What’s New in Sibelius — June 2020

By in Notation

We’re excited to introduce to you the June 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: new color options to help you see the music more easily as you write and edit scores; new MusicXML Import workflows that allow you to import music into your template and arrange on the fly; plus some further improvements to Accessibility and a slew of new features and improvements covering far-reaching areas of Sibelius to help you get the most out of your music creation.

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

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.


Customise color to help whole range of sight loss

We’re pleased to introduce a further swathe of accessibility improvements. This time, we are addressing the whole range of sight loss by introducing features to allow you to customize the color of the four voice colors, notes out of range, and the color of the Staff and System selections.

The colors are controlled in Preferences and can be saved in new Color Presets. To set these up, go to File > Preferences > Accessibility, and check out the new pane on the right.

Sibelius comes with 5 presets to get you started, and you can create your own. These are:

  • Default – as they always have been
  • Vivid – very high contrasting colours
  • Monochromatic – mostly blue with a hint of pink
  • Grayscale – mostly gray with a hint of pink
  • Working late – specifically chosen to reduce eye strain in low light conditions

The options to set up your own colors can be found in the Accessibility pane of File > Preferences. Much like the Timeline Presets, click “New…” to create a new preset and choose a preset name. Then, you can click on each color for each item to choose from the standard color picker, which even includes control for the alpha channel/opacity. Combine this with changing the colour of the paper texture, and you can make your scores appear any way you wish:

Be sure you have “Voice Colors” turned “on” in the Ribbon > View > Note Colors.

Changes are saved to the Color Preset when you click OK and can be recalled from the dropdown at the top of these preferences. These presets are stored in:

  • Mac: /Users/YourUserName/Library/Application Support/Avid/Sibelius/Music Color Presets
  • Win: C:UsersYourUserNameAppDataRoamingAvidSibeliusMusic Color Presets


Accessibility improvements for screen readers

Continuing on our accessibility project with Berklee College of Music, here are the latest improvements to come to this release:

  • Within our accessibility effort, screen readers now announce the names of range-selected staves. Specifically, when a range selection is expanded to a stave above or below, you’ll hear the name of the instrument on that stave in order to know exactly what has been added to the selection.
  • The information from a screen reader is much more complete when navigating the menus in File > Plug-ins, File > Avid Link and Home > Clipboard > Paste.
  • Screen readers now announce the complete chord symbol, for example, “Chord Symbol D7sus4 (Text) Bar 2, beat 1” rather than just as “Guitar chord frame”
  • Screen Readers no longer announce Repeat Bar symbols as Bar Rests sometimes
  • The Ribbon items have been grouped so it’s a lot easier (less cluttered) to navigate using a screen reader.
  • When entering a Gallery or textual menu for the very first time, focus no longer fails to set on the first item
  • Multi-rests are now screen reader accessible
  • Various elements of the edit text, lines and symbols dialogs are now read by screen readers
  • You can now use the Numpad keys 4 and 6 to navigate through the Inspector
  • The Inspector is now screen reader accessible
  • The Inspector now gets focus when it is opened, allowing you to tab around it immediately. Closing the inspector will return the focus to the score.


MusicXML Import

Importing MusicXML files have historically been very dependent on the data inside the XML file, and this is only as good as the export functionality of the application that generated it. Sibelius’s legacy import process also had some limitations, especially while trying to honour the layout and instrumentation of the source material. Then, once in Sibelius, it was usually a case of copying that music across to your own template, then wrangling with the system objects and overall layout. Now, you can import a MusicXML file straight into your template or existing score, and have the musical structure preserved, and even choose which instruments to import then arrange and explode onto other instruments.

Those who know the Intelligent MIDI Import workflows (released back in September last year) will find the new MusicXML import features familiar. The File > Import page now changes depending on the file you’re importing e.g. MIDI or MusicXML.

The options along the bottom are far fewer compared to the importing a MIDI file, and allow a good amount of control of what’s imported:

These should be fairly self-explanatory, and will be handy in different situations, for example, if you’d rather retain your template’s House Style e.g. stem directions, default positions of objects etc. then untick “Use Layout and Formatting from MusicXML file”.

The routing table in the centre of the page, as with the existing MIDI import features, allows you to assign the incoming staves to the instruments in the score i.e. one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many. Really useful for automatically splitting instrumental parts across several instruments, or creating SATB arrangements from a piano in only a few steps.

As with the Intelligent MIDI Import (introduced in September 2019) Sibelius can handle this complex mapping for you with a single click of the “Auto Assign” button if the source file and the destination Sibelius file have the same (or similar) name, or you utilize mapping hashtags. You can find all the details on that mapping syntax in the Reference Guide (under the Importing MIDI section, p.54). But as a quick reminder, when importing an xml or midi file, if the instrument names in the source file contain a hashtag followed by an identifier (i.e. #SATB), then the “Auto Assign” button will attempt to match those incoming source tracks to destination instruments staves by looking for a matching hashtag identifier. The example below shows an example one-to-many mapping, and of course, the reverse is also possible. (Note: although not necessary, the hashtags below were added as “hidden text” using the tilde ~ character so that they can be easily removed from the current score view):

We realize that the hashtag mappings may not be immediately obviously useful for everyone, but if you happen to be working on a score with several other people giving you music from other music applications, all of whom are contributing different sections, it can really pay to learn about the possibilities of these mappings! It’s been said to save not only hours on a project, but days…


Sibelius | First and the Score Starter

The Score Starter, was originally introduced in Sibelius | First when it was a paid product many years ago, and now has been (re)instated to both Sibelius | First and Sibelius (not Sibelius | Ultimate). We’ve given the categories a facelift with new imagery for the tab in the Quick Start. Each of the new score starter templates has been trimmed down or created from scratch, to meet Sibelius | First’s 4-stave limitation, and have an audio example to go with them too. This provides a good springboard for budding musicians who would like to see what’s possible within Sibelius, and to provide them with inspiration for their own music.

Sibelius | First is a free version of Sibelius available to everyone. Sign up for free, here: my.avid.com/get/sibelius-first


LV and Tie-into Ties

We’ve also spent some time cleaning up our (relatively) new L.V. ties. In particular, L.V. ties on grace notes are now drawn properly, and L.V. ties now respond appropriately when notes are moved (chromatically or diatonically) within a chain of ties (i.e. L.V. ties now break a tie-chain).

Changing the pitch of L.V. tie note no longer moves the following note with the same pitch, and L.V. Ties have no playback effect on the following note of the same pitch.

In addition to this, it is now also possible to add Tie-Into ties to a grace note. These items were previously overlooked in the initial release of tie-into objects. They function just like non-grace note tie-into objects, and they do not have any special playback effect.


We’ve implemented calls to allow a plugin to save as a previous version for more recent versions. We’ve simply continued our current pattern of exposing backwards compatibility within ManuScript. Specifically, we’ve added the following ManuScript Calls.

  • SaveAsSibelius7_5
  • SaveAsSibelius8
  • SaveAsSibelius8_1
  • SaveAsSibelius8_6
  • SaveAsSibelius2020_1

With this in mind, we’ve updated the “Convert Folder to Earlier Sibelius Version” plug-in. We’ve also given the ManuScript language guide a spruce to improve the layout and formatting to make it easier to read.


Font handling across Windows and Mac

Opening scores that travel between Windows and Mac has been improved. Quite often, when using the same font on both computers, you’d find the “Missing Fonts” window appear even if the fonts appeared to have the same name. On Mac, it’s more common to have a font family that contains the styles, but on Windows, the fonts and styles appear to be separated into individual fonts. Sibelius used to only match up on exact names, but now will look at the font name and the style and see if it can match it up with an incoming font and style. When a match is found, the Missing Fonts dialog no longer appears.


General improvements and Bug fixes

As always, we throw in a good collection of improvements to each release, and this one is no different.

To improve the user experience for those with subscriptions, Sibelius now encourages users to be logged into Avid Link. This will give you the best chance for your account to be sync’d when the time comes for subscription renewal.

When exporting a MusicXML file, the file extension has been changed from .xml to .musicxml

Engraving Rules, House Styles and Manuscript papers

  • The Spanish Manuscript Papers have been updated to be in line with the other languages.
  • Time signatures (film score) style is no longer doubled in Engraving Rules in French and Spanish
  • Auto-Optimize is now turned on for new scores (as it should have always been)
  • Page number wild cards are now rendered consistently in a score if you try to hide the normal page numbers
  • Opening Engraving Rules after Importing a House Style used to change the page margins. This no longer happens, thankfully!



  • Sibelius no longer crashes after opening the Symbol gallery and then quitting
  • In very rare cases, scores exported from Sibelius 2020.3 as 8.6-2019.12 score, would crash when opening in Sibelius 2019.12 or earlier
  • We’ve removed the old Spotlight and QuickLook folders from the mac app bundle as they were causing several mdworker crashes. Those old components have been deprecated and replaced by newer methods. We’ll rewrite these in due course.
  • The background of the score preview in Quick Start > New Score is no longer garbled or transparent on Mac


Importing files

  • Opening a MIDI file no longer creates duplicate Dynamic Parts (introduced in 2019.9)
  • When opening a MusicXML file that contains an unrecognized element, the warning window now appears on Mac.


  • The German Reference guide has been added back into the installer so there’s a local copy rather than linking to it online.
  • “Tie Into” shortcut has been moved into the correct keypad area within Keyboard Shortcuts
  • The scroll bar now appears correctly in the Ideas panel on macOS
  • Something we fixed in our March release, but I forgot to mention…
  • Making any change to the Score Info in a part results in the connection to the Score Info from the full score being broken, even if you subsequently delete the data from the part.


…and that’s it! We hope you enjoy these new improvements. Please let us know how you get on via the Sibelius.com support forum, or via our official Facebook and Twitter pages.

We also hope you stay safe and well.

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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.