If you have been using Finale more than a few minutes, you are probably already using a few keyboard shortcuts to keep from having to reach up and click on various tools and menu items on the screen over and over.
Shortcuts, Shortcuts, Shortcuts
First, there are the built in System level shortcuts found in all Mac and Windows programs; e.g. Open, Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo, Save, Save As, Print, Close, Quit. This group of shortcuts is not editable, obviously, since they are system wide.
Let’s face it. With competition between music notation software programs heating up as never before, Finale, long the patriarch of modern notation software programs, continues to improve, but in some ways, is showing its age.
It’s not that Finale doesn’t have the power and flexibility of its competitors. Far from it. After 26 years, you can still make a valid argument that Finale is every bit as powerful as its competitors, capable of producing high quality output on par with anything else out there.
I remember first hearing in early 2018 that some copyists working at JoAnn Kane Music in LA were using a new type of gaming controller called Elgato Stream Deck to speed up their workflow in Finale and Sibelius (in the case of Finale, no doubt in conjunction with with some sort of Macro program such as Keyboard Maestro).
While not designed specifically for music notation, the original Stream Deck is a perfect productivity companion for Finale. Stream Deck expands on the best features of previous hardware and software controllers.
Like the XKEY system, the original Stream Deck has tactile hardware keys (there is now also an iOS version).
One advantage of the hardware version of Stream Deck for a controller is that the tactile button design allows you to keep your eyes on the music on the main computer screen as you work.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
The XKEY system allowed you to print custom graphics icons and slide them under the key covers; the idea is great for music notation, but while it’s practical, it’s not very flexible. On the other end of the spectrum, iOS apps can be more flexible with color coding and other graphical attributes for virtual buttons, but to date haven’t contained useful iconography related to music notation software. (MetaGrid has note duration icons and some other related graphics, but even this is more generic).
Stream Deck takes a completely different approach. Each of Stream Deck’s 15 keys is a fully customizable backlit LCD. (the newer Stream Deck XL hardware has 32 keys).
As an example, here are some buttons for selecting tools in Finale, showing how they might appear in a TouchOSC or Lemur layout for iOS. Users will quickly learn what these buttons do, but initially, seeing these words representing Finale tools without any additional context isn’t very clear:
But Finale users will instantly know what each of these tool buttons represent in Stream Deck, because each of these familiar icons is associated with a specific tool selection in the Finale application itself: