Understanding Finale’s Category Designer

Q: I created a “Custom” category of expressions, and exported the library to disk. When I load the library with an older Finale file, it adds the category.

However, when I load the library to a new Finale file, it adds the expressions to the “Techniques” category, rather than creating my custom category. Is this expected behavior?

A: Great question! Finale Category Designer is powerful, but require some explanation if you are exporting and importing Library files, or pasting content between scores. Here is what is going on under the hood.

When you create a new Category in Finale, it is always based on an existing one. 

In a new Document Without Libraries, go into the Category Designer Dialog Box and (for example) duplicate the Dynamics category to create a set of vocal dynamics. Note that there is no “new” button, only a “New, based on existing” button, labeled, correctly “Duplicate”.

Edit the Vertical Alignment so that these dynamics are positioned above the staff for vocals. Finally, rename this category to Vocal Dynamics.


Save these dynamic expressions as a Library. 

When you Load this Library back into a new score, voila! You will see the new category “Vocal Dynamics” which you created, with the dynamic entries defined to be positioned as you redefined them in the Dynamics copy.

In this case, because there is something unique about the copy of the new Dynamics category you created (in this case, the positioning), the library is imported back in as a unique Category. Hold that thought.

Conversely, if you Duplicate a Category, but make no changes to it other than the Category name, when you import that library back in it will be inherited by whichever Category it was copied from. 

A good example to show this is Boxed Text. Many Finale users like to create a separate category of Boxed Text to keep things organized in their scores: 

Create a duplicate of the Techniques Category. Rename this new Category Boxed Text. Now enter some techniques and add enclosures. This is great for organization of the current Finale file, but what if you want to use these Boxed expressions in other scores?

Quite naturally, you would think you could just save this out as a library, then load the library back into a new Finale file. But when you load the library back in, the Boxed text you created has been moved back into the Techniques Category – your Boxed Text Category which was to help keep these expressions organized is not imported!

To get around this, simply change something about the category definition for the Boxed text. It could be just about anything in the Category Designer settings. Make the text bold. Change the vertical or horizontal justification; set the additional baseline offset to zero. You get the idea.

Now, when you Save the Library it will be registered with Finale as a unique Category and when you Load it back in, it will come in as such. 


Sometimes even when you are using only the Default Categories, you wind up with duplicate categories when you paste a passage containing expressions from one score to another.

This is because the Category Designer settings may be quite different between the two scores.

In Hollywood, it is common to copy and paste lines from the conductor’s score into a parts template which the copyist has set up as their House Style for recording sessions.

For these cases, duplicated Categories of the pasted in expressions can be created in the destination document after pasting.  Why is that?

The reason is that the default Categories of the two scores are most often defined completely differently; fonts, positioning and other attributes are all unique.

If you were to go into the Category Designer and compare the settings between the two scores you will see the differences between the two file’s settings; it might be the font, the size, the style, the positioning, or lots of differences.

For Hollywood copyists, a common workflow for conformity when using this paste-in method is to go into Finale’s Expression Selection picker and copy these orphaned expressions into the associated Default Categories after pasting, which will allow the pasted in expressions to inherit the master house style fonts and positioning of the parts template. 

It’s worth noting that if the font, size, attribute and all positioning settings of a given Category are the same between the two documents, then, just like with the Load Library example above, the expressions will be organized into the associated category that matches.

That’s it!

for Arne Wallander

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