Editing and Annotation in the new Sibelius on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3

By in Music Creation

Weclome to my second installment of our look at Microsoft Surface. The first blog showed note entry with the pen and some GUI optimizations for the Surface Pro 3. In this article, I’ll look at Editing and Annotate features of the new Sibelius that are now optimized for use with Surface Pro 3.


Tapping the erase button = escape

It’s really common for users to want to exit note input, deselect objects, exit menus, and so on, and get on with whatever the next task is. Previously, the easiest way to do this was with the Escape key. We’ve made it easy with the pen; just click the erase button (without the nib on the screen), which behaves exactly like the escape key. The idea is the user has to put the pen down as little as possible, for a friction-free workflow.

The different buttons and their official names on the Surface Pro 3 pen

Multiple selections

You can now use the pen to easily make single and multiple object selections in the score. Here’s how we’ve implemented it in the new Sibelius.

Drawing a selection box in Sibelius

Center selection during note input and editing.

You’ll have seen this function in Sibelius before, but previously there hasn’t been a way of doing it without a keyboard.

  1. Click and hold the right-click button on the pen.
  2. Drag the nib across the score.
  3. A selection box is drawn allowing you to select the notes you want.
  4. When you’re finished, you can deselect by tapping the erase button on the pen.


Adding to existing selections

This is new to Sibelius. We want to allow a user to make complex selections with only the pen. That means there is no interruption as the user puts the pen down to use, for example, the keyboard and mouse, which is what you’d have had to do previously in Sibelius.

  1. Select an object in the score by tapping it with the pen.
  2. Click and hold the right-click pen button.
  3. Tap on a new object.
  4. Sibelius adds the new object to your selection.

You can do the same too with selection boxes:

  1. Select an object in the score by tapping it with the pen.
  2. Click and hold the right-click pen button.
  3. Tap and drag on your score – a selection box is drawn
  4. Release the right-click pen button. All the objects that were in your selection box are added to your selection.

Again, tap the erase button to invoke escape, thus deselecting and returning you to where you started.


Types of selection

Sibelius has two types of selection: passage selections and object selections.

A passage selection, encompassing a passage and all attached objects

A passage selection, encompassing a passage and all attached objects.

An object selection, comprising of individual objects, not necessarily related to one another

An object selection, comprising of individual objects, not necessarily related to one another.

The type of selection you get depends on how you select objects, and in which order:

  • Object selection + object selection = object selection
  • Object selection + passage selection = passage selection
  • Passage selection + passage selection = passage selection

This should be familiar to existing Sibelius users already, as it’s very similar to how the mouse works now.


The old mousy ways work too

The pen inherits a lot of behaviour from the mouse too. That means you can still:

  • Double-tap on a bar to select the entire line.
  • Triple-tap to select the entire line throughout the score.

Erasing objects

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you can use the erase button on the pen to erase/delete objects in the score.


Single objects

  1. Click and hold the erase button on the pen, then tap on the object you want to delete.
  2. Er… that’s it.


Multiple objects

  1. Make a multiple selection using one of the methods above.
  2. Click and hold the erase button on the pen, then tap on the selection you’ve just made.

Just like previously, if you’ve selected an entire instrument in a score (by triple tapping on it), Sibelius will ask you whether you want to remove that instrument from the score, or merely just empty its bars of notation.

Making corrections using the new Sibelius Annotate feature

Making corrections using the new Sibelius Annotate feature.


With the new Sibelius, we’re releasing a brand new feature – Annotate. It allows you to draw in your score, using the pen (or a mouse if you don’t have a Surface).


Adding an annotation

  1. Tap Review > Annotate.
  2. Begin drawing on the score.
  3. The annotation is pressure sensitive – pressing harder will give you a thicker line. Pressure sensitivity should help the annotation to appear natural and aesthetically pleasing.

Scribble demonstrating pressure sensitivity.


You can undo and redo annotations on a stroke by stroke basis. Since you’ve probably got the pen in your hand, the easiest way to do this is using the buttons on the top left of the Sibelius window.


Grouping of annotations

Sibelius intelligently groups the different pen strokes that make up an annotation. This means that, instead of moving an annotation a stroke at a time (which could be painfully tedious) you can drag an annotation, in its entirety, into any location you see fit, just like you would any other object in the score.



Annotations can be shown and hidden on a case by case basis by right-clicking on them, using pen or mouse, and choosing hide or show. You can hide them globally using a new tick box in View tab > Invisibles.


Changing the colour of an annotation

  1. Create an annotation as above
  2. Exit annotation mode by tapping the erase button on your pen (or pressing escape)
  3. Select the annotation, and right-click on it, and choose Color…
  4. Select the colour you want.

In future releases, we’ll make it easier to change the colour of the annotation at the time of entry, but for now we have the paradigm that exists for other objects in Sibelius as described above.


Graphical scoring

OK, I admit, the Annotate feature isn’t really intended for this, but there are some interesting possibilities for future development. Here’s a short example:

Using the annotate feature to allow freehand drawing for graphical scoring.

For education

If you’ve got a network license of Sibelius, then Annotate provides a nice workflow for teachers and educators to provide feedback to students. Using the built-in Classroom Control feature of Sibelius, a teacher can request a student’s score from their computer and open it locally in their copy of Sibelius, on their machine. The teacher can then add annotations on the score – corrections, suggestions and so on – which are then sent back to the student for them to work on, all via the network.


High DPI display support for Windows

Sibelius now supports Windows high density displays and pixel ratio scaling. Sibelius’ UI is now displayed at a far higher resolution, and makes far better use of screen real estate on Windows high resolution devices. It sounds like a small feature, but actually it has been essential in making all the features above possible. As aforementioned, we’ve added proper high DPI support for the keypad, along with new graphics. We’re also giving the same treatment to the transport window to boot (allowing pen users to use Sibelius’ playback functions using only the pen).


Wrapping up

I hope this article has been helpful in explaining the new features and support we’re adding to Sibelius. Thanks for reading it, and if you’ve got questions, please ask. More from me in the coming weeks about other Sibelius topics.


The Sibelius team

These features and workflows are a result of input from the entire Sibelius development and product management teams. So special mention to them because this is their work too. We’re also building on the foundation of many years of dedicated work on Sibelius, without which none of the above would have been remotely possible.

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Sibelius product designer, drummer, percussionist, and musician. I'm looking forward to building on the excellent foundation of Sibelius.