What are plugins and how do I run them?
In Sibelius, plug-ins are extra features created using a programming language called ManuScript. Sibelius ships with about 150 plug-ins. These plug-ins are documented in the Sibelius Reference. Plug-ins can do many of the same things that built-in Sibelius commands do.
In Sibelius 7 and later, several commands on the Ribbon (Home > Bars > Split and Note Input > Arrange >Reduce, for example) are actually plug-ins.
You can run plug-ins from the Plug-ins menu in Sibelius 6 and earlier, or from plug-in galleries present in most of the tabs in the Sibelius 7+ Ribbon.
You can also assign keyboard shortcuts to commonly used plug-ins.
In addition to the shipping plug-ins, it is possible to write your own plug-ins or download and install plug-ins that other Sibelius users have written. The Sibelius Plug-in Download Page (http://www.sibelius.com/download/plugins/index.html) contains hundreds of plug-ins, written by and donated by Sibelius users, which are available for free.
Any plug-ins on the download page are approved by Avid Sibelius, but as the disclaimer says, Sibelius does not provide support for them, and you use them at your own risk. In my experience, these plug-ins are reliable and useful.
Please note that while it is possible to view plug-in code, this code is not open-source, but is copyrighted by the author unless otherwise specified. You may not copy or modify this code without permission. Please treat the plug-ins the same way you would like you have people treat your published music.
Installing downloadable plug-ins
Plug-ins which are downloadable from the Sibelius plug-in download page need to be installed in order to be run. Prior to Sibelius 7, you would have to go to the plug-in download page, download and unzip the file for the plug-in you wanted, and copy the unzipped file to an appropriate user plug-in folder. Instructions for finding that folder and for installing plug-ins are in the Need Help article How to install plug-ins on the download page at http://www.sibelius.com/download/plugins/index.html?help=install.
You may find it easier to install plug-ins prior to Sibelius 7 by first installing the Install New Plug-in plug-in, and running it to install other plugins after you download and unzip plug-in files.
Once a plug-in is installed, you will need to close and restart Sibelius in order to use the new plug-in.
Sibelius 7 provided a plug-in installer for downloadable plug-ins at File >Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins. If you know the name of the plug-in and its category, you can select it from the list of plug-ins and install it. Plug-ins installed this way can be run immediately, without closing and restarting Sibelius.
The Sibelius Plug-in installer will only work for plug-ins on the download page. If you write your own plug-ins, or get plug-ins from another user, you will need to copy them manually to an appropriate user plug-in subfolder, using the same techniques that were used prior to Sibelius 7.
Plug-in files, folders, categories, and menu names
Plug-ins are text files, with the extension “.plg”. Shipping and user plug-ins are stored in separate folders. You will rarely need to actually access the shipping plug-in folders. If you need to you can find them in the files created when Sibelius itself is installed, with separate sets for each language that Sibelius supports.
Installing and running the downloadable plug-in Get User Folder Names (category Other, Sibelius version 4+) will show you all the user subfolders and the shipping plug-ins folder on your machine. Here are examples this plug-in’s output on a Windows 7 machine and on an OSX machine.
The names produced by this plug-in will be correct for English installations of Sibelius. The “root” of the folders will be properly translated for other languages, but the words “Plugins”, “House Styles”, “Chord Shapes”, “Manuscript Paper”, “Keyboard Shortcuts”, and “Sibelius Example Scores” will always be shown in English, so you will have to mentally translate that part of the folder name in other languages.
Running Get User Folder Names will avoid some of the folder name confusion; it should always get you the correct folder names for your machine, at least in the English version of Sibelius.
Folders for Shipping Plug-ins
On Mac OSX, the shipping plug-ins reside inside the Sibelius Application Package itself. To navigate to them, right-click on the Sibelius application choose “Show Package Contents”. From here you can drill down to “Contents/Resources/en.lproj/Plugins”
On a Windows 7 machine, the shipping plug-ins for Sibelius 7.5 in English are typically at
If you look at that folder in Windows Explorer, you will see a set of subfolders: Accidentals, Analysis, Batch Processing, etc.
On both platforms, plug-in files are never stored in the main “Plugins” subfolder itself, but only in its subfolders. Plug-in files stored in the main Plugins subfolder will not be found by Sibelius.
The name of the subfolder is the name you will see in the plug-in menus as plug-in Category names.
In this example, you will see the menu names of these plugins in the Accidentals plug-in menu in Sibelius. It is best to never edit, add, or delete any of the plug-in files in the shipping file folders; you can accomplish nearly everything you might need to do with a shipping plug-in by making a copy of it in a user plug-in folder, as described below.
As long as the user plug-in folders have identical names as the shipping plug-ins folders, any plug-ins stored in those user folders will show up organized in the “shipping plug-in categories” in Sibelius. You can also create a new user category for plug-ins by simply creating and naming a new subfolder in the user plug-ins folder.
Finding user plug-in folders
To find the main user plug-in folder, you can run the Get User Folder Names plug-in or follow the instructions for installing plug-ins at http://www.sibelius.com/download/plugins/index.html?help=install.
User folders in general will not be created until you create an object that would be stored in the user folder.
If you have never installed a user, the simplest way to ensure that the user plug-in folder has been created in Sibelius 7 or later is to use File >Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins to install a plug-in from the download page. For example, you could go to Show: All plug-ins and open the Accidentals category, and install Respell Uncommon Accidentals into its default location Accidentals. Once you have done this, you can either keep that plug-in or navigate to its folder and delete the file. The folder structure will have been set up.
Prior to Sibelius 7 you could create the folder structure by creating a new empty plug-in in the plug-in editor (Plug-ins > Edit Plug-ins) and then delete that plug-in, but since you will have to be looking at the installation instructions anyway, you can use those instructions to set up the folder structure.
In Windows, the user folder and subfolders may be hidden, and you may need to unhide them. The instructions for installing plug-ins explains how to do that.
On Mac, in the newer versions of OSX, the user library folder which contains Application Support files is hidden by default. To navigate to this folder, choose “Go To Folder” from the Go menu in the Finder and when the search dialog opens up, type “~/Library” into the search field to navigate directly to the hidden User Library. There are also ways to permanently show this folder – a Google search for “Show the user library folder in OSX” will return various options for the different OS versions.
Plug-in menu names and File names
When you install or edit plug-ins, or run them from a plug-in menu, the plug-in is identified by its Menu Name. This is a human-friendly name, such as Simplify Accidentals or Nashville Chord Numbers. When Sibelius starts up, it loads all the plug-in files into memory, and looks into the file to find its menu name, if it has one. The combination of the subfolder for the file and the menu name determines where the plug-in will appear in the plug-in menus. (Plug-ins without a menu name will not appear on any menu).
The plug-in file name is typically just the menu name without spaces, with a “.plg” extension, though this is a convention, not a rule. The file name for Simplify Accidentals is SimplifyAccidentals.plg. Similarly, downloadable user plug-ins are stored as zip files, and the zip file names are typically the same as the plg files with a different extension.
If you install plug-ins manually you need to unzip them to get at the plg file or files inside them. The plug-in installer in Sibelius 7 and later does the unzipping automatically. Zip files, however, may contains multiple plg files and may also include documentation, example scores, or house style libraries. When there are multiple files in the zip file, the plug-in installer does its best to put the various types of files into appropriate locations. (Prior to Sib 7 you are on your own for this!)
Sometimes you have the menu name for a plug-in and need to get the file name. How do you do that?
One way is to make an educated guess. If you know Respell Uncommon Accidentals is in the category Accidentals, and you know that your user plug-in folder is C:\Users\Bob\AppData\Roaming\Avid\Sibelius 7.5\Plugins\, a reasonable guess for the file name would be
C:\Users\Bob\AppData\Roaming\Avid\Sibelius 7.5\Plugins\Accidentals\ RespellUncommonAccidentals.plg
You can use a similar technique to find the file names of shipping plug-in file names as well, starting from a known path for your shipping plug-ins, such as C:\ProgramData\Avid\Sibelius 7.5\Resources\en.lproj\Plugins\.
You can also find the zip file names of download page plug-ins by going to the download page (http://www.sibelius.com/download/plugins/index.html) and looking through the categories to find the menu name in the list of plug-ins in each category. The description for your plug-in will include the zip file name.
The Plugin Info plug-in
I wrote the free downloadable Plugin Info plug-in (category Developers’ Tools, Sibelius version 6+) to make it easier to go from a plug-in menu name to a file name. The plug-in gives you a list, alphabetized by menu name, of all the user or shipping plugins that are installed on your machine. When you select a plug-in in the list, its properties, including the file name with full path, appear next to the list.
This is probably the simplest way to find a plug-in file name given the menu name.
In a later post, I will discuss editing or replacing a shipping plug-in, using the plug-in editor, and issues with translations of plug-ins.
Bob Zawalich is a composer, guitarist, and software designer who lives near Seattle, Washington. He has studied both computer science and music, and has written software at Microsoft. Bob is the author of several hundred plugins for Sibelius notation software.