Best of Sibelius 2018

By in Music Creation, Notation

Now that 2019 is here, let’s review some of the highlights of Sibelius 2018. We started off 2018 with some ground breaking new multi-edit workflows, then had a complete overhaul of our automatic note spacing algorithms to yet another overhaul of Sibelius’ underlying infrastructure that gave us great support for Retina and High-DPI displays, and vastly improved accessibility for visually impaired users. Along the way, we fixed a raft of legacy bugs so Sibelius has never been healthier or in a better shape as we move into 2019, where we’ll bring you more exciting new features, workflows and improvements.

Oh, and we also released a free version of Sibelius – yes, completely FREE!

Let’s dive in!


Supercharge your workflows

The premise of the spec for this release of Sibelius was to do many functions with one action, rather than having to do many actions many times on several objects. Sibelius has always had this in some form, for adding and removing playing articulations, but it was lines and text that sorely needed improving.

Marking up your score with slurs, ties and other lines in Sibelius has always been a repetitive task, until now.

This even works across multiple passages separated by rests, and across multiple voices too:

…and it was for this work we were awarded the Editor’s Choice Award in Music Inc. Magazine.



In the past, changing dynamics and playing instructions across multiple instruments was really manual. Each item needed to have been edited independently, until now. In our 2018.4 release we added ability to add text to multiple notes or passages at once. Editing multiple pieces of text is simple too. Here’s a sample of what’s now possible:

Combining the new multi-edit features and lines features, means marking up a score has never been faster:

(This GIF is slowed down to allow you to follow along. In reality, it’s possible to go much faster than is illustrated here.)


Find in Ribbon

Along the same theme of speeding up your workflow, we have made several improvements to the “Find in Ribbon” search box. Searching and executing—these are now one and the same thing. We’ve refined the layout of the search results to make it easier to see what you’re looking for, as well as made it faster to execute the commands you need.

The keyboard shortcut to access this is now “,” (comma) so you can touch-type your way round every feature in Sibelius, making this the fastest way to use the application, by far (at least 50% faster than reaching for your mouse each time…)


Intelligent note spacing

Sibelius 2018 introduced a complete overhaul in the way music is spaced. Sibelius is now musically aware of how music should be spaced, and not only automatically adds space when needed, but also gets the spacing right every time, but also gives you the flexibility to tweak it as you need to. This, when combined with Magnetic Layout, provides the very best looking scores, right first time.


In Summary

  • Unisons in two voices with different rhythms no longer collide
  • Rhythm dot spacing and placement is improved, esp. in cases involving rests
  • 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
  • Music is now correctly respaced when lyrics and guitar frames are deleted
  • Spacing is now correct before a start repeat barline
  • Sibelius now also takes articulations and stem direction into account when spacing notes
  • 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.

For a complete rundown, see my previous post.


Grace note spacing improvements in multiple voices

Later in the year, we did a lot of work getting the default spacing of grace notes correct. In previous versions, it was always a huge chore to get the correct spacing, especially when using gracenotes in multiple voices.

Opening older scores will continue to look exactly the same. To take advantage of the new spacing, simply select the passage of music and do Reset Note Spacing from the Appearance tab.


Experience better performance

In November, we introduced a far-reaching upgrade to the underlying infrastructure of Sibelius, with over 400 changes/improvements/bug fixes. As a result, Sibelius is faster and more responsive, delivering an improved user experience – including support for high-resolution displays, better accessibility support for screen readers, and a host of smaller enhancements that make the score writing experience smoother and more fluid.


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.

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.



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.

At this time, we only recommend using screen readers on Windows, as there’s so much further to go on Mac.

Read more about this release, along with a comparison table for our Accessibility support, here.

Goodbye EPS, hello true black PDFs

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”.

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.

Sibelius | First

In the middle of the year, we introduced a new free tier for Sibelius that makes it completely free! Beginners can now start out using the same tools as the professional composers, arrangers, orchestrators, engravers and publishers.

Sibelius | First is built from the same codebase as Sibelius | Ultimate, so is upgraded just as often, and includes (where appropriate for the feature-set) all the same improvements.

Built with simplicity in mind, but also with the power of Sibelius | Ultimate, with Sibelius | First, you’re able to start writing music straight away using alphabetic input or with Flexi-time™ using a MIDI keyboard. You can even mark up your score with dynamics, hairpins and phrasing with our new multi-edit workflows, allowing you to enter and edit multiple objects at once.

For a deep-dive in this revolutionary version of Sibelius, please see

Legacy bug fixes and other improvements

In addition to all these great features and advancements in Sibelius, we spent a huge amount of time under the hood making Sibelius faster, intuitive and more reliable.

  • 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 Title, Composer text, and so on
  • You can now change many types of barline at the same time
  • File > Print: The page orientation is now only changed by changes in Document Setup if printing Normal pages. This no longer happens with Spreads, Booklet or 2 Pages Per Sheet and avoids the problems where these would get reset to portrait paper rather than remain landscape, as is correct for these printing arrangements.
  • The space after a Key Signature and Start Repeat barline is now slightly wider and won’t collide with each other.
  • It’s now possible to add a Dashed slur to a grace-note.
  • The “Combine Tied Notes and Rests” plugin is nice and fast when processing music in large scores.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Empty text boxes no longer remain after removing multiple items of text with undo
  • Keyboard focus is now brought back to a text object after changing the size of it in Text > Format > Size
  • As well as several improvements to grace notes, Sibelius will now retain the spacing correctly when copy and pasting passages. This saves the extra step to reset the note spacing.
  • Several rare problems entering lyrics and chord symbols have all been resolved. This even included a crash and issues with the Undo queue
  • A lyrics extender line now no longer reappears after saving and reopening a score. This would only happen if there were empty bars between two lines of music that contained lyrics.
  • You can now enter multiple pieces of text or lines using a very short lasso selection
  • When entering multiple hairpins onto a minim followed by a minim rest, it no longer results in a hairpin under the rest
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kontakt 6 is now recognised as a “Kontakt” device rather than a standard AU or VST plugin


This completes the run-down of Sibelius in 2018 – if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed, and thank you! We’ve got an exciting roadmap for 2019, and we can’t wait to tell you what we’re up to – 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.