Vol. 24 Issue 4 Reviews
Finale 2000
Coda Music Technology, 6210 Bury Drive, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55346-1718, USA; telephone (612) 937-9611; fax (612) 937-9760; mailto:finalesales@codamusic.com; World Wide Web http://www.codamusic.com

Reviewed by Scott Spiegelberg (Tonawanda, New York, USA)

The past few years have seen an explosion of high end music notation software. Sibelius 1.0, Nightingale 3.0, and the latest version of Coda Music Technology’s popular package, Finale 2000. Past upgrades to Finale usually focused on adding new tools to an already complex user interface. This led to charges that the program was bloated and too difficult to learn, particularly after Sibelius came out with its much simpler tool palette. With Finale 2000, Coda has simplified use through a new startup interface, user-friendly instructions, a reduction of tools, and more defaults, while adding features that give even more control to the advanced user.

The first change that is noticed when using Finale 2000 is the Setup Wizard. Clearly inspired by the startup interface featured in Sibelius 1.0, the Setup Wizard prompts the user for document name and composer which are automatically placed in the Title and Composer text defaults, and then offers a list of instrumentation choices to pick from. Older versions of Finale came with a healthy set of templates to aid in formatting a score, but this list was still limited. Setup Wizard allows easy customization, automatically sets up any necessary transpositions, and provides enough prompts to comfort even the most timid user. The more experienced users can set the default startup for templates or the standard single staff, though I found the Setup Wizard to be very helpful for most projects.

Following the theme of making learning easier, Coda has included several Quicktime video tutorials and a Visual Index that is linked to the online documentation. These features require the CD-ROM and do not cover the more exotic needs of users such as Schenkerian Analysis notation or extended twentieth-century performance notation. However, the videos, based on the written tutorials packaged in previous Finale instruction manuals, do make learning more enjoyable and convenient for beginners, and this should reduce Finale’s most negative feature, its intimidating size and scope.

One of the biggest changes in Finale 2000 is the reduction of the number of tool icons. Previous versions required three separate tools for inputting musical expressions: Score Expression Tool, Staff Expression Tool, and Articulation Tool. The only difference between the first two tools was whether the expression was attached to a particular measure (Score Expression) or to a particular note (Staff Expression). Articulation Tool also attached expressions to a particular note, but only uses the articulation symbols. In Finale 2000 these three tools have been combined into one, the Expression Tool. When selecting the particular expression, radio buttons are used to indicate how the expression should be attached. The articulation graphics were added to the graphic expression library that already existed in previous Staff and Score Expression Tools. And, in the most convenient feature of all, every expression handle on the page is shown when the Expression Tool is selected, so the user doesn’t have to remember if a particular expression is attached to the measure or the note.

The two real-time note entry tools from Finale ‘98, Transcription Tool and HyperScribe Tool, have been combined into one HyperScribe Tool. Transcription is now selected as an option in the HyperScribe menu. Hyperscribe still gives several choices for determining the beat, but the only one that works reliably is manual input of the beat using a specified MIDI key or pedal. The default setting, determining the beat by a metronomic tempo setting, is too sensitive, even with quantization set, and I could not get Hyperscribe to wait for my first note to begin recording. It either started before I was ready, or missed the first several notes. The sensitivity and quantization of the Transcription option has improved from previous Finale versions, but this option still has an intimidating look, with most of the necessary commands hidden in menus rather than placed in clear view in the main window.

The last significant co-mingling of tools is the Measure Tool, which combines the duties of the old Measure Tool, Measure Number Tool, and the Measure Attributes Tool. The Change Barlines, Change Width, and Change Positioning options have been moved from Mass Edit Tool to Measure Tool, so all manipulations of the measures are done by one tool. This is most welcome, as the old Measure Tool and Measure Number Tool each only had one use, bloating the tool palette.

Several duties have been switched to tools that make more intuitive sense. As mentioned above, all manipulations of measure sizes and barlines have been placed in the Measure Tool. Alternate notation options (blank, slash, rhythmic, or bar repetition) have been moved from the Mass Edit Tool to the Staff Tool. This is easier to remember, since the Staff Tool affects the attributes for an entire staff. As Partial Measure Selection has been added to the Staff Tool, the user still has the same flexibility in using alternate notation.

Some new defaults have been added to Finale 2000 to make professional quality results easy without knowledge of the program’s more esoteric features. New Music Spacing Defaults based on the Fibonacci sequence automatically space notes during entry, so users don’t need to know how to respace the notes after entering them. This automatic spacing, coupled with the new Maestro music font, creates a more authentic engraved look with little effort. And one personal peeve was fixed by allowing rests to be dragged in Speedy Entry without "unfreezing" them first.

Finale 2000 provides many new options for notating jazz, musical, and contemporary scores. The new Jazz font and accompanying libraries are meant to "get that session feel in your scores." The appearance is pretty good, though the noteheads and beaming still look too perfect to seem handwritten. The Staff Styles option within the Staff Tool takes care of transposition, the number of staff lines, and alternate notation within created style definitions. The user can change a specific style definition which affects every section of the score that that definition is applied to.

Several features give more options to the advanced user, such as Snap to Grid, new Beaming options, new Repeat Tool options, importation and playback options, and some new Special Tools. The Snap to Grid makes alignment of text and expressions very simple, particularly when the Gridlines are shown. Several beaming styles are offered, and two new Special Tools control the beam width and stem locations of beamed notes. And right-closing brackets can be added to repeat endings with the Repeat Tool. Improved MIDI features allow the importation of MidiScan files and MIDI patches, and scrolling playback can now be done in Page View.

Starting with Finale ‘97, Coda has included plug-ins, specific macros that can be updated at its website. Finale 2000 continues this tradition, featuring new plug-ins such as Change Noteheads, Change to Default/Real Whole Rests, Command Line, Voice 2 to Layer, and Piano Reduction. Most of these tools answer the needs of preparing large scores, when the user may want to change large sections of music that would normally require separate commands for each note or measure. I was most intrigued by the new Piano Reduction plug-in, which claims to take a whole score and reduce it to a grand staff piano score. This plug-in has a serious flaw, however. The reduced scores are simplified rhythmically, and, in my score, several notes were shifted to different beats during the reduction process. The idea is a good one, but these bugs need to be fixed before this tool becomes usable.

Finale 2000 has succeeded in combining ease of use with powerful control. While there are a few bugs and real-time entry is still difficult to use, overall I would recommend this latest version for both beginners and advanced users.