Rivalries are good: they keep software developers competitive, leapfrogging each other in features. They keep the pressure on, and having seen what happens when one company gets a monopoly (Microsoft Office, I’m looking at you), progress generally slows. Notation users have benefited from the Finale/Sibelius rivalry, and that competition continues to produce better and better notation software. Finale 2007 looks like it will continue that trend.

Now, I’ve gotten in trouble before when I’ve said Finale was blatantly copying its music notation rival Sibelius. But I don’t think anyone can argue with me this time. The major features in Sibelius 4: parts linked to full score, and integrated video support and film scoring features. The major features in Finale 2007, based on a marketing email I just got from Finale:

  1. Parts linked to full score
  2. Integrated video support and film scoring features
  3. Intel Mac native support

Sounds familiar, huh? Now, honestly, these were really features that both packages would inevitably add, so I’m glad to see Finale continuing to level the playing field. And don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of other features that are unique to Finale; Finale users will want to read through the extensive feature list Finale just posted. Specifically, they continue to improve integration with Native Instruments Kontakt Player and Human Playback features. Unlike Sibelius, Finale can host a wide range of VST/AU plug-ins (all based on Kontakt); the feature works really well in Finale 2006 and is improved in 2007. But most importantly, I think copying is good, not bad. Many of the Sibelius and Finale users are fiercely loyal to their product; they have to be — composing is hard enough work as it is, and switching from one platform to another would be a big adjustment.

Bottom line: when rivals compete, users win. MakeMusic once didn’t even want to acknowledge that it was competing with Finale; as far as I know, they still don’t like to refer to “the competition” by name. They’re clearly aware of it. And their product has gotten a lot better as Sibelius matured. (Sibelius has improved a lot, too; I’ve been a Sibelius user since version 1.xx, and looking back, frankly, that version was pretty awful. 4.1 is a joy.)

I wholeheartedly endorse upgrading each product, with one caveat: back up your system and keep your old version handy. Your scores are too important to risk on any upgrade from any company. Case in point: a bug in the Finale 2006 installer for Mac (later fixed) could wipe out preferences. But, once you’ve backed up, sometimes the latest-and-greatest really can be the greatest.

The only real bad news? A few lines in my book are now out of date.

  • I have to say that the dynamic linking of parts to the score is something many Finale users have been screaming for for many years going now–since before there was a Sibelius. As with several other things, it takes Sibelius doing it first for Finale to have the appropriate pressure to finally do it. I really hope that now that Finale seems to have gotten out of its legacy code mire that many of the things long-time users have been asking for will come more easily. We asked and asked for more flexible and powerful MIDI controls for playback, but they finally largely mooted that with the human playback features and GPO instrument set, which are all pretty well implemented (thanks again to Sibelius for the pressure) and look to be even stronger now.

  • Well, and before I get an irate user on here, I know there were at least a couple of other programs that had attempted integrated parts — it's one of those things that these programs should just have; it just happens to be hard to implement. Ditto the film scoring / integrated video stuff. I look forward to seeing how Finale implemented these features, to see how well they work.

  • I agree with all the above – the first scoring program I used was the then cutting edge Apple Mac program Professional Composer by Mark of the Unicorn quickly replaced by the very powerful but soon orphaned Composer's Mosaic which actually had integrated Parts/Score from the outset. Long after Finale surpassed it, and Sibelius was announced, I continued to use Mosaic and to this day regret its abandonement, especially since my huge library of scores won't work under MacOS X. Finale I always find way too hard and slow to use – having to go drill down to another mode for almost every different action and forever looking up the admittedly excellent documentation is way too complex for me – so for the time being, I use Sibelius 4.1 and love it.

    Derek Williams,

    Ph.D. student, Edinburgh University.

  • Luke Harrald

    it's funny not seeing any irate users popping up, but I also agree with the above comments. The Sibelius/ Finale rivalry has been great for users, and as a Finale user since version 3.1, I can only say that certainly many Finale users are pretty loyal.

    On the Finale vs. Sibelius interface front it was once put to me like this… Sibelius is like word while Finale is like photoshop. When I use sibelius, the context sensitive cursor nearly drives me mad, I just can't get used to it. The tool switching in Finale really doesn't bother me at all… and if you become fluent with macros and keyboard shortcuts Finale is a very fast editing environment. Also the fact that the software does nearly nothing for you makes it inherently flexible- far more so than most other editors.

    Viva la difference! and my both products continue to push each other to greater heights.

  • Joe

    "Sibelius is like word while Finale is like photoshop"

    That has to be the worst analogy I've ever heard.

  • nalooti


    i'm completely new in these.

    I play guitar (jazz) and have some "real books" sheet music.

    I want a way the soft "reads" the music notations from a file then plays it on my PC so i know what that piece sounds like.

    Of course the other way is play it on my guitar, but it takes time to decode it and before doing that i want to know if i like that music/song.

    Is this soft something for me ?

    What category of soft i'm looking for and what's your suggestions.

    many thanks