What’s New in Sibelius — September 2020

By in Notation

We’re excited to introduce to you the September 2020 release of Sibelius. We’ve all been beavering away from our home offices to bring you a release that focusses on several areas of the program to help you get the best out of your scores.

If you can’t wait, you can download the update via Avid Link or from your account at https://my.avid.com/products. If you need to renew or crossgrade up to the latest version, you can find the options, here:


If you’re new to Sibelius and would like to try out the new version, you can get started with our free 30-day trial.

Focus on Staves and Hide Empty Staves

This release enhances the Focus on Staves feature so you can use both “Hide Empty Staves” and “Focus and Staves” at the same time. This opens up several new possibilities to have scratch staves that you may use to work out rhythms, tidy incoming MIDI files or split out individual staves or even combined staves that you can still use in the parts.

The setting is tucked away in Engraving Rules > Staves and is called “Show hidden empty staves when using Focus on Staves”. When this is checked, you’ll get the existing behaviour, where using Focus on Staves will unhide any already hidden stave. Unchecking this option will enable the new workflow.

Legacy view, where hidden staves are displayed when focusing on others:

New view, where hidden staves remain hidden when focusing on others:

Using Focus on Staves has become easier with a new dropdown allowing you to choose the staves that form the focus set:

Old UI

New UI

As you can see, we’ve moved the Focus on Staves button out and split it to add the dropdown. Clicking the top half now toggles it on and off, and clicking the bottom half shows the list of staves in the score or part.

When ticking or unticking the names in the list, Sibelius will turn on Focus on Staves and only display those instruments in the score. Choosing more instruments from the list will add them to the focussed set. If you untick them all, the score will revert to showing all the staves. To help you choose only a few staves, or omit a few (depending on your need at the time), you can click the “Clear All” or “Select All” options from the list.

There have been no changes in the way you can use a selection in the score to focus on a set of staves, so you’ll still likely find it’s just as useful.

We’ve also added a new Engraving Rule (Staves → Layout) that allows the Focus On Staves feature to be disabled in “Panorama” View while still being active in the “Page” view. This facilitates a workflow in which the Panorama mode could be considered a “Master Palette” for all available instruments within a score, whereas the Page View (used in conjunction with the Focus on Staves feature) may only show a subset of the score’s instruments. This allows users to see scratch staves within Panorama view that won’t ever appear within the Page View of the score. The new rule is ON by default (i.e. legacy behaviour), so you’ll need to turn the feature off if you’re interested in trying out the new workflow.

When a stave is hidden using Focus on Staves, there’s now a new layout marker (i.e. a dashed purple line) to indicate this. When an unfocused staves occurs alongside a stave that is also hidden using Hide Empty Staves (which uses a dotted line), then the two lines are slightly offset so that it’s possible to determine that there are two different types of hidden objects).

In this release, we have also included a small change to the way staves are hidden using Hide Empty Staves when Focus on Staves is on. Previously, if you were focusing on a set of staves and applied Hide Empty Staves on one or more staves, nothing would appear to happen until you turned Focus on Staves off. This would give the impression that nothing was happening to the score, but then have potentially undesired results when turning off Focus on Staves. Now though, Hide Empty Staves will only apply to those staves in view, so even if you do Select All and choose Hide Empty Staves, it’ll only apply to those in view.

In addition to these improvements to working with staves, the option when exporting audio and video to “Omit muted instruments” now works regardless of the selection in the score. So when this option is checked, the muted instruments will never be included in the audio export, and when it’s unchecked, the mute state in the Mixer will be ignored.

Now for the first time you can have scores and parts with their own independent set of focussed staves; and when combined with the new option to allow you to hide empty staves too, it unlocks whole new ways of working with parts. You’ll be able to have another “Full Score” that includes your scratch staves, parts with any number of staves that you can switch on and off at will, and all this while retaining complete control of the layout of each.

ManuScript Plugin language

In case you didn’t know, Sibelius has a programming language built into it, allowing you to create plugins that help you perform tasks that either aren’t necessarily easily available in Sibelius, or are repetitive. If you’re interested, check out the ManuScript Language Reference pdf, found in File > Plug-ins. In this release, we’ve added several improvements to the plugin language that we hope will go a long way. We’ve been careful to add new functionality that doesn’t affect older versions of Sibelius, allowing you to build plugins that will work in any (modern) version of Sibelius).
All new plugins can now have the following code inserted into the Initialize() method to allow Sibelius to switch on new behavior and to allow legacy plugins to continue to run as before:

// The following enables the latest behavior for the ManuScript interpreter.
// If you intend your plugin to run on previous versions of Sibelius where that functionality
// didn”t exist, you will likely have to revisit the following:
if (Sibelius.ProgramVersion > 20200600) {

With TreatSingleCharacterAsString, ManuScript will now treat a single character as a string rather than a number. SupportHalfSemitonePitchValues allow floating-point values to be accepted as “Pitch” so that plugins can add and manipulate quarter-tone values. Pitch is still specified and returned as a semitone, but 0.5 semitone is a quartertone. The same goes for Accidentals.
The following methods accept floating-point pitches:

• NoteRest.AddNote
• Bar.AddNote
• Stave.AddNote

The following methods return pitches or accidentals in floating-point values:

• Note.Pitch
• Note.WrittenPitch
• Note.Accidental
• Note.WrittenAccidental

When using single-character literals within a conditional, ManuScript no longer appears to guess between types (numbers and characters), leading to more consistent results.

Various calls to close a score are now consistent and reliable e.g. Sibelius.Close(False) There’s also a new all Sibelius.CloseScore(score…). This helps to remove ambiguity when closing a score to ensure the right score is closed. It can also take a new argument fCloseAll that closes all parts and score. There’s also a new Sibelius.CloseWindowsWithScore() method that allows you to reliably close a specific score without having to search the list of open scores for it.

We’ve also addressed a longstanding ManuScript bug which resulted in inconsistent behaviour when importing Text Styles from a House Style. Previously, manuscript plug-ins would not import the “Music Text Font” when calling the ApplyStyles() command unless the call was made to import ALLSTYLES. Now, the ApplyStyles() command functionality mirrors the Import House Style UI dialog within Sibelius, making it possible to import the “Music Text Font” by using the TEXT Style name (or any Style name that depends on TEXT) . Thanks to Bob Zawalich for his detailed reporting on this bug!

We’ve also fixed a couple of bugs too:
• Exporting a MusicXML file via ManuScript is possible once more when called from a plugin


As with all recent releases, we have aimed to improve the experience for those with sight loss. Although the formal agreement we have with Berklee College of Music is coming to an end, we will always strive to offer the best experience for these users. Our dedicated developer for accessibility, Edith, has done an incredible job this past year and I want to express my sincere thanks to her for everything she’s achieved – Sibelius certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without her contribution.

So, in this release, you can expect the following improvements:

Screen readers now announce text as you type! It’ll announce each letter, then the word as you press space to move to the next word. It’ll also speak the letter after the caret line too as you move through a word.
System object navigation just for easier, as it’s now possible to navigate to Instrument Names using Ctrl+Shift+-/+ and Cmd+Shift+-/+. Under the hood, it uses the ClickArea (i.e. can it be clicked on using a mouse pointer) to help the selection navigate to it. This has an added bonus of being able to navigate to an instrument name that has been deleted (e.g. select the instrument name and press delete. Select the Instrument name below it in the score and use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+- or Cmd+Shift+- and it’ll move the selection to the empty text field. Press F2 or Return and you’ll get a flashing cursor – it’s not incredibly clear, but useful nonetheless!).

In addition to this:
• Screen readers can now access word menus using VoiceOver
• When a stem is selected, the beam information is now read by the screen reader.
• VoicerOver announces the values in numerical spin boxes on Mac e.g. number of copies in File > Print, Text > Numbering > Bar Number Change to set the new bar number etc.
• File names, rather than the score’s title, are now read in the Recent Scores tab in the Quick Start
• ComboBox controls are now accessible on Mac using VoiceOver
• Checkable lists are now accessible, such as Preferences > Accessibility > “Exclude action types”. Previously, it wouldn’t announce whether the option is ticked or not, but now it does.

File > Import

We’ve had great feedback on the recently improved MusicXML features, and in this release we aim to fine tune this even further. These include speed improvements to fine tuning the UI.
• To help you speed through the mapping table, Sibelius can now handle stave mappings if done in quick succession.
• We fixed a crash that could occur after mapping and adding techniques on Mac
• The score preview progress bar is now consistent on both Windows and Mac platforms
• Sibelius no longer crashes when importing a MIDI Type 0 file to a multi-stave instrument you’ve already assigned music to.

Up until now, tuplets have remained fairly allusive to the new MIDI and MusicXML import features. Now though, incoming tuplets (as well as any other borrowed rhythm) are no longer lost when merging into a single voice. Previously, Sibelius would bail out and omit these notes entirely.



The new “merging” logic only applies when merging monophonic lines (i.e. it won’t work with chords yet), and it does not work with nested tuplets. For unsupported passages, Sibelius reverts to the legacy behaviour. All these changes also apply to the Arrange feature too.


As usual, we throw in a number of smaller fixes that cover several areas of the program, and this release is no different:

  • We’ve had reports that the “Magix Low Latency 2016” ASIO driver causes problems in Sibelius so we’ve blacklisted it from being initialised on startup.
  • The ‘Orchestra, film’ manuscript paper has been tidied up so the instrument name is no longer doubled, and the staves are all the same size in the parts.
  • Octave Lines can once again co-habitate with barlines. This is now the default in all new scores, but in your existing scores, you’ll need to restore the defaults in Magnetic Layout Options.
  • Palatino (used on Mac) and Palatino Linotype (used on Windows) now automatically substitute for one another, so you no longer see the Font Substitution dialog appear when moving a score across computers.
  • The “Musical structure” word menu in File > Preferences now displays correctly.
  • Tied Grace notes move the correct note within tie chains
  • We’ve fixed a rare crash on macOS 10.15 Catalina
  • Sibelius now displays Korean characters correctly in lyrics.
  • We’ve cleared up some inconsistencies with the Manuscript papers in non-English versions of Sibelius.
  • All the blank manuscript papers now use Podium fonts in all language versions.

In other news, we’ve started our validation on Big Sur running on both Intel and Arm processors. Initial tests have been very positive, so we’ll keep you updated as time goes on. If you’re testing on Big Sur too, please be aware that Sibelius is not officially supported at this time and we’ll be announcing compatibility as soon as it’s ready.

We hope you enjoy these improvements. We’ve already started on our next release for this year, and can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to.


Express yourself with Sibelius

Create beautiful, captivating scores more quickly than ever before with the world’s best selling notation software.

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.