Finale 25 when working in Parts, forcing round-trip to the score for many types of edits.
Sound Sets: Finale 25 comes with an updated Garritan Sound Set, which includes the Concert D Grand Piano from Garritan Personal Orchestra 5, full choir, esoteric additions such as recorders, dulcimer and didgeridoo, as well as a number of other useful samples from the Garritan World Instruments and Instant Orchestra libraries. The Aria Player has also been updated.
At least 4GB of available RAM is recommended for use of any additional Garritan and Tapspace (AU) sounds: the more RAM you have installed, the more sounds can be loaded and available.
MakeMusic has stopped version dating the application by year; moving forward it will be simply called “Finale”. If you look in the “About Finale” dialog it says version 25. Also, the retail box identifies it as version 25. Version 25 is appropriate, since this is the 25th major release of Finale since 1.0 was introduced.
This naming change is also reflected in the application menu. For someone like me, who relies heavily on Macros for automation, this small touch is a welcome addition, since it means that next year, I won’t have to reprogram my Keyboard Maestro shortcuts yet again to access items in the Finale menu:
Dashed Curves and Dashed Slurs are a feature I have wanted to see for some time in Finale, and these have been added to the Smart Shapes palette in Finale 25. Dashed Slurs follow the symmetry, thickness and slur tip settings of regular slurs, while Dashed Curves are curved lines sharing the same thickness as the default straight line Smart Shapes.
However, it’s puzzling to me that separate controls for Dash Length and Dash Space of these new curved shapes were not provided for this new Smart Shapes offering. Currently, all lines in the Smart Shape palette, whether straight or curved, must share the same Dash Length and Dash Space characteristics.
However, while it isn’t yet possible to have both a Dotted Curve and a Dashed Slur Smart Shape in the same score, it *is* possible to create Custom dashed straight lines (e.g. brackets) with different Dash Lengths than the curved Smart Shapes if you need to conform to a particular House Style.
“Save Preferences When Quitting Finale”, which has been automatically handled on Windows for some time, is now done in the background on both platforms.
The checkbox for “Use Finale’s Page Orientation Instead of the Printer’s Page Orientation” has also been removed, as this is now handled in the OS Print Dialog.
The “Save and Print” Preference Pane has been renamed “Save”:
Reset All Preferences is a new addition to the Preferences dialog. This button allows you to restore all of Finale’s Default Preferences without having to “trash your preferences” in the event something goes wrong. On the Mac OS X, at least, Application Preferences files are not visible by default or easily accessible, so this feature makes sense.
However, as this obviously has the potential to blow away quite a number of custom settings, a warning dialog gives you the option to reconsider:
It’s worth noting that if you forget to save your currently open score, you won’t lose any work as a result of invoking a reset; Finale will prompt you to save any work before shutting down.
Because I have so many settings different than the defaults, I still plan to make an archival copy of my Finale preferences file as soon as I have everything set the way I like, just as I have always done, but this feature could be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for less experienced users to quickly get back up and running again.
Print Parity: Another interface change I really like on the Mac side is the removal of the intermediary dialog when printing parts. All of this functionality has all been moved to the Print dialog in FInale 25:
Print Parts has been part of the Windows print dialog for some time; there were no changes to the print dialog on the Windows side.
On Mac, I note a couple of minor issues related to printing. If your score is in concert pitch, or is a different size than the parts, the “Display in Concert Pitch” and “Page Size” warnings are always displayed. For both, you can check “Don’t show this message again”. Secondly, when saving to PDF from the Mac print dialog, Finale 25 doesn’t currently retain the score file name – you have to manually name your PDF files for now. Hopefully these minor issues will be addressed quickly in a point release.
It’s About Time: Previous versions of Finale didn’t make it very easy to show large Time Signatures in the score, while showing small Time Signatures in the parts. The reason was that Large Time Signatures should only show on a few of the staves of a score, while they need to be shown on every part staff.
However, previous versions of Finale only had one “Time Signature” visibility checkbox item in Staff Attributes which applied to both Score and Parts. In Finale 25, there are separate Time Signature visibility checkboxes for Score and Parts:
This same control is also available in the Global Staff Attributes, and Staff Styles dialog boxes to help you to set up your scores quickly with Large Time Signatures. A simple and elegant solution.
I Hear That! I previous versions of Finale, transposing instruments like Clarinet or French Horn sounded correctly at concert pitch on playback of the score, but would sound at their transposed written pitches during entry.
As someone who has engraved quite a number of scores from existing transposed parts, I personally find auditory proofreading more cohesive if the auditory feedback during entry is in the same tonality as the rest of the piece.
So I was very glad to hear that Finale now correctly plays back sounding pitch on input by default. However, if you are one of the handful of Finale users who finds this new lack of bitonality upsetting, you can turn the old behavior back on from the Device Setup menu:
Rewire sync support has been added to Finale 25. I was up and running with Finale slaved to Digital Performer 9 in just a couple of minutes. MakeMusic did a nice job with this; you don’t need to install any additional software (at least on the Mac) and the whole process was just a couple of steps:
First, you open your DAW (in my case, DP) and create a new stereo audio track with its inputs assigned from Finale:
(Make sure you are monitoring the audio output on that stereo track):
Next, open your Finale score. On my setup, the score doesn’t initially draw until you start the transport in the DAW. Open the playback controls in Finale to confirm that the score is slaved via ReWire:
That’s all there is to it. MakeMusic has removed the movie window in FInale 25, since sync to picture is obviously now going to be handled elegantly in Cubase, Logic, DP etc.
Good Housekeeping: Do you ever use this dialog in Finale 2014.5 or earlier?
Neither do I. And if you do, you shouldn’t. I’m happy to report that as of Finale 25, you can’t. Formerly known as the Time Dilation Tool, the Tempo Tool would create tempo changes in your score without leaving any visible mark in the score at all, and was frequently at odds with the Playback assignments of visible Tempo Expressions in the score. The Tempo tool had become, in a word, insidious.
So, I was very glad to see that the Tempo Tool, along with the Mirror Tool (you old timers originally called it the Hocketing Tool) went Bye, Bye… (You’ll be ask to convert Mirrored notes to regular notation).
Frankly, I applaud the strategy of removing chaff features for which there is a better, more modern equivalent in Finale.
If you are still hell-bent on inserting mysterious and invisible Tempo instructions into Finale, you can still get to the arcane “Fit to Time” tempo control from the MIDI menu. MakeMusic really needs come up with a way to expose hidden MIDI data like this to the user; MIDI Tempo data in particular is potentially still in conflict with visible Text Expression data in the score.
As a side note, it would be nice to see “Fit to Time” updated to create visible Tempo Marks rather than inserting arbitrary hidden tempo changes into the score that conflict with existing Tempo Text.
A healthy number of fixes have been incorporated into both the Mac and PC versions of Finale 25. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say, more stuff works in this version. For instance, I love the fact that I can append multiple movements of a long score now without having to manually assign bar numbers for the later movements.
There is a long list of improvements to MusicXML. A MusicXML Preferences dialog has been added to the File>Export menu. This allows you to set defaults for MusicXML export version for backwards compatibility, whether to export compressed or uncompressed file format, and to silence error messages (they can be written to a log file instead).
Among other improvements are support for the default Percussion Noteheads font, and extended characters in the Jazz font which weren’t previously recognized. Exact duplicates of articulations and slurs are now filtered. More chord suffixes can now be exported. MusicXML exports laissez-vibrer tie shape expressions and tied notes followed by rests correctly. You get the idea.
MakeMusic decided to remove PDF import functionality from Finale 25 to protect the rights of composers and copyright holders, and focus on internal improvements to the program.
As a long-time Finale user, Finale 25 reminds me of a Sleeper (Q-car) drag racer; it’s got the same unassuming exterior, but make no mistake, under the hood, true 64-bit architecture makes this a high performance upgrade. New features like Transpose on Input, Dashed Slurs and ReWire support are welcome additions. It’s also great to see improved UI parity between the Mac and PC versions.
That said, with significant competition in the notation space just over the horizon, MakeMusic needs to continue to raise the bar: For instance, from a UI standpoint, The Note Mover, MIDI Tools and Shape Designer are really showing their age.
And a few long-standing functional deficiencies remain as well: Octave transposing instruments still play back incorrectly in concert pitch scores. Object visibility still can’t easily be controlled separately between score and parts (show/hide in score/part for cue notes, text etc.) Useful plugins are still not available from within Parts, requiring the extra labor of repeated round trips to the score. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a number of fixes and UI improvements in upcoming point releases moving forward.
The retail price for Finale 25 is $600, with the academic price discounted to $350. If you own any previous version of Finale, or would like to take advantage of MakeMusic’s competitive upgrade, the price remains at $149; very reasonable. It’s worth noting that MakeMusic did not move to a subscription model with Finale 25, which many users will appreciate. If you don’t use any notation program, or are currently working in a competing notation program, and would like to try out Finale 25, you can download a free demo. You have 30 days to review all of the features of Finale once you install it.