Finale 2010 - A Review

By Jari Williamsson, February 06, 2010

With this review, I'm trying to give you an in-depth discussion of the new features in Finale 2010 (compared to Finale 2009). It also contains a number of tips regarding the use of Finale 2010. The version tested in this review is Finale 2010b.

Please note that this review is based on the Windows version of Finale 2010.

First the usual questions...

What's new?

  • Percussion Enhancements
  • Chord Enhancements
  • Automatic Rehearsal Marks
  • Enhanced Measure Numbering support
  • Multi-layer staff enhancements
  • Staff Style assignment changes
  • Broadway Copyist font
  • VST Instrument Enhancements
  • VST FX Plug-in Support
  • Enhanced Help
  • Anti-aliasing
  • Transparent Handles
  • Improved Graphics File Support
  • Export Lyrics dialog box
  • Hyperlink support
  • Flash Cards and Worksheets
  • Other smaller additions and changes

I currently use Finale 2009. Do I have to "re-learn" something to use Finale 2009?

The handling of percussion is different than in Finale 2009. The treatments of VST instruments and of chords are a little bit different than in Finale 2009.


Percussion Enhancements

The main difference between percussion in Finale 2010 and earlier Finale versions is that notation and playback now are clearly separated. The Staff Attributes doesn't contain the information about MIDI pitch for percussion sounds anymore.


In earlier Finale versions, you defined the playback note in the staff attributes. What was earlier called "Percussion Map", is now roughly the same as a Percussion Layout -  but without any playback mapping.

The Percussion Layout designer now supports whole and double-whole (brevis) noteheads (in addition to the older closed and open noteheads). With all the playback settings removed from the dialog box, the interface has become very straightforward. The Note Type is the most important setting in the percussion layout dialog box, which is a huge collection of all kinds of percussion instruments you probably will encounter. In earlier Finale versions, this dialog box was sorted by the MIDI note; now you manually sort the order of the notes, which is of importance when toggling percussion notes on the same staff line in Simple Entry, for example.

If you have existing notes without percussion Note Types, it's often easier to change through the Utilities/Transpose Percussion Notes utility. Select the region where you need to change and all the notes in the region will appear; the ones without Note Types will appear as numbers. If a Note Type doesn't exist for the staff's percussion layout, it will automatically be added to the percussion layout.

Tip: Notes on percussion staves without a Note Type are colored with the color used for "Unlinked Items".

To connect the percussion to playback, you use an extra column in the Instrument List called Percussion MIDI Map. Here you can select from the available playback setups (such as General MIDI, Garritan Instruments for Finale, and so on). The percussion MIDI map is very simple, it only maps between the Note Type (see above) and the playback note. Please keep in mind that you still must set up the basic playback settings yourself; only selecting General MIDI will not set the change the playback channel to 10 or load the appropriate VST instruments, for example.

If you want to create your own percussion MIDI map, it's very easy and straightforward using the built-in Percussion MIDI Map Editor.

If you want to overwrite the Instrument List's percussion MIDI map setting you can use the Percussion Input Maps dialog box to force a whole 16-channel slot to map to a specific percussion MIDI map. However, for most situations, this dialog box can be left alone and instead use the default Match Input Map to Output Map setting.

If a document created in an earlier version of Finale doesn't have the correct percussion sounds after conversion, it can be reconverted using the Document/Data Check/Reconvert Percussion Note Types utility.

There's also a new option in the Program Options (the Edit page) that controls how copy/paste works between percussion staves and pitched staves. It will either maintain the MIDI number or the staff position.

When editing percussion staves, there's a very useful editing setting in View/Show/Percussion MIDI Values. This option will display the MIDI notes within parenthesis above or below the notes on a percussion staff. Please note that this is a display setting only, it will not print. Also, it will not display on non-percussion staves.

In conclusion, the results of the design change (going from percussion map to percussion layouts) are:

  • The number of required Percussion Layouts will be far less than was the case for Percussion Maps in earlier versions, since there will only one be percussion layout for each kind of percussion notation needed (no duplicates needed for different kinds of playback devices).
  • The Staff Attributes now only consists of notation settings.
  • If you want to a track a problem with a percussion instrument that doesn't play or doesn't play correctly, there are a few more places to check now, although it's very likely that the problem is in the Instrument List or in the playback setup (and less likely that there's a problem in the staff attributes' percussion setup).
  • It's very easy to enter or change percussion notes in Simple Entry now, since the Note Type is displayed with the selected note. Move up and down in the Percussion Layout using the Up/Down arrow keys.


Chord Enhancements

Chord input has been simplified. Instead of three different input modes as it was earlier, there's now instead one input mode that can be used with or without MIDI:

  • Double-click inside the staff or on a note to get the familiar Chord Definition dialog box.
  • Single-click to get the old "type in score" mode.
  • If MIDI is activated, play the chords when ever it's needed during input.

Chords are no longer attached to notes, but attached to beats instead (similar to expressions), so chords can for example easily be changed in the middle of long notes. When selecting a chord, the same attachment point as for expressions will appear. When dragging a chord, the same rules as for expressions apply to move or reattach a chord.

Chord playback has been changed. Chord now plays until the end of the measure or until the next chord. Chord playback can be stopped by putting "n.c." ("no chord") in the score.

Since chords will no longer resize depending on the note its attached to, a few more sizing control options has been added. One new document option is available for chord size control. Scale All Chords by which controls the sizing for chords. The document option for setting the sizing of fretboards has also been moved to the Chords page of the Document Options (earlier, it was in the Chords menu); this setting is now called Scale All Fretboards by. Both chords and fretboards can also be resized locally with added resize options in the Utilities/Change/Chords dialog box.


Automatic Rehearsal Marks

Finale 2010 build further on the concept of categories and the first category-specific features are now available for automatic rehearsal marks.

To create an automatic rehearsal mark style, the expression must belong to the Rehearsal Marks category, and the check box Use Auto-Sequencing Style should be checked.

The following numbering systems are available:

  • A, B, C...AA, BB, CC
  • A, B, C...A1, B1, C1
  • a, b, c...aa, bb, cc
  • a, b, c...a1, b1, c1
  • 1, 2, 3, 4 ....
  • Measure Number

For automatic rehearsal marks to be functional, they should be attached to a metatool so they can be added quickly and effortlessly to the score. Please note that you only have to assign one metatool for a whole style/sequence of rehearsal marks. Finale 2010 use 'M' as the a standard metatool for rehearsal marks in the default document setups. If you want to be compliant with that "standard", define 'M' for your own documents as well.

To add a rehearsal mark, just insert the rehearsal mark expression using the assigned metatool.

To change a rehearsal mark letter/number, bring up the context menu for it in the score and select Edit Rehearsal Mark Sequence. Changing the rehearsal mark to another letter/number will cause all subsequent rehearsal marks of the same definition to be automatically renumbered.

There's also an option available in the definition to automatically hide measure numbers in measures where rehearsal marks appear.

The automatic rehearsal mark feature is very nicely designed: It's flexible enough to allow for any number of rehearsal numberings systems and styles in a score, it's really easy and functional to use, it fits well within the existing expression tool design and it provides all the necessary functionality.


Enhanced Measure Numbering support

The support for measure numbers has been greatly enhanced in Finale 2010.


I guess the most important addition for many users is the ability to define separate visual measure number appearance for score and parts. The default setting for parts is to use the same definition for parts as for the score, but if you need to you can define a different visual approach for measure numbers in parts. The only settings the score and parts really shares is the measure number region itself and what view(s) the measure numberings should be visible in.

Other notable changes are:

  • The User Interface for the Measure Number dialog box has been cleaned up. It's more clear now what's the region, where the visual settings are, and so on.
  • Fonts and positioning can be set differently for measure numbers, when they appear to the left of a system, in the middle of a system or in a multimeasure rest.
  • Enclosures are now separately defined for left-system measure numbers and mid-system measure numbers.
  • Forced measure numbers can be defined to break multimeasure rests.
  • Measure Number positioning now also supports text Justification (Left/Center/Right), in addition to the old Alignment settings.

Tip: One thing you should be aware of (where the user interface isn't clear enough) is when you force a measure number to appear in a measure (with Ctrl+click in the Measure Tool). The settings used for this measure number are controlled by the "Show on every" settings.

This means that if you, for example, want to use a different font than the default for this kind of measure numbers, you need to do this: check the "Show on every" box to enable the font setting button - change the font - uncheck that same box again.


Multi-layer Staff Enhancements

There is now more control over which of the elements that should appear in other layers for each staff (or within a staff style). You can define some elements to appear in one layer and other elements to appear in the other layers. The screen shot here should explain it. (Please note that the Chords and Fretboards check boxes in the screen shot are just duplicates of the settings found in the staff attributes dialog box.)



Staff Style assignment changes

There are a number of additions to the user interface that makes it faster and more flexible to assign staff styles to score/parts:

  • When adding a staff style, the staff style can be applied to the current score/part only or to both score+parts.
  • When clearing a staff style, the staff style can be cleared from the current score/part only or from both score+parts.
  • To make both score and parts up to date regarding where all staff styles are placed, mark a region of music and select the Use Selected Staff Style for Score and Parts feature.

Please note that there's now also a difference when you cut out a region of music. In earlier versions, the staff styles remained - in Finale 2010 the staff styles are cut out as well. For some situations, this is wanted - but for other situations, this is not wanted. Since there currently is no option to force the staff style to stay after cutting out music, you have to adjust your workflow regarding this issue.


Broadway Copyist Font

A new set of fonts are available in Finale 2010, the family of Broadway Coyist fonts designed by Robert Piéchaud. It contains the following four fonts:

  • Broadway Copyist - General musical symbols.
  • Broadway Copyist Perc - Percussion noteheads and some more musical symbols.
  • Broadway Copyist Text - For chords and musical instructions. Contains no umlaut characters.
  • Broadway Copyist Text Ext - For text. The font contains umlaut characters.
The Broadway Copyist font is a much more traditional-looking font than the Jazz font. The dynamics are vertically aligned along the baseline in a similar way as traditional engraver fonts and the text is not vertically displaced as much as for the Jazz font.


Enhanced Help

The help system has been updated in Finale 2010:

  • It works with the default web browser.
  • An online mode, where an online web version of the help is loaded instead of the local copy. This is very convenient when help texts are updated after the software release. The feature can be turned off in the Program Options (on the Folders page) if you don't want to access the internet to retrieve help pages.
  • A new simple welcome screen.
  • Filters where the search results can be restricted.
Tip: Make sure to read the How to use the Finale 2010 User Manual section!


VST Additions


The VST instrument window now have much more detailed volume control:

  • Each VST instrument slot can be balanced with other slots using its own volume slider.
  • There's a master volume slider that controls the volume of all the VST instrument slots.
  • Clip "lamps" are available to the right of the VST Instruments dialog box. This is a very important diagnostic feature for playback volume balancing: if this lamp turns red it indicates that there has likely been a distortion of sound since the volume was too loud. Click on the lamp to reset the lamp.

Finale 2010 also supports VST FX plug-ins, for handling tasks like ambience or audio diagnostics for example. Each VST instrument slot can have one FX plug-in assigned to it. The full VST output can apply a maximum of three different FX plug-ins. Any VST FX plug-ins (that would make sense) can be used. There's also options to temporarily bypass an effect.

The only bundled VST FX plug-in with Finale 2010 is Garritan Ambience.



Finale 2010 provides on-screen smoothing of lines and curves, with a technique called anti-aliasing. I believe this is only a new feature for Finale 2010 for Windows, since I think Finale for Mac has this feature since a couple of versions back.

Finale 2009:


Finale 2010:



Transparent Handles

In earlier versions of Finale, the handles appeared as white opaque boxes that sometimes covered too much of the document's visual information. In Finale 2010, a new option is available to display the handles as transparent.

Actually, the new handles aren't completely transparent - they are a bit shaded which makes the handles easier to spot on the screen. It's not possible to turn this shading off, unless you switch back to the old handles.

The transparent handles is a very productive feature which makes it possible to zoom out more and work on bigger parts of the score. It's particularly useful when working with small objects (like articulations or expressions) and when working with end points like for line shapes. But I also find it helpful in tools like the Measure Tool, where the full barline now can be seen.

Opaque (old) Handles Finale 2010 Transparent Handles
fin2010nontransparenthandles fin2010transparenthandles

The Handle Size option has been moved to the View page in the Program Options, to the same group as the new transparent handle option.

Tip: (For any Finale version that support resizable handles.) If you change the handle size, make sure to make it an odd number, so the handle stays fully centered.


Improved Graphics File Support

Finale 2010 adds these file formats to its graphics file support:

  • For export, JPEG and PNG file formats have been added.
  • For import, JPEG, BMP, PNG and GIF file formats have beed added.
Tip: PNG is a excellent all-purpose graphics file format. It's space-efficient, and supports transparency. If you need to put text inside your graphics, use a graphics editor to cut a hole in your PNG file to let the text come through. GIF also supports transparency, but doesn't allow more than 256 colors.


Export Lyrics dialog box

The Lyrics Tool has got a small addition with the Export Lyrics dialog box. It can be used to transfer Lyrics from Finale to another application.


The dialog box has a choice to export either all lyrics or just a selected verse/chorus/section. It's not possible to export, for example, just all the verses.

Each chunk of lyrics gets two line feeds as separators before the next chunk.

An option is available to not include Hyphens and Underscores in the lyrics export, to clean it up for word processing for example. (This is just an export filter option, since the lyrics export dialog doesn't affect the lyrics in the score.)

The Lyrics can be exported to the clipboard (to paste it into another application) or to a text file (to load it in another application). The user interface for the export dialog might seem a bit misleading, since the ellipsis in the Copy All to Clipboard... button would seem to indicate that pressing the button leads to another dialog. However, pressing the button instead leads to another action: it closes the dialog box after the clipboard copying.


Hyperlink support

In the Text Tool, there's now support for text blocks with hyperlinks. You can only have one link per text block and the hyperlink will always span the full text block.

To activate/test the link, hold down the Control key and click the text handle. (In the Windows version, there's a visual glitch that makes the hand pointer appear to the right of the actual handle. Confusing, but just trust the hand.)

Apparently, this feature will show up in SmartMusic (which I haven't tested). But from a Finale point of view, the hyperlink support could be a really great feature addition if Finale would only export PDFs complete with hyperlinks (similar to OpenOffice for example), but Finale can't do that - so I believe opening the link from Finale using a modifier key isn't simple enough to get the feature widely used.


Flash Cards and Worksheets

Finale 2010 (since the 2010a updater) provides a few hundred exercises, available as flash cards or  work sheets. The exercises are loaded in Finale through the Open Finale Worksheet... menu item in File menu.

The worksheets open as regular Finale files, although these files are highly specialized. Some contain only texts, some are designed as printed 2-sided flash cards, some (the ear training) should be printed and then played back, and so on.

The section contains these categories:

Elements of Music Practice sheets that teach the basic musical elements.
Scales Minor, major and blues scales - but not modes.
Rhythms More detailed exercises about rhythms, which also work with SmartMusic.
Intervals Major, minor, perfect, chromatic intervals.
Chords Triads, Major, Minor, diminished, augmented, inversions, chord puzzles, jazz progressions.
Terminology Exercises to connect matching pairs, sort elements in the correct order and so on. Also include some bonus items like "Percy Grangerism".
Puzzle Games and Flash Cards Musical Words (spelling the notes for the indicated clef), Wordsearch, Crossword Puzzles, Musical Maze, Musical Sudoku, Classroom Flashcards, Individual Flashcards.
Ear Training Intervals, Chords, Melodic Dictation. Each of these exercises should first be printed, then played back to do the actual exercise.

Although it might seem that many of these files would open equally well as PDF files, it's actually great to have them as Finale if you want to modify the exercise or if you want to translate it to your own language. I've translated quite a few of these files to Swedish and tried them on my daughter, who thinks it's great fun.

Tip: If you want to modify an exercise, use the Selection Tool and double-click on the element, since it's not always clear where an object is connected (or which handle controls what object).

A problem with the worksheet feature is that it opens the exercise files as a named file, so if you're looking for a specific exercise file a couple of times in succession you'll soon replace all the entries in file history list with exercises.

However, the worksheets is a good display on what Finale can be used for, apart from just ordinary music. Take a closer look at the worksheet documents to get some tips on how particular layout tasks are handled.


MusicXML improvements

The MusicXML support has been updated to make use of Finale 2010-specific features, like the new percussion maps, PNG/JPG support and automatic rehearsal marks.

MusicXML import has been improved in these areas:

  • Stems in percussion staves
  • Transposed instruments without key signatures
  • Cutaway staves
  • A4 and other metric page sizes
  • Nested tuplets
  • Unknown fonts as text fonts for lyrics and words
  • Percussion clefs in documents using the Jazz font
  • Major seventh and half diminished chords in documents using the JazzCord font

MusicXML export has been improved in these areas:

  • Endings over empty measures
  • Number of instruments per part


Other smaller additions and changes

  • There's now a very useful option available in Program Options (on the Edit page) that controls how the default dragging behavior of anchor points should behave. Either the default will be to re-anchor to another beat or to adjust the positioning relative to the current anchor point. Holding down the Alt key prior to dragging will reverse whatever default functionality you choose.
    Tip: When doing the basic input to a score, it's more likely that you want this option to re-attach anchors to different beats than during the fine-tuning/layout phase. If you are comfortable working with different defaults at different times, try to switch this option at different times to best suit your workflow.
  • Import from old notation file formats (Encore, Rhapsody, Score) has been dropped. I think this is very reasonable, since MusicXML is a extremely well-supported standard for notation file exchange and dedicated converters will provide better import results than Finale's old import filters. (Applications like Encore supports MusicXML export built-in and there are Score-to-MusicXML exporters available on the internet.)
  • The MiBAC Jazz Rhythm Section Generator plug-in has been removed.
  • The Launch Window has been a bit simplified. Open Recent File is now a one-step process (no need to push a button), and MusicXML import has its own push button.
  • There's an extra option for cross-platform text conversion called Automatically sync files to Symbol Fonts list.
  • The Garritan Instruments for Finale includes many new instruments in the Finale 2010 version.
  • The Aria Player has been updated in Finale 2010.
  • SmartScore Lite is now version 5 and includes a choice to select the instrumentation of the scanned score.
Stems in percussion staves
- Transposed instruments without key signatures
- Cutaway staves
- A4 and other metric page sizes
- Nested tuplets
- Unknown fonts as text fonts for lyrics and words
- Percussion clefs in documents using the Jazz font
- Major seventh and half diminished chords in documents using the
JazzCord font