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Re: [HD] Songwriter or Finale

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Subject: Re: [HD] Songwriter or Finale
From: Roland De Fleur <rolandefleur@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2013 14:52:12 -0400
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I had hoped I would not have to write such a review ... but here goes.

I've been a user of Finale since v1.0 on my Mac IIx. For most of that time the program has been fantastic for meeting the demands of almost everything imaginable in the music notion and scoring realm. They have gone through some management and marketing changes along the way as one would expect for what is now a 22 year old company. I use it primarily for orchestral, brass band and wind ensemble arranging of church music. I recently added SmartScore which is one of their partners for the ability to scan music and convert the scanned image into finale formatted music.

The program is fairly well integrated, although the past few years they seem obsessed with adding more Gittaran voices instead of relying on the user having a synthesizer available for midi realization beyond just basic midi sounds. But that field has evolved as well thanks to DSP and the VST plug-ins.

Finale as a program adds a lot of 'intelligence' to the raw midi information to manage expressions and notation layout. The good news is this makes things behave better on screen and in print, the bad news is it gets stripped off when converting to other formats or you need to add it if you import files from others.

The strongest competitor is Sibelius which began as a rather basic annotation program but provided an API that appears to be easier for users to create features they need beyond the program at a faster rate than the Finale users ...

What doesn't work:
There is no facility to provide autoharp strumming annotation to music
The program *still* has problems with centering whole notes around other notation in a measure (they act like they have a stem on their RH side)
Full tablature notation is supported as well as an extensive percussion library. I have never been able to get the percussion notation to work correctly with the midi output (get the right 'sound' on the right staff line). Perhaps that is just me.

Page layout has greatly improved from years ago. It is now much easier to nest music notation in a text/MSWord document, but I believe they are still 'invisible' in Word and only appear when printed.

I have always used the full version of Finale, not the starter packages. The application to view .mus files is free, but it is an application rather than a browser plug-in.

For anyone using music notation programs to respond to your needs, we need more information about *how* you are using the software. These programs have become Swiss-Army-knives due to marketing-feature-creep so if you want to do many different things this will work well. If you only want to do limited things in the music world, you may find other programs simpler to understand and use as long as you don't expect more of them than their feature set.

If all you are doing is producing lead sheets, Finale Songwriter *should* work just fine.

What limitations of Songwriter do you hope to eliminate by upgrading?

Oh ,and Finale is really good at reminding you to upgrade to the newest version every year for $100 whether it fixes the problem you reported or not. They only allow discounted upgrades from the past two versions of the software.

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