What’s New in Sibelius 2018.11

By in Music Creation, Notation

We’re really excited to introduce you to the November’s release for Sibelius | Ultimate, Sibelius and Sibelius | First. All three tiers are benefiting from this far-reaching update.

This release has mainly focused on modernizing the Sibelius codebase and many of the improvements are under the hood. These manifest themselves in the way Sibelius appears on your screen and draws the score, and is now even able to make use native OS features like Full Screen on Mac, DPI scaling on Windows, and so on.

In short, Sibelius has never been faster at redrawing the score as you drag individual objects or the page around; Sibelius has also never looked so good on high-DPI screens on Windows and Retina screens on Mac. We’ve thrown in some note spacing improvements and fixes to a slew of legacy bugs too.

If you can’t wait to get stuck in, open Application Manager on your computer to download and install the update. You can also get the update from your Avid account at my.avid.com/products. This update is available to all Sibelius | First users for free as well as all those subscribing to Sibelius or Sibelius I Ultimate, and to those with a license of Sibelius with a current Software Update and Support plan. If you need to renew, head over to your account.

If you’re on an older version of Sibelius, you can upgrade from one of our resellers or on our webstore.

 

Upgrading the Sibelius infrastructure

The improvements in this release touch nearly every bit of the program. This is largely due to a complete upgrade of Sibelius’s underlying infrastructure, Qt. Qt is a cross-platform development framework that enables Sibelius to run on various platforms and devices. We’ve been using this since Sibelius 7, released in 2011, so it’s high time we upgraded this to take advantage of the new capabilities. The development team have been chipping away at this herculean effort for more than 2 years, so it’s a relief to get this out into the real world . This sets us up to provide more exciting features using the very latest cutting technology.

 

The UI

I’ll start with the user interface (UI), since it’s the most obvious change. Overall, it now generally looks cleaner. Although Sibelius showed nice high-resolution images and icons in previous versions, Sibelius itself didn’t natively support high-DPI and Retina screens so very little of the UI was able to take advantage of these modern displays. Now though, you’ll notice some very subtle, and some more obvious, improvements in the way Sibelius displays the text and icons in the Ribbon.

Not all items in Sibelius have been upgraded to support the sharper icons – we still have some work to do in the Mixer, Ideas panel and so on, however the ground work has all been done now to make this much easier to implement and maintain in the future.

Sibelius is now able to take advantage of native OS features, and we’re able to make some other subtle changes such as:

  • You’ll see the scroll bars on Mac are now defined by the OS, so will show automatically based on your mouse or trackpad, as you set this up in System Preferences.
  • The pop-up messages now animate when they appear, and have the default color based on your System
  • On Windows, docked panels now have a narrower title bar so they take up less vertical space
  • Tick boxes in the Preferences used to be white-on-white, making it hard to know if they were ticked or not. These are now blue with a white tick, as you’d expect. This particularly affected the Input Devices and Timeline preferences.
  • Across all dialogs, the headings of each section would collide with the box below This was more noticeable in the Preferences and Engraving Rules dialogs.

 

On macOS

The Keypad and Transport panels

All the panels in Sibelius now have the nice rounded corners. These have always been there under the hood, but were prevented from appearing by the older implementation of Qt4.

Both the Keypad and Transport panels now support the lovely higher resolution graphics, giving a nice sharp look. Here’s a comparison of the old and new Keypad on a Retina display:

The Ribbon

You’ll notice the text seems sharper, and this is because Sibelius is now able to be more pixel accurate with the way it displays text. You’ll see this in all the dialogs and pop-up messages as well.

Here’s a comparison of the Layout tab with Sibelius 2018.7 above, and the newer 2018.11release below

Many of the icons throughout the Ribbon have been upgraded to support higher resolution images as well.

The Quick Access Toolbar that was once only available on Windows, has made it to our Mac version as well. You’ll find this in the top right hand corner of the screen and is useful to quickly accessing Save, Undo and Redo.

On Windows

Sibelius now respects any DPI scaling, and the evidence is apparent when you start Sibelius up. Everything from the splash screen to the Mixer are now scaled and no longer blurry or disproportionate. Since we can support any DPI scaling upwards of 125%, you’ll now see sharper icons as well as a well-proportioned Ribbon, utilizing the full horizontal space to display the features.

This also works when you have multiple monitors, allowing you to have your Panels on a different screen, or even your score and parts on different screens. Sibelius will now respect per-monitor DPI scaling, allowing the windows and panels to look great on a regular monitor or even a nice 4K monitor.

 

The Ribbon

In previous versions of Sibelius, the Ribbon would get pretty crowded when using high DPI scaling, from 200%+, say. Now Sibelius will lay this out and better use the whole width of the screen. Here’s a comparison of Sibelius 2018.7 above, with 2018.11 below:

Accessibility

In this release, we’ve paid a lot of attention to improving the way Sibelius works with screen readers. Screen readers, for those who may not know, are applications that can read and describe what is happening on the computer screen to help users who can’t see the screen well, or even at all. Both Windows and macOS come with their own built-in solutions called Narrator and VoiceOver. There are popular 3rd party solutions such as NVDA that is an open-source screen reader for Windows.

The screen readers themselves don’t know anything about music notation, so it has been our job to generate descriptions of the score elements on the screen. As such, we have vastly improved the way screen readers read and describe what’s happening on the screen.

Sibelius will read the names of Manuscript Papers when tabbing through scores in the Quick Start, as well as read the dialog as you set up a new score. Once in the score, Sibelius will read the contents of the Ribbon as you access this with the keyboard. Since nearly all of Sibelius is keyboard accessible, it’s possible to navigate the program using keyboard shortcuts and hear what’s happening. For example:

Pressing Tab will select the first staff object in the score and describe what the object is and where it is

“Select, quarter note, pitch C#5 ,bar 1, beat 1”

When selecting a slur, Sibelius will say:

“Select, start of slur on bar 1, beat 3 line ending at bar 1, beat 4”

Sibelius will announce the action you do too, such as “Move” note, or “Edit” note. The description that follows is the same as when selecting objects.

Searching Sibelius with “Find in Ribbon” will speak the results too. The keyboard shortcut to access the Find in Ribbon box is simply comma “,”. When it has keyboard focus, you’ll hear Sibelius say: “Find in Ribbon, Editing text”.

You can then start typing to find and perform any action you need, for example: To reset the position of an object, for example, you type “reset” and Sibelius will provide a list of all features that have Reset in their name or in their description. Use the arrow keys to cycle through the results to hear them, i.e.:

“Reset Position, moves the selected objects back to their default position”

Pressing Return will then apply that change – even when not using a screen reader, using ‘comma’ to access Find In Ribbon is by far the fastest way to use Sibelius!

Each screen reader is different, and it’ll take more work on our side to gain parity with them all. To help you decide which is right for your workflow, we’ve put the following table together:

 

 

Menus, Dialogs and Ribbon etc.

NVDA Windows
Narrator
macOS
VoiceOver
Splash Screen, Version & Build Number X X
Quick Start X
Ribbon X X X
Find in Ribbon X X
File tab X X X
Pop-up messages X X
Ribbon galleries (Lines, Text, Symbols) X X
Edit Symbols and Edit Lines dialogs X X

 

 

Objects in the score

NVDA Windows
Narrator
macOS
VoiceOver
Bar Rests X X
Clef changes X X
Key Signatures X X
Dynamics X X
Staff text X X

 

 

Objects in the score

NVDA Windows
Narrator
macOS
VoiceOver
Lyrics X X
Guitar frames X X
Instrument Changes X X
Staff lines X X
Staff symbols X X
Notes and rests X X
Notes on a transposing instrument X X
Start and end of System and Passage selections X X

 

There’s clearly more work for us to do, so we’ll continue to chip away at this very important area of the program. As the table shows above, we don’t recommend using VoiceOver on macOS yet.

During the development of these improvements, we’ve also fixed the following legacy bugs we had with screen readers:

  • Sibelius no longer crashes when closing Audio Options or Playback Devices when using NVDA
  • The bar number is no longer spoken followed immediately by the succeeding bar number

 

Goodbye EPS, hello true black PDFs

Due to limitations in Qt5, we aren’t able to continue to support Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) file export. As such, Sibelius 2018.7 was the last version to support this feature. However, exporting to PDF has been improved to support greyscale, which converts to only the K color channel in CMYK.

To use this, go to File > Export > Graphics, choose PDF and untick “include colored objects”. Alternatively, go to File > Export > PDF and, again, untick “Include colored objects”.

Note Spacing

To improve on the note spacing features we’ve been introducing this year, we’ve fine tuned the following:

  • Reset Note Spacing in the score or part no longer affects the This only affected scores using Version 3 spacing though.
  • Sibelius now only respaces multi-voice bars when adding or removing notes when the “Respace multi-voice passages during note input and editing” preference is set. In recent releases, Sibelius would perform a ‘Reset Note Spacing’ under the hood during articulation and accidental editing, which was found to be too heavy handed.

 

Video playback

We’ve changed the engines used in Sibelius to sync a video (or audio file) to a score. On Windows, we now use DirectShow for QMultimedia and on Mac we’ve replaced the old 32-bit QuickTime player with AVFoundation. This change may require you to re-encode your videos to one Sibelius now supports, or install the necessary codecs to play the video.

 

Switching between feature-sets

Since our release in June this year, your installation of Sibelius has had three tiers inside the single installation, so Sibelius will run the feature-set you are eligible for. This has been useful for those starting with Sibelius | First, trying out the Sibelius features then subscribing or buying the full feature of Sibelius | Ultimate. Since then, we’ve had several requests to allow you to check out the Sibelius | First features, say, to see if they are suitable for your beginner students who are starting out with their music studies. In today’s release, we’ve introduced this feature for Sibelius | Ultimate users only: simply hold down the ‘Alt’ key when Sibelius starts up and you’ll see the following dialog asking you which variant of Sibelius you’d like you run:

Clicking the version you need will run Sibelius with just those features enabled. Restarting Sibelius, without holding down ‘Alt’, will revert to running the full Sibelius | Ultimate feature set. Windows users should be aware that you need to hold down ‘Alt’ just after running Sibelius. If you hold ‘Alt’ at the same time as running the application, you will see a Properties window appear.

 

Overall stability and bug fixes

As with every release of Sibelius, we fix a number of bugs, both old and new. Here’s a summary of what’s included in this release:

Rhythm Dots

When dotted notes in multiple voices share the same pitch, Sibelius now correctly (and consistently) only shows a single dot. Previously, Sibelius would only do this for notes that were in a space and not when on a line.

The correct number of dots are now displayed on dotted chords with two or three notes.

Kontakt 6 Support

Kontakt 6 is now recognised as a “Kontakt” device rather than a standard AU or VST plugin. This means Sibelius will now be able to automatically load sounds as it has been able to do with Kontakt 5 and earlier. So, if you have a Kontakt library, such as Virtual Drumline, old or older version of GPO/JABB, Sample Logic’s Fanfare or Rumble etc. you can now use these in the latest version of Kontakt. It’s worth noting that Kontakt 6 appears simply as “Kontakt” in your Playback Configuration.

Bug fixes

  • All the “Name” fields in the Edit Instrument dialog are retained when saving and reopening a score. As such, you can now use the “Instrument change name” and “Instrument change warning name” fields independently.
  • Engraving Rules > Chord Symbols: Characters are now displayed correctly in the Language drop-down list on Mac.
  • In the Timecode and Duration dialog, the “Start video from” field now works correctly.
  • Note input, and dragging text objects are no longer sluggish when the Inspector is open.
  • The Edit Lines and Edit Symbols dialogs are now much more stable under the hood. Before, it was even possible to invoke multiple cursors on Windows and cause incorrect navigation behavior on both Windows and Mac.

 

Plugins

  • Split Bar plug-in no longer overwrites the right hand side barline with a Normal barline.
  • Join Bars plug-in works properly once more when creating special barlines.

 

Compatibility

It’s important to be aware of the latest system requirements for the Sibelius products and this release contains the following changes:

  • Full support for macOS 10.14 Mojave
  • Sibelius will no longer run on Mac OS X Mavericks

There are no changes to Windows. For a full run-down, please see our System Requirements for Avid Sibelius Products .

 

Performance

On the whole, Sibelius is now faster than ever before. You should notice this when dragging around the score, performing edits to multiple text objects, adding slurs and articulations across several systems, and making changes at the end of large scores – all of which are vastly improved.

If you’ve made it this far down the list of improvements in this build, I’m impressed – thanks for sticking with it! This release has been a long time coming, and we’re really proud of how much has been achieved. Upgrading architecture is no mean feat, and much of the original implementation of Qt has been refactored or rewritten to bring the improved support for accessibility, high-DPI screens and so on.

We’re now in a really great place to bring some exciting features and new workflows to Sibelius in 2019, so watch this space.

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As senior product manager at Avid, I work with all the departments in Avid from Design, Development, Sales, Marketing, Legal and Global Services to produce the future of the Sibelius family of products and solutions.