What’s New in Sibelius 2018.4

By in Music Creation, NAB 2018, Notation

We’re really proud to announce the release of Sibelius 2018.4, making huge steps forward in many areas of the program. In summary, we’ve expanded on the recently added multi-edit workflows to now include the ability to enter and edit multiple text objects; given our note spacing rules a complete overhaul; enhanced the way you can interact with tied notes and much more, spanning over 70 individual improvements.

If you can’t wait to dig in, head over to your My Avid account to download the latest installers, or run Application Manager to check for the latest updates. If you’re on an older version of Sibelius, you can upgrade via the webstore or from one of our resellers.


A note about the product name

As you will have seen, Sibelius, Media Composer and Pro Tools nomenclature has been aligned so we will have the same three tiers for each product line. To read about this announcement, please head over to the separate announcement. To keep things easy, we still use “Sibelius” as a collective term for all three flavors of the desktop application. As you will have read in my previously posts, all notation products we build here at Avid are done with a common code-base, allowing us to build Sibelius | First, Sibelius, Sibelius | Ultimate, the Sibelius Cloud Publishing render engine and the Avid Scorch iOS app all using the same core notation engine. This means that all our notation products will benefit from the improvements, for example the note spacing or the low level optimizations I’ll cover below.

So, the improvements are…


Multi-edit workflows – Text and more

Following on from the award winning release of Sibelius in January this year, April’s release of Sibelius takes the multi-edit workflows a step further, by introducing the ability to add text to multiple notes or passages at once. Editing multiple pieces of text is simple too. Here’s a preview of what’s now possible:

This new feature deserves its own blog, so to find out more about how this works, and how you can start using it, head over to this page. (don’t forget to come back here to find out more about the amazing new improvements we’re releasing!)



As with our last release, where we introduced the ability to add ties intelligently across passages of music, we’ve given them more attention in this release too. Direct from user feedback from our social media forums, we’ve added the ability to edit the left hand note of a tie, and all notes to the right move with it:

This saves a nice little amount of time so you no longer have to individually select each note that’s tied, which can be fiddly across complex passages of music. This even works across multiple bars too:

Complete overhaul of note spacing

Note spacing in Sibelius has always been great, but has had a few reliability issues, especially when writing in multiple voices or when adding and deleting objects. More often than not, you have to do Reset Note Spacing, or nudge the spacing with Shift+Alt+arrow keys, or even worse, manually set the position of the notes using the X properties in the Inspector. Now though, the need to do those things will be really really rare.

As you’ll see below, there are huge improvements in the clarity of music in multiple voices. There’s no more ambiguity around which note is dotted, or even what the note values are themselves. Sibelius also automatically spaces the notes like this now so you no longer have to manually move notes individually using the “X” property in the Inspector.



Here are many of the common examples of the cases we’ve been working on. In all cases, you can see an obvious improvement.

In summary

  • Unisons in two voices with different noteheads no longer collide
  • Rhythm dot spacing and placement is improved
  • Dotted minims and semi-breves in voice 1 no longer collide with simultaneous notes in voice 2
  • Leger lines of voices at the same rhythmic position no longer touch
  • Semi-breves in two voices, same pitch, now go side by side and are not super-imposed
  • Crossing voices are now laid out head-to-head, rather than stem-to-stem as they were in previous versions
  • Unison dotted notes of the same value now always share a rhythm dot

All new scores created from now on will use the new note spacing, however all old scores will open up and appear in exactly the same way they did before. This is important as we need to give you the confidence that nothing will change. To turn on the new spacing though, choose Version 3 Voice position rule in Engraving Rules > Notes and Tremolos.

If, in your old file, you have manually set the positions of notes using the X property in the Inspector, here are the steps you need to take to reset the spacing and take advantage of the new voice position rules:


  • Go to Engraving Rules > Notes and Tremolos and choose the Version 3 under Voice position rule
  • Select the music you have respaced
  • Go to Appearance > Design and Position and click Reset Position
  • Go to Appearance > Reset Notes and choose Reset Note Spacing

You’ll now see the notes and rhythm dots line up nicely


More subtle improvements to note spacing

When entering notes in multiple voices, Sibelius now helpfully adds or removes space around notes as you enter or edit them. This always makes sure your music is well laid out. Here’s a comparison of the same passage of music written out using the old and new spacing algorithm:

The hope is that this new note spacing intelligence in Sibelius will go unnoticed, as it’ll always do what you expect it to do. What it’s doing in the background is resetting the space for that bar as you enter and edit notes. However, we’ve added a new Preference in Sibelius in case you’d prefer to turn this off. You’ll find it in File > Preferences > Note Input and you can untick “Respace multi-voice passages during note input and editing”. N.B. toggling this on/off doesn’t change the spacing you have in your score.

Many of these improvements are pretty subtle, for example rhythm dots are now taken into account when spacing passages of rests. This, of course, happens automatically so you don’t need to manually respace your score. To show you the old vs. new spacing, here’s a comparison – notice the dots on the 16th-note (semi-quaver) rests:

In addition to this, deleting lyrics or guitar frames now automatically respaces the affected music, so you aren’t left with extra space where these objects once were. Here’s a comparison of old vs. new so you can see the affect when deleting lyrics:



There are further improvements to the spacing before a start repeat barline. This is now always correct but was only correct before when preceded by an end repeat barline. This is more noticeable with note stems that line up against the start repeat line.

Sibelius now also takes articulations into account when spacing notes. A small but important detail to enhance Sibelius typesetting finesse, especially in cases where space is very tight.

When you have “semiquaver, quaver-rest, semiquaver” beamed together, the fractional beam of the rest collided with stem of following note. As well as this, the spacing was different depending on the direction of the stems. You’ll now find this is spaced well and nice and consistent:

What else?

There’s more, you ask? This release includes a slew of further improvements to Sibelius that will collectively make a huge difference to the way you use the program. They are:

Drum roll please… it’s now possible to delete the first bar of a score without losing the System text that’s attached to it e.g. part name, title, composer, copyright, tempo etc.. If you need to delete these objects too, you’ll have to actually select them and delete them. You can add bars to the beginning of your score, delete them as your will commands, and you’ll find the System text remains attached to bar 1.

In 2018.1, we introduced a change in the way you can access the Ribbon. In 2018.4, we’ve added a shortcut “,” (comma) to give the Find in Ribbon box focus. This means you can now access any feature in the program by simply hitting one key. Enjoy!

In response to user feedback from our release in January, it’s now also easier to change the types of barlines in a score. Simply make a passage or System selection and when you change the type of barline, it’ll change them all. Of course, Start and End Repeat barlines are exempt from this and continue to be added at the start and end of the selection.

As well as all these improvements, there are smaller fish we fried:


  • In rare cases, typing into Find in Ribbon would crash on Mac. This no longer happens.
  • The space after a cautionary Key Signature change is now not too wide. If you find it is, add a System Break at that point and reset note spacing. This will snap things into line again.
  • Highlights are now displayed and printed correctly once more when they span across multiple systems and pages
  • When selecting a coinciding double barline and rehearsal mark, alt-clicking elsewhere in the score no longer creates a new rehearsal mark and double barline in the wrong place
  • When copying and pasting from one slurred phrase to another, slurs are no longer duplicated
  • On Windows, the Help button (question mark in the right top corner) in the Print Spooler window was unnecessary so has been removed
  • In very rare cases, Sibelius would crash when opening a score with a different playback configuration from the Quick Start
  • Plug-ins > Simplify Notation > Remove Overlapping Notes no longer says its effect cannot be undone
  • Comments containing em dashes (–) now display correctly once more
  • It’s now possible again too to add lines to passages of bars that only contain rests
  • A low level issue in our undo queue that would occasionally cause Sibelius to unexpectedly quit is now resolved


To paraphrase Columbo, just one more thing…


  • Wide spread low-level improvements have been made to the way Sibelius handles certain data structures – particularly noticeable when working with large scores on slower computers.


We hope you enjoy the many improvements in this release that span both Sibelius and Sibelius Ultimate. If you have a current update and support plan or subscription, you can download the new version from within Avid Application Manager on your computer, or directly from your My Avid account.

If you’re new to Sibelius, you can download our free 30-day trial and buy from the webstore or from one of our resellers.

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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.