What’s New in Sibelius — December 2019

By in Notation

We’re really pleased to announce the release and immediate availability of our December ‘19 release of Sibelius. This new version is available to all those with current subscriptions and active Update and Support plans. If you can’t wait, you can get the update via Avid Link or download the latest installer from your account.

If you’re running an older version and looking to upgrade, you can grab the upgrade with a discount up to 50% regular price, available until the end of 2019. Options, including a 60% off crossgrade to a subscription, can be found on the Avid.com website.

If you’re new to Sibelius, you can download the 30-day trial to try out all these amazing new improvements.

This upgrade spans several areas of the program, so let’s jump in:

Accessibility

Avid and Berklee College of Music are proud to be working together to bring improvements across the Sibelius product line for visually impaired users. The bulk of the work so far has been to bring parity between the various common screen readers NVDA, Narrator, VoiceOver and JAWS. Our releases in November ’18, and in September ’19 covered much of the staff objects in the score, and this December release focuses on a good collection of improvements to make much of the UI (user interface) accessible to these popular screen readers. This is no mean feat since Sibelius is such a large application with several different interfaces, so kudos to the development team for tackling such a large undertaking.

I had the pleasure of attending the Accessibility Panel at the Audio Development Conference in November where we discussed many of the challenges and new solutions to developing applications across a wide range of devices. If you have time, I thoroughly recommend you watch the recording:

The premise of these improvements has not just been to read what’s on the screen, but to add contextual detail too. It’s these details that make the difference to any implementation of accessibility – much like a sighted person helping a blind person down a flight of stairs; it’s not much help telling them that there are some stairs there… Where do the stairs begin? How many stairs are there? Which direction do they go? Is there a hand rail? Context is just as important to help navigation. The next time you’re at a road crossing (in the UK, at least) look down and you’ll notice tactile paving on the pavement. These have been specifically designed to tell visually impaired pedestrians that there’s a crossing there and where the road is. Oh, and don’t forget about “The Secret button” at pedestrian crossings too!

Augmentations have been made to household items and public services all over the world to help those with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and blindness and there’s so much more to be done. We’re doing our small bit in Sibelius to help blind musicians become more independent and composer and produce music without the need for sighted assistance.

When Sibelius starts up, you’ll now hear your screen reader announce the version of Sibelius (which our beta testers have found incredibly useful). The Quick Start is the first window to appear, with a list of Manuscript Papers to choose from. Using the Tab and Shift+Tab keys, you can navigate around the dialog to choose which template to start with. If you’re itching to write music, press Return and you’re ready to go. If, however, you need to choose the paper size, add or remove instruments, set the initial Time Signature and Key, press Space and this will open up a separate pane to start customising the score. Tabbing through this dialog will announce the items as you choose them, for example:

“Document Setup” → “A4, Combo box, Down” and as you press down, it’ll say the new page size, as well as how many other options there are in the list. Continuing to tab through this dialog will help you set the score up just how you need it, with the Title, Composer and so on. Tab a few more times and you’ll get to the Create button. Press Return and you’re in the score.

Selecting Staff objects and inputting notes has not changed in this release, however navigating around the Ribbon toolbar and features has.

In summary:

 

  • Renewed support for Narrator, NVDA, VoiceOver and JAWS – those hanging onto Sibelius 5 can now upgrade!
  • The Lines, Symbols and Notehead galleries are spoken once more. The main improvements to the galleries are on Windows, however you should find the Ribbon is easier to navigate on macOS now too as the names of each Ribbon tab should now be announced.
  • Sibelius now announces any notehead type to screen readers (keyboard accessible via: ALT + SHIFT + [0-22] )
    • Note: for shortcut numbers greater than 9, quickly enter the digits in order. For example, for small noteheads (ALT + SHIFT + 10), simply hold ALT and SHIFT and quickly type ‘1’ followed by ‘0’.
  • The Quick Access and Status Bar buttons are now accessible
  • The Quick Start and creating a new score is much improved. The Time Signatures and Key Signatures lists are accessible.
  • It’s now possible to navigate the Preferences window with VoiceOver
  • VoiceOver now announces the Ribbon buttons for drop-down menus
  • Manuscript Paper names are now read when navigating the Quick Start with arrow keys

 

As mentioned, we aren’t done with the accessibility improvements in Sibelius and have another 6 months of work with Berklee to bring you improvements that span the whole range of sight loss. If you’re at the NAMM Show in Anaheim in January, we’ll be running our annual Accessibility Panel and have plenty more to show you on the Avid booth too. If you’re around, please stop by and say Hi!

 

Further improvements in Sibelius

This release isn’t all about accessibility, so we’re pleased to be able to knuckle down on some other improvements and bug fixes. We performed a further update to the underlying infrastructure (Qt) too, which brings several improvements across the whole application.

 

In general

  • Pauses (fermatas) are no longer lost when changing a note to a rest
  • We’ve done a fresh round of profiling, so Sibelius should be slightly quicker when the Inspector is open
  • Sibelius no longer quits but leaves the Quick Start open after applying Close All command (Win only)
  • The check-boxes in the Multiple Part Appearance dialog are more reliable now
  • The Subscript/Superscript buttons in the Inspector are now more reliable too
  • In the Timecode and Duration dialog, “Start video at” now works once more
  • The Missing Fonts window no longer loses focus after opening the score from Recent Documents (Win only)

 

UI and UX

  • Keyboard shortcuts within the Word Menus are no longer truncated
  • The border around the File path in the MIDI Import page is no longer transparent
  • Text is no longer cut off in some dialogs (Mac only)
  • Fixed a problem with decimal places in dialogs when running Sibelius in any other language than English
  • The “Save changes” dialog no longer pops up behind the Sibelius window when closing multiple scores at once (Win)
  • Double tapping with the Surface Pro Pen now works once more in the Quick Start window
  • Video no longer plays back only in ‘full size’, no matter what size the video window was (Mac only)
  • The unnecessary padding around our floating tool windows (Keypad, Transport etc.) has been removed. This only affected computers with multiple monitors using different DPI settings.
  • The full list of Playback Configurations are now displayed in the dropdown when going to Play > Setup > Configuration
  • The score preview in the Quick Start dialog are now nice and sharp when using 150+% scaling on Windows or Retina on Mac

 

Printing and PDF Export

  • Printing now works well with all Windows Forms other than “built-in”.
  • It’s possible once more to set page layout in Document Setup and have the Print Preview correctly reflect this.
  • Changing the paper orientation in File > Print now also immediately updates the Print Preview and subsequently allows Sibelius to print correctly.
  • On macOS, it’s now possible to open the “OS dialog” in File > Print when there is no printer driver installed. Useful for saving a PDF to Preview, say.
  • Sibelius now better supports simplex (one-sided) and duplex (double-sided) printing. We had reports of some Cannon and Epsom printers always choosing duplex.
  • PDF Export is more accurate when using the Tahoma font on Mac
  • The Portrait/Landscape printing synchronization is no longer broken after you click OK in the Page Setup dialogue.
  • The problems with “Executive” paper size are fixed
  • Landscape / Portrait issues now work too for B4 and B5 paper sizes
  • 2 more scaling ratios have been added to Fit to paper: 141% and 71% (for A4 to A3 scaling, and vice-versa)

 

We’ve also made changes to the PDF Export functionality in the OS print dialog on Mac. The restriction we’ve had to work around is that it can only process one score or part, and Sibelius would get inundated with errors popping up (in 2018.11 and later). In this release, we have suppressed the error popups, and limited the dialog to only print or save the first score or part. This is a limitation in the way this dialog has been implemented by Qt, and not Sibelius. We’ll continue to work on improving this in the future. To export a PDF of the score and parts, the File > Export > PDF options are there, of course.

 

Stability

As with every release, we collect all the crash logs that are sent to us and do our best to fix them all. This release is no different:

  • Sibelius no longer crashes when automatically respacing music that’s in multiple voices.
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when creating a new composite Symbol
  • Export Audio/Video now ends if Loop mode is on and there is selection in the score
  • Sibelius no longer crashes when quitting from within the new MIDI Import page if the score was not saved
  • The QtWebEngine process no longer consumes a lot of CPU
  • We have enabled whole-program optimizations on Windows so you should find Sibelius is a little snappier than before

 

MIDI Import

Many thanks for all the great feedback on our recent Import MIDI features. If you missed them, you can read all about the MIDI Import feature here.

  • Sibelius now imports all tracks of a MIDI file more reliably. We now check the first chunk of the MIDI file, to know whether or not to consider it as meta data or musical data. Many thanks to Christoph Suesser for making us aware of the problem.
  • The behaviour of the Browse button within the MIDI Import Tab is now consistent with the File > Open workflow.
  • There’s a new shortcut to go straight to File > Import so that users can directly access the Import tab. You’ll find it in Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > File tab, called “Import”.
  • Track names are now displayed more reliable in the new Import MIDI tab (compared with old Import MIDI process)
  • The score preview with Import > MIDI are no longer linked to the preview in File > Print
  • When allocating instruments to incoming MIDI tracks, the dropdown menu will no longer close after each mapping. This makes one-to-many mappings quicker and easier to do.
  • The Auto assign button now catches more obvious instrument matches
  • Switching between Import MIDI and other File tabs, no longer shows a warning message

 

Plugins

A number of our shipping plug-ins were not up to date with changes made to those available to download on Sibelius.com. We’ve been through and updated the following (in all localizations):

  • Nashville Chord Numbers
  • Split Bar
  • Export Folder As PDF Subfolder
  • Divide Durations
  • Combine Tied Notes And Rests
  • Add Capo Chord Symbols
  • Merge Bars

 

Important information: System Requirements

The good news is the latest versions of Sibelius run very well on the latest operating systems from both Windows and Apple.

macOS Catalina: Sibelius 2019.9 and 2019.12 are both fully supported. Sidecar also works well too, so feel free to give it a go if you have a compatible iPad. Sibelius 2018.11 – 2019.7 may work on Catalina, although haven’t been qualified. Anything earlier than that very likely won’t work due to the technology requirements Apple changed in Catalina. We encourage you to upgrade if you’re planning on using Sibelius on Catalina.

Windows 10: Sibelius, from v 8.0, runs well on Windows 10, so you’ll find Sibelius 2019.9 will also run really well.

However, there are some changes coming for older operating systems:

Sibelius 2019.9 was the last version of Sibelius to support Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan. If you are on these older versions, we recommend you upgrade to at least macOS 10.12 Sierra to continue to stay current with Sibelius.

On the Windows side, Microsoft will be dropping support for Windows 7 soon. Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in January 2015, and extended support will end on January 14, 2020. This means we won’t be able to support any version of Sibelius on Windows 7 from then. To find out more about migrating to Windows 10, visit this page.

If you are using an older version of Sibelius and are looking to upgrade to macOS Catalina or Windows 10, we recommend to upgrade and stay current with the latest version Sibelius as well.

 

And that’s it! With over 80 changes in this release, we hope it’ll streamline your music creating workflows and we look forward to showing what else we’ve been working in the New Year.

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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.