Finale’s Text Tool : On-Page Alignment

SibeliusBlog author Philip Rothman recently wrote a helpful article on formatting title pages in Finale. While reading the article, I was reminded that while formatting music notation is very advanced in Finale, formatting text on a blank page isn’t as immediately intuitive as working in your favorite word processor.  (As notation programs go, Finale is not unique in this regard.)

In years past, on many projects done in both Finale & Sibelius, I admit to having taken the path of least resistance; simply cutting quickly to the chase to create dedication pages, composer notes pages and instrumentation pages in a more friendly word processor environment, saving them as PDF files and then prepending them to the music once it is finished.

The disadvantage, of course, is that you have multiple files floating around for something that really should be one project file. And, as it turns out, while Finale doesn’t provide the same familiar work space as your favorite word processor, or the level of detail of a desktop publishing software package, it is perfectly capable of getting the job done. Let’s take a look.

One of the most obvious questions is how to quickly balance text on a blank page, both horizontally and vertically in Finale. An instrumentation page offers a good example to see how we can use Finale’s tools to do this.

One characteristic of many published scores is that the instrumentation page is usually presented as a left aligned column of text in the center of the page. Additionally, the header above the instrument list (“Instrumentation”) is centered, while the instrument list below it is left aligned but centered between the margins.

Finale’s Text Tool offers  two different categories of alignment settings to facilitate this effect.

The first is justification of the text itself, available in the Justification submenu of the Text Menu. Settings are Left, Center, Right, Full and Forced Full.

Another formatting option related loosely to justification is Tracking. Tracking is how far apart the letters themselves are horizontally separated from one another. Finale has a manual Tracking setting in the Text menu.

There is a nice option in the Justification submenu that works with Forced Full justification very nicely called Expand Single Word. When checked, both individual letters and spaces expand evenly to fill the space of the container, as if Tracking was being increased. When unchecked, only the spaces between the words themselves expand, as shown above.

The second is the alignment and placement of the *container* which holds the text. Finale calls this container a “Frame“, and the settings for it “Frame Attributes“.

With a Text Tool’s frame selected (you should see a little selection box which highlights purple), choose from Alignment options in the Text menu. (These settings corresponds to the Alignment and Positioning settings in the Frame Attributes dialog).

Note that these settings align the text container, or *Text Frame* horizontally and / or vertically in different ways on the page, independently of the actual text content of that frame. You can choose to have the text blocks either align to the page margin or to the page edge.

Note that if you Right Click on a Text Tool selection box, you can edit either the Frame Attributes or the Text content directly via the Contextual Menu.

And this brings us back to our Instrumentation page, because with this combination of tools, it is possible to have a “Frame” (or “Text Block”) in Finale which has a horizontal Center Alignment on the page, while the text inside that frame is horizontally Justified Left.

As mentioned above, we want the header “Instrumentation” to be center justified, while at the same time, we want the list of instruments below the header to be left justified, but be aware…

Text justification within a single Text Frame is global. Think of your entire instrument list as if it were all one sentence spanning one single line of text in your  favorite Word Processor. You can’t have different individual words on one line justified differently from one another.  Each line shares a common justification in your Word Processor. Finale Text Tool frames (“Text Blocks”) work like that.

What this means is that you can’t have text which is center justified in the same frame as text which is left justified. So, in order to have a header which says “Instrumentation” centered, and a list of instruments which is left aligned, we simply need to create these in two separate frames:

…you can create any number of Text Frames on a page in Finale.

For Vertical (as well as Horizontal) Alignment, Finale not only offers exact numeric placement from within the Frame Attributes Dialog, but offers a couple of useful tools to help visualize placement.

The first of these is View>Show>Margins. With music on the page, this outlines each system margin as well as the page margins, but another useful application is for setting text on blank pages, since it displays the location of the page margins and also places a horizontal and vertical line which join at the page center, providing a nice visual reference of page center:

Grids are another useful tool for visual alignment of on-page text in Finale. Go to View > Grid/Guide>Grid/Guide Options… or go to Document>Document Options… and select  Grids & Guides.

For this article, we won’t discuss Guides (which can also be useful).

Turn on the Grid by checking “Show Grid”.  Next, note “Grid Line Every X Units”. There are 12 “units” per inch in Finale, so the default setting of 3 units equals .25 inches – a good starting point.

You can choose whether you want the Grid lines to be solid lines (as shown), or dashes, dots or crosshairs.  I tend to favor very light gray lines on the page, varying the units for different applications sometimes, but all of these grid settings are totally a matter of personal taste. Whatever helps you balance the  text placement.

If you just want visual alignment but complete manual control of placement, leave Snap to Grid unchecked. However, note that Snap to Grid can be very helpful if you need to match the size of two text frames by dragging for instance. The Items to Snap to Grid sub dialog allows you to choose which items will “snap” – for aligning text on a blank page, Text Block Drag and Text Block Sizing are what you need to check.

(A text block can be almost any piece of text: a note to the conductor, a page of dialogue, performance instructions, or an extra verse of lyrics, for example. You can place block text, in any font and size, anywhere in the score.)

Hopefully, this article helps to make formatting text on blank pages in Finale easy and straightforward. Thanks for reading.


4 Replies to “Finale’s Text Tool : On-Page Alignment”

  1. Nice article, though I still personally think that title pages and other front matter are better handled within DTP applications like Adobe InDesign (note, I agree that Finale is just as adequate as a word processor, but word processors and Finale both produce a suboptimal result without major tweaks). This is because Finale (and MSWORD if I recall correctly), doesn’t take advantage of features that are built into OpenType fonts (things like standard and discretionary ligatures, ordinal number placement, etc.), nor does it have some of the more-advanced algorithms for paragraph justification. Both these things (as well as other subtle feature-omissions in Finale) leave a slightly less professional-looking result, at least to my eye.

    1. Thanks, Alex – good observations. I agree that it would be great to see Finale improve their on-page text tool to have more features of a pro desktop publishing program like Adobe InDesign for on page text handling.

      As you point out, dedicated DTP software offers a level of text formatting detail not available within Finale. If you are someone familiar with desktop publishing software and have access, creating the title pages in that environment and stitching the title pages and music together at the end of the process is a perfectly good workflow.

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