Avid released Sibelius 7 yesterday. Highlights in the new version:

A new UI. The most apparent change is a new user interface with dockable, tabbed panels. The design borrows heavily from Microsoft’s Office Ribbon, though a more subdued appearance makes it look just as comfortable on the Mac. My guess is that power users may just hide the whole thing and stick to keyboard shortcuts, but it should do wonders for discoverability for new users or more casual users not comfortable with that.

There’s also a nice new inspector, which looks a lot more usable and less-clumsy than the previous version.

The best UI feature: real full-screen mode, including on the Mac. The mixer has also been redesigned.

Better sharing for text, graphics, and more: Direct PDF and EPS export is now built in, with new “publisher-quality typography and graphics import/export.” It’s the feature least likely to be immediately noticed, but it could well be the best reason to upgrade. There’s also the ability to “sync or import” notation with Pro Tools, and of course you can publish to the iPad notation tool we’ve covered previously. (Links below.)

MusicXML interchange. Speaking of sharing, full, built-in MusicXML interchange support makes it possible to share notation with other tools, including Finale. (Side note: I hope this puts some pressure on the free tool Lilypond to support MusicXML export; it’s really frustrating that that’s missing. The proprietary tools are now more compatible than the free tool.)

64-bit support. Sibelius is indeed the first major native 64-bit notation software (at least, other than open source options which can be compiled for 64-bit). I’m not sure what the real-world implications of performance would be in notation itself – Sibelius was always plenty fast – but I’ll try to find out. It’s still a no-brainer. As for anyone using samples, this should provide 64-bit sample hosting, which is a very important feature for larger sample libraries / memory usage.

More sounds. Sibelius has long included licensed samples, but now following the Avid acquisition, the Avid virtual instruments folks have added their own symphony, rock, pop, organ, and (via Sample Logic) even band and drum and bugle sounds. We’ll have to hear how they sound and how well-integrated they are with the notation tools.

What about notation? The one thing I sense may be missing from this version is improvements to notation capabilities themselves. Because of the breadth of scoring possibilities, there’s almost always room for enhancement, and this update, while it appears a worthy investment for many users, seems from the information I have now not to address the core scoring functionality. That said, hidden in the feature set is better support for fonts which could have the greatest impact on how your scores actually appear: improved OpenType support adds compatibility with “the latest OpenType fonts, including advanced features like ligatures, and employ them in text frames with full DTP-level capabilities.” The ability to do that is very important to engraving and layout.

I hope to learn more about what the implications are for Sibelius scoring in Pro Tools, and how this version has changed.

By the way, Sibelius has also improved their academic pricing. US$295 is the student/teacher price, but what’s best about this is that they’re including four years of free upgrades for students. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that (usually precisely the opposite, excluding academic customers from upgrades), and it’s a nice touch.

Previously, our coverage of Avid’s notation tool for iPad:
Not Quite Sibelius for iPad, but Avid Scorch Could Become an iTunes of Notation

Tablet Scores: Avid Answers Our Scorch Questions; Bluetooth Page Turners for iPad, Android

  • Jim Aikin

    I use Sibelius 6 for notation. It's terrific, but it has a few little quirks. For instance, when you add a slur that needs to go on the same side of the notehead as the stem, the slur's end aims at the end of the stem, not at the notehead itself. Each time, you have to fix it by hand. But it certainly doesn't need a major overhaul.

  • Gaëtan Gravel

    Too bad Avid are not honoring recent buyers: no mather when you upgraded to Sibelius 6 -be it yesterday or, like me 3 weeks ago- Avid doesn't offer any special deal on upgrading to 7.
    Other than that, it looks like a fine UI and workflow overhaul, but I'll pass on this one. Sibelius 6 fullfills my needs for sessions scores prep.

  • I listened to the audio samples on the Sibelius site, and wasn't particularly impressed. Considering that the sample set weighs in at about 40 GB (according to the system reqs), I didn't really notice an improvement in realism from the existing Sib 6 sounds. I would have expected the sounds to be at least as good as EWQL-SO Gold. Considering the other system requirements, I think I will pass for now.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jim: Yes, I'd like to just see enhancements to the notation engine itself. I mean, I can't imagine that job ever really being done. It's possible that they do continue to work on that and it didn't make the marketing materials, but I'd find it unfortunate if it weren't an area of focus for Sib7. On the other hand, as I say, things like being able to do interchange and graphics export *are* essentially tied to the notation engine, so I don't want to armchair-quarterback their product management here — I guess I'd just say, I hope we see the notational details rise again as a priority now that the export is done. Theres' a long, long list of stuff engravers want, partly because notation is so complex.

    @Graham: Yeah, given the quality of the previous bundled sample content, for anyone invested in that, you'd presumably upgrade here more for the UI and interchange improvements.

    In general, I don't necessarily promote an upgrade just for the sake of it, if something does suit your needs! This is a reasonable set of updates, but probably won't be a must-buy for everyone.

  • Sibelius 7 and MuseScore 1.1. released same day, few hours difference. Interesting 🙂

  • Tim

    So I'm still on Sib5. Mainly because when Sib6 came out I didn't have the money and then it got to the 'oh well, they're release a new version soon enough' moment. While there are quite a few upgrades from 5 to 7, it still doesn't make me want to go and buy it this minute. The reason? Like Graham, the sound set. The piano was really the only 'passable' instrument in the sound examples. Percussion is good, as is a massive organ, but the strings and horn sections still sound bad.

    I really enjoy writing for an orchestra, but I've stopped doing that because of the quality of the sounds. As such I moved to writing music by recording each of the parts, audio or midi, and then if I need to print a part to play, Pro Tools does an alright job at it anyway. Of course it looks nicer if I go through Sibelius (Send to sibelius option in PT) but I generally don't bother. If PT did multi rests I wouldn't bother at all. I think I would have to drastically change the way I write music now to justify a purchase.

  • Jim Aikin

    Right now I'm extracting parts from an orchestral score, so forgive me while I insert a tiny gripe about the notation features. Sibelius seems to want to attach rehearsal letters (which are on bar lines, right?) to the previous bar, not the following bar. As these letters often fall at the end of a line when the part is ready for printing, every single ferschlugginer letter has to be dragged from the right end of one line over to the left end of the next line. Sheesh.

  • Tim

    When putting in rehersal marks I always clicked on the bar line and hit R. Thats a pain that they move when extracting the parts.

  • aje

    I've *enjoyed* a bit of a love/hate relationship with Sibelius right since version 1. I use it as a professional with several educational publications in print. My reaction to the latest update is that I do want to get this, cheifly because I can see the possibility of completing a publication within Sibelius itself, without the need to keep taking stuff out to InDesign in order to compile pages. The introduction of Text Boxes and OpenType fonts in Sibelius 7 has been my number one feature request since Sibelius 1. It's such an obvious addition that I really don't understand why it is only being added now. 
    Regarding the new sounds, I'm not interested. I don't think that Sibelius will be particularly useful for its sound export until they allow you to edit the tempo map properly. That has now risen to the top of my FR list for Sibelius 8…
    Oh, and thank goodness they didn't add iLok protection – an ongoing fear since AVID bought this up. 

  • Jason Rebourne

    Please tell me they've -finally- fixed this issue: when inputting notes on a MIDI keyboard, unless you press 'esc' (multiple times, because it never gets it) after doing so, it remains in note input mode and everything you play on the keyboard (jamming, trying to come up with a new idea, thinking that you're free to do so)…Sibelius puts in the score, creating a mess. 

  • Andy


    It's not a bug, it's a feature! It's just that Sibelius wants to make sure that your ideas don't get lost. 😉

  • Tim

    So Sibelius just posted on facebook that updated sound example had been added.

    I think that they would satisfy most people in video game mod development. Certainly an improvement on what was there. At least in 5 anyway.

  • Biff Wheatley

    Sibelius 7 crashed repeatedly (demo mode) so I've reverted to 6 until they fix it. I think Sibelius 7 is the "Vista" of scoring programs.