Staying Organized with Finale’s Category Designer

Q: I have a Finale template file that I use often for orchestral music, and I have created several new expression categories with the Category Designer tool. However, I created these categories as they were needed, and they are now arranged in the Expression list without order. I would like to rearrange the order of the categories, but I cannot seem to find a way to do so. Do you know of any way that I can rearrange the order of these categories? Or am I coming up against a shortcoming of this software?

A: More recent versions of Finale have the ability to manually reorganize (sort) Text, Shapes, Lines and Articulations via the “Move Down” and “Move Up” buttons in the Expression Selection, Articulation Selection, Shape Selection and Line Selection dialogs. These sorting buttons also appear in the Document Setup Wizard, Reorder Staves, and in Manage Parts, to allow the user to change a particular instrument’s position in the score.

Unfortunately, Finale’s Document  > Category Designer has no such sorting feature. For those that only use the Default Categories, this doesn’t represent a problem, but for those of us who make use of the ability to create custom categories, the ability to sort them would be useful.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reorganize these expression categories. Let’s take a look…

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Create true equidistant measure widths in a Sibelius score

Q: I am currently engraving an orchestral score by a living composer in Sibelius 7.1.3 and he is asking me for evenly spaced measures in the score (regardless of note content). The score itself is very complex and I would like to know if there is any other way other that filling a bar’s second voice with 64ths and then hiding all of them. This would solve the problem in the score but then I would have to repeat the process for every single separate sheet.

A: The quick and easy solution is to use Sibelius’s Auto Layout feature which locks a specific number of measures per system regardless of content. For instance, each system (or score page) can always be 4 bars, or 2 bars, or even a single bar. In Sibelius 7, use Auto Breaks in the Layout tab fix the number of measures per system / page. (Auto Breaks are found in the Layout Menu in Sib 6). You can use this feature in both the score and parts.

This “container lock” method works just fine in many cases. With this method, measure width essentially overrides note spacing. However, there are certain situations where you not only want equidistant width of the measures themselves, but also more exact control of the spacing of the notation content within these bars. (see the score example at the end of this post).

Sibelius factors the content of every staff vertically down the score into its note spacing routine, with the most active staff taking precedence. You can use this to your advantage if your goal is to create wide, even spacing in a score or part.

To see the effects of this clearly, turn off Auto Breaks in the Layout tab (or Layout Menu in Sib 6).

In a passage where you have more note density in one staff than another, (or more notes in one voice than another), the overall note spacing will adjust to accommodate the busier music. Note how the whole notes in the top staff become spaced further and further apart as the staff below it becomes filled with smaller and smaller note values:

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Finale Note Spacing, Beat Spacing, Beat Groups & Time Signature Spacing

Q: I am using Finale 2011, and I am having a music spacing issue. If I am inputting beamed notes, and add an accidental, the space between that note and the one before it becomes unnecessarily larger, and the beamed notes are no longer evenly spaced.

Unchecking the “Avoid Collision of Notes and Articulations” has no effect on the spacing whatsoever. I have viewed several Finale scores that lead me to believe that even spacing with accidentals is possible, but I am at a loss as to how to accomplish it. Have you any ideas for solving this issue?

A: In addition to the spacing parameter controls found in Document Settings>Music Spacing, Finale has three different types of automated spacing: Note Spacing, Beat Spacing and Time Signature Spacing. Additionally, Finale provides a way to fine tune the spacing between individual note objects.

Let’s take a look…

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Featured Finale Plugin – JW Meter and Rhythm


Related: JW Meter & Rhythm

I was recently asked to rebar an extended section of a score containing various time signatures 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 into 3/2 time. Fortunately, what could have been a hugely labor intensive and messy operation became a whole lot easier in Finale, thanks to Jari Williamsson’s “JW Meter and Rhythm” plugin. This plugin consolidates quite a number of useful operations related to meter and rhythm into one suite.

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Featured Finale Plugin – JW Staff Polyphony

If you are a longtime Finale user, chances are you know who Jari Williamsson is. Jari has maintained the site for a number of years and is a prolific Finale plugin author.

One of Jari’s latest offerings is an amazing multi-purpose music notation plug-in for tasks related to exploding music, merging music, working with layers, chord voicings and more called JW Staff Polyphony.

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Creating Instrument Changes in Sibelius

Q: I have a score with percussion parts defined as one line staves. However, I want them to be five line staves. The only thing I could find in the Sibelius Reference is how to address this situation when you are first creating instruments. How can I do this?

A: Fortunately, this one’s pretty easy. It’s done with the Instrument Change feature in Sibelius.


Go to the beginning of the score. In Sibelius 6, go to Create > Other > Instrument Change. In Sibelius 7, choose Change from the Instruments panel of the Home tab. Select “Percussion, 5 lines”. Ok the dialog. The cursor will be loaded blue. Click to the left of the first bar for the one line staff you want to change.

Note that you can also use instrument changes anywhere within a piece, for instance, to change Flute to Piccolo or Oboe to English Horn.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it.


for Laura