Finale Text Sized, Placed & Styled – Document Options & the Category Designer

There are two main requirements for managing Text in any notation program. First, we want to be able to define in advance how the musical and text elements will look, so that our score is following the same appearance rules throughout. This is part of what music publishers refer to as a “House Style”.  Secondly, we need to be able to “break the rules” easily for special cases (for instance, if the title is to be in an ornate font where text is otherwise a more standard serif or san-serif font.)

For existing scores, knowing how to set up defaults for Text in Finale will also help us quickly locate  font, size and attribute information about a particular string of text, and quickly make changes, if needed.


Initially, there are two main locations where we define Text in Finale. The first of these is found in Document Options > Fonts, and is the place where we determine the exact “look” of the music notation itself, as well as the default font, size and font attributes for some other Finale text.

The second “default setup” area for text is Finale’s Category Designer, where we choose the font, size, style and location of all instructional text for the piece associated with staves or systems. These categories include Dynamics, Expressions, Techniques, Tempo and Rehearsal Marks etc. Let’s take a look …


Finale’s Document Options has a Fonts pane which allows you to set Default text fonts, sizes and attributes for one or more different text elements. There are a number of text elements we can define here, divided into sensible categories.

The Notation popup allows you to set any House Style variations you might wish to include for everything from the notehead font to the font used for multimeasure rest numbers:

(try the popup above to see the various notation element choices in Finale).

Finale’s choices for the notation elements above (or your changes here) map out the specifics of each common notation symbol, which defines the look of your score. Note that it is common practice to use the same music font (or variations of the same font) for *all* of the music symbols in the score.

To facilitate this, Finale provides a quick and intuitive way to globally and quickly change the music from, say, a Classical to Jazz notation style in the main menu. Choose “Set Default Music Font” from the main Document Menu to change the fonts for *all* of the music notation elements in the current score to a new font family in one shot:

At this point, having changed the “Master” font family for the notation to a Jazz looking House Style, back in the Fonts panel of Finale’s Document Options, you could *then* customize the font and attributes of any *one* of the individual notation elements to give your piece a more custom look within that House Style.

Moving back into the fonts panel of Finale’s Document Options, we find…

The Lyrics popup allows you to set the font for lyrics text beforehand. Here, you can specify the  font, style and / or attributes between verse and chorus differently if you want :

The Text popup controls the default settings for Staff and Group Names, Measure Numbers, Text and Ending Repeat text, etc.

Text which is typed directly on the page (as opposed to being attached in some way to a staff or system) are called “Text Blocks” in Finale.

For these Text Blocks, you can change the font, size and attributes of this text on the page from the main menu before (or after) entry, just like you would in any Word Processor.

The Text menu will appear automatically in the main menu whenever it is available.

Text Blocks can also be copied from one document to another, retaining font, attributes and page location.  (see item #5 in this tutorial).

Finally, the Chord popup has separate controls for Symbol, Suffix, Alteration and Fretboard.

Note the asterisk* after certain text elements in the above popup menus. These appear in the actual Finale popups. For items which have an asterisk, existing text already entered in the score will *not* immediately be changed. The settings only affect *new* text created after the changee.g. these updates become the Defaults for future entries*.


The second “Defaults” area for Text is is an extremely powerful Finale feature called the Category Designer. The Category Designer allows you to specify the look and exact default placement of instructional text for your score such as Dynamics, Tempo Marks, Tempo Alterations, Expressive Text, Technique Text and Rehearsal Marks. Each category allows you to set separate Text Font, Music Font and Number Font settings.

Consider a typical Tempo marking, often a combination of words and symbols. For instance, you might want Tempo words to be Times New Roman 14pt Bold, but the Music Symbols such as “quarter note equals” to be Engraver Text 12pt, and the actual metronome marking might be the same as the music symbols font, or optionally something else. Finale allows you control over all three of these elements separately:

In addition, the “score” text categories Tempo Marks, Tempo Alterations and Rehearsal Marks allow you to define in which staves of score these markings will display. (see Score Lists).

You are not limited to the six hard wired Categories available in the Default File. You can create your own, and define them any way you’d like. Choral dynamics above the staff? Boxed Percussion or Instrument Double Names? Create a new Category, and define the font, size and location for these text objects in Category Designer.


There are a number of location controls for both horizontal and vertical alignment of text in Finale’s Category Designer, allowing for the greatest possible detail in placement.


For Horizontal positioning, there are three main controls. First, a master justification choice of Left, Right or Center. Next, a popup for Horizontal Alignment which features no less than 14 possible choices:

Rounding out these controls, there is an Additional Horizontal Offset numeric entry field, providing all the precision you could ever ask for:

Note: When creating individual Expressions, they will default to the master settings, but any or all aspects of their look or positioning can be overridden within an individual Expression.


Finale offers an array of Vertical Positioning options as well:

All of the choices have at least one additional vertical placement offset option, to allow text to clear either note entries or the staves themselves. The last two choices in the list, “Above Staff Baseline or Entry” and “Below Staff Baseline or Entry” allow both an additional baseline offset and an additional entry offset:


See this previous tutorial covering “Staff Baselines“. “Staff Reference Line” refers to the top staff line. So, for instance, to define an expression or (optionally) an expression category which will always appear at a fixed distance of 1.5 spaces above the staff, you could use Staff Reference Line for vertical positioning, with an offset of 1.5 spaces.


To update Expressions to your new House Style, add new Expressions to the available set, or to see the current font, size, attributes and / or positioning for any existing Expression, select the Expression Tool, then double click in a bar.

When you type SHIFT and any letter or number key to define a macro key shortcut, the Expressions Dialog will also open.

When the Expression Selection dialog opens, if the particular Expression or category of Expressions doesn’t look updated to you,  Choose Reset Fonts or Reset Fonts and Positioning from the “Reset to Category” popup at the bottom of the dialog.

Should you need to create a text object of unique size, font, attributes and / or positioning, duplicate an existing expression or create a new one, then click the Edit… button and uncheck “Use … Category Fonts” and optionally “Use … Category Positioning”. This then becomes a completely independent expression which doesn’t follow the House Style Rules for look and location.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it.


9 Replies to “Finale Text Sized, Placed & Styled – Document Options & the Category Designer”

  1. Ahh, someone at last tackles the daunting category designer! Next will be the utterly demonic shape designer! Great Job, as usual, Robert.

  2. Hi Robert,

    re: “The settings only affect *new* text created after the change, e.g. these updates become the Defaults for future entries”.

    I don’t see the logic of this (at least for now). What if I want to edit every text entry in option given in Document>Fonts?

    1. Arthur –

      As mentioned above, all of the items in the Notation popup (with the exception of Tablature*) can be changed “on the fly”, and changes made to the Set Default Music Font (e.g. the “global” setting for the items in the Notation popup) are also applied in real time.

      All staff and system text can also be changed globally per category using the Category Designer.

      That said, changes to some of the elements like Staff and Group Names and Measure Numbers *are* typically associated with the House Style, so I understand your concerns. However, these can be addressed in a global way, after the fact. See this post for more information.


  3. I love and greatly benefit from this blog. I wonder if you would consider separate feeds for Finale tips and Sibelius tips? I assume a large majority of your readers would like to see only one of these (a small minority being readers who have to use both, such as teachers whose labs have both).

    1. Thank you for subscribing, and for your comments, JW. I really appreciate it.

      When I started the blog, I did several posts which compared how to do the same task in both Finale and Sibelius. I realize that I haven’t done any of those types of articles lately, and I will try to do more of those, since they include everyone using both programs.

      Like any newsfeed, you can choose to read only the topics that interest you. For instance, I might subscribe to a general food blog which frequently features great vegetarian recipes. When the feed updates, if the current recipe title isn’t of interest to me personally, I’ll just check it again next time the feed updates.

      If you want to see at a glance what the most recent Finale or Sibelius posts are, you can bookmark the direct link to that category:


      The most recent posts in both categories are listed first, so if you’ve missed anything, it will be at the top of the posts.


  4. What’s the deal w/ the set Miscellaneous category in the list of Category Designer? There is no way I can find to change the text styles.

    What is its purpose?

    1. It’s a great question since there is no set of controls in Category Designer for the Misc. Category. I think the idea here is that it is a repository for setting individual expressions or shape expressions which each have their own unique font, positioning etc. Each of these are completely independent of any of the global Category settings.

      If you have a number of occurrences of a particular type of text that you want to set differently the approach is to make a copy of say, technique or expression text categories, assign new font, size and position and then use these as an alternate for the particular type of text. Useful for things like vocal dynamics over the staff, or boxed instrument name text etc etc.

      One thing I use Misc for is hidden text – if you have some text that you do not want to show you will see that as long as the expression is not assigned to one of the regular categories, you have access to control its visibility. This is the same as if you unlink it from the category, but the advantage is that it won’t inherit different settings and become something different in terms of font, style, placement or visibility as it might if you had it in one of the categories and set the text to update to a new category designer setting for instance.

      Before Finale 25 and now 26, I used to use misc for text where I had created special positioning such as for ½ which before Unicode support had to be created manually and would get blown away when you updated expressions to match the house style. Now, of course this is no longer necessary.

      Hope that is helpful.

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