Finale 2014 - A Review

By Jari Williamsson, NOVEMBER 04, 2013

With this review, I'm trying to give you an in-depth discussion of the new features in Finale 2014 (compared to Finale 2012). It also contains a number of tips regarding the use of Finale 2014.

Please note that this review is mainly based on the Windows version of Finale 2014. However, since the changes to the Mac version are numerous in this version, so I'll try to cover that separately as well.

First the usual questions...

What's new?

  • New File Format
  • Export to Finale 2012 Format
  • Cocoa User Interface on the Mac
  • Performance Differences
  • Changed Palettes
  • Anchored Hairpins and Measure-attached Smartshapes
  • Keyless Scores
  • Keyless Scores - with Key Signature
  • Keyless Instruments
  • Cross-layer Accidentals Changes
  • Merge rests Across Layers
  • Unlinked Special Tools
  • Modified Percussion User Interface
  • New On-line Documentation
  • Integrated Human Playback
  • Integrated Software Update
  • New Sound Engine
  • Additional Garritan Instruments
  • Staff Names on Screen in Scroll View
  • Other Smaller Additions and Changes

I currently use Finale 2012. Do I have to "re-learn" something to use Finale 2014?

Measure-attached smartshapes work differently compared to earlier versions. Finale's treatment of accidentals is slightly different compared to previous Finale versions. The icons look a bit different than in earlier versions.

...but before I begin...

...I should mention what Finale 2014 is NOT: Finale 2014 isn't 64-bit - it still runs in 32-bit mode only. (It still runs on 64-bit operating systems though, like previous Finale versions.)

The drawback of this is that you still can't use 64-bit VST libraries without using a bridge solution. However, a benefit is that all old legacy Finale plug-ins still work in Finale 2014. Some additional information on this can be found below, in the section regarding the Cocoa user interface on the Mac.

New File Format

Finale 2014 uses a completely new version-independent file format, which is promised to be cross-compatible with all future versions of Finale. In other words, Finale 2014 should be able to read files from all future Finale versions directly. The restriction of the new file format is that it'll not convert document features specifically added to future Finale versions. The new file format has the extension .musx, while all older Finale formats (.mus) are now "legacy file formats".

File-related bug fixes in maintenance releases are other tasks that the new file format should make possible. (Such bug fixes weren't possible in the old legacy file formats.)

I guess the chief architect for this new file format is Michael Good (the original designer of MusicXML), who must be considered as one of the leading experts in the world regarding music notation file formats. And I also guess that considerable development time and effort has been spent on the design and implementation of the new file format feature. Unfortunately, it's also a feature that is impossible to fully test until a subsequent version of Finale is released.

Please note that this feature affects document templates as well. Template files now have the file extension .ftmx instead of .ftm.

Export to Finale 2012 Format

In addition to the file format work with Finale 2014, MakeMusic has added an additional feature to convert and export documents directly to the legacy Finale 2012 file format.

The exporter does not use MusicXML, so all elements in the document (if they are available in Finale 2012) are fully preserved in the saved Finale 2012 document. For many types of documents, the file conversion to the Finale 2012 format would be virtually 100% accurate. The exporter does an impressive job in converting the Finale 2014 measure-attached smartshapes accurately, while other Finale 2014-specific elements (such as part-specific edits to Special Tools) obviously do not convert correctly to Finale 2012.

Cocoa User Interface on the Mac

The user interface for Finale 2014 for Mac has been completely rewritten to use the Cocoa framework. Although recent versions of Finale have included some occasional Cocoa dialogs and windows, Finale 2014 now have a complete Cocoa interface (including the documents window, menus and the dialogs). So, basically speaking, everything you see on screen on the Mac in Finale 2014 is using a different code base compared to previous Finale versions.

Previous versions of Finale were based on the Carbon framework (which was initially a way to make it easier for pre-OS X Mac applications to be ported to OS X). Since OS X 10.8, most of the Carbon API is considered deprecated and the Carbon support in OS X is likely to be removed in some future version OS X.

The move to the Cocoa framework also gives access to more recent technology. Support for Retina, full-screen and gestures are new mac technologies that are available in Finale 2014.

Please note that - although Finale 2014 is now a Cocoa application - it has been designed to still be able to run old legacy Carbon-based Finale plug-ins. But now is really the time to make sure the plug-ins you use are based on Cocoa. If you have a favorite 3rd party plug-in that you depend on, contact the developer to make sure that the plug-in is Cocoa-based.

Also, note that 10.7 or later is required to run Finale 2014 on the Mac.

Performance Differences

One would think that with the change to the Cocoa technology on the Mac, the Mac screen handling would also get a performance boost. However, the Windows platform seems to gain a boost in speed as well.

Windows and Mac seems to differ in terms of where the speed boosts occur. I wrote a couple of test plug-ins to test the document display performance on my Mac and Windows systems, and here are my conclusions:

  • On the Mac, Finale 2014 has identical performance to Finale 2012 in terms of pure screen drawing speed (such as repainting the screen).
  • On Windows, Finale 2014 is 10-15% faster than Finale 2012 in terms of pure screen drawing speed.
  • On the Mac, Finale 2014 has virtually no additional delay for tools that display handles. To me, this is a huge improvement - in Finale 2012, using a tool that displayed lots of handles could cause the screen refresh time to become up to 50% slower (compared to a tool with very few on-screen handles).
  • In terms of screen output speed, I haven't found any instances where Finale 2014 performs worse than Finale 2012.

Finale 2014 is slower than Finale 2012 when older documents are imported. Since all older Finale formats are now considered to be "legacy" file formats, there is additional conversion time when legacy file formats are converted.

Finale 2014 is much faster than Finale 2012 when it exports audio files, most probably thanks to the new audio engine (see below). Although I have only tested this on Windows, saving a HP-enabled audio file is now more than twice as fast on my system. The initial playback scan through the file is about the same speed as in 2012, but the subsequent saving to disk is instant on Finale 2014.

Changed Palettes

The look of the palettes and their icons have completely changed in Finale 2014:

  • There is now only one single palette look, style and size. The old selectable palette styles and sizes have been removed.
  • The palette style is flat, light gray and black in the size of the old "medium" icon size.
  • On the Mac, the palettes "snaps" when moved close together.
  • On Windows, the toolbar palettes have been removed.

The icon design is generally good and simplified. The design gives more space between the icons (within the same screen dimensions as before). The Repeat Tool icon for example, now only has a repeat sign with no staff lines. The Tuplet Tool now only shows a tuplet without notes. The Text Tool icon now looks similar to Photoshop's text tool icon. The Smart Shape Tool icon shows both a hairpin and a slur (that actually looks like a slur).

The Lyrics Tool icon however, I find a bit difficult to read. The Custom Line Tool icon (in the Smart Shape Tools) looks like a wheel with 6 sides, which I had to "learn" to understand it visually. The icons for 64th and 128th notes in Simple Entry are more difficult to read than the 2012 versions (although I think I have never used those icons).


Anchored Hairpins and Measure-Attached Smartshapes

Finale 2014 changes the way measure-attached smartshapes work. The endpoints of hairpins (and other measure-attached smartshapes) are now attached to anchor points, just like other measure-attached contents (expressions, chords, etc). The measurement system from the anchor points is also identical to other measure-attached contents. This means that if a smartshape is set up correctly, it can automatically avoid collisions with other measure-attached objects regardless of how the measure is shaped horizontally - and no additional horizontal adjustment to the parts would be required. The system works the other way around as well: if a measure is stretched out, the whitespace will not become larger between the smartshape and a "connected" object.

The rule to follow is this: anchor the smartshape to the connection point where you want to avoid a collision, and make sure that the other object shares the same connection point.

The following picture illustrates the differences between the old and new system:


Imported legacy documents will not get the endpoints automatically converted to "beat-attached" connection points. The connection points for such documents will appear where they were placed in the earlier Finale version (which would rarely be aligned to beats), and the horizontal offset to the any connection points will be 0.

Unfortunately, Finale 2014 provides no additional tools to automate the initial placement of hairpins (for example auto-avoiding dynamics). Personally, I hope MakeMusic will see the importance of this and add some automation in future maintenance releases of Finale 2014. I have written an automated system for dynamics placement in Finale 2014 for my own use: a very short demo video of it is available here (which could also serve as a demo of what's technically possible in Finale 2014).

Since the measure-attached smartshapes now are connected to the horizontal layout and contents of the measure, one option that I personally feel is missing in Finale 2014 (even more than the initial placement options mentioned above) is an additional option to specify the minimum hairpin width in the Music Spacing options. Even when hairpins have correctly been set up to avoid dynamics, the default music spacing might sometimes result in a measure that is visually too small to clearly show the hairpins (when there are many hairpins but few notes in a measure).

Keyless Scores

With Finale 2014, many of the old Finale approaches with chromatically transposed instruments and independent key signatures become obsolete. There are new and more suitable options available for key signatures in scores and instruments. The first new features I will discuss are the new ways to handle keyless scores. The first and most straight-forward approach is to use the Keyless key signature directly.fin2014-keyless

In many ways (such as when pitches are respelled and for instrument transposition), a keyless score will behave as C major. The major difference to the "C major behavior" is that a keyless key signature never transposes when it's changed to/from a different key signature.

Keyless Scores - with Key Signature

In addition to a keyless score mode mentioned above, Finale 2014 can also be set up to use a keyless score - with a key signature. For many composers, this might be a more useful approach than using a strictly keyless key.

A large part of the scores that don't include key signatures are tonal. The reason for not using a key signature might be because the tonality changes so often that it make no sense to put key signature changes in the score, or because the mode is too visually complex to make sense to a performer. For composers however, it can often be a good help to be able to work in a key or mode. In Finale 2014, you can have both these features at the same time, by checking the Hide key signature and show all accidentals option in the key signature dialog box. By using that option, there will be no displayed key signature but the entry tools will act as if there is a key signature - and Finale will automatically add the necessary accidentals.


Please note that when the note material is changed to/from other key signatures, the material will transpose using the same rules as for normal key signatures.

The option to hide the key signature in this way can be used in the Setup Wizard as well.

Keyless Instruments

In addition to the keyless signatures, Finale 2014 includes support for keyless instrument staves. Historically, the most famous example is probably horn and timpani parts (displayed without key signature).

In earlier Finale versions, setting up a keyless instrument involved many different steps, such as setting an independent key signature for the staff. In Finale 2014, the only thing needed to define a keyless instrument is to set the Hide key signature & show all accidentals option for the instrument in the Score Manager, nothing else.

Cross-Layer Accidentals Changes

A couple of new things have been made related to how cross-layer accidentals work on unison intervals in Finale 2014.

From a technical perspective, the big change in Finale 2014 is that Finale now decides where accidentals should be displayed. In earlier versions, Finale was (more or less) passively displaying the accidental when the entry was set to display it. The new approach makes it possible for Finale to intelligently handle accidentals across layers, for example, which is where the main work regarding accidentals for Finale 2014 has been made.

TIP: If an accidental is required to display at a certain note, make sure the accidental is frozen. Since Finale now decides where accidentals should be placed, only frozen accidentals will be ensured to always display.

If Use cross-layer accidental position is set on the Document Options - Accidentals page, Finale will handle accidentals automatically, but differently to how it was done in earlier Finale versions. Now, Finale will never display perfect unisons with "double accidentals" (such as sharps for each note in the unison interval). If there's a non-perfect unison interval, 2 different accidentals are displayed.fin2014-accis

In the Staff Attributes (which can also be applied as a Staff Style), there's a new option called Redisplay Accidentals in Other Layers Within Measures. Besides getting an award for the world's longest option name, that option controls how other layers will redisplay accidentals. If the setting is ON, each layer is treated as a separate voice (such as if flutes 1+2 share the same staff). If it's OFF, the layers are considered to be dependent on each other so the accidentals don't need to be restated between layers (such as in music for the piano).


In Simple Entry, music entered in a multi-layered measure will inherit the accidentals from the existing layers. For example: if there layer 1 has a "c sharp" change in the middle of the bar, and a "c" is typed later in the measure in layer 2, that will default to "c sharp". In Speedy Entry, there is no such inheritance between layers.

If a legacy Finale document is imported to Finale that has unisons with displayed "double accidentals", these will display in Finale 2014 as well to preserve the look of the legacy document. The conversion process freeze one of the notes, to preserve the old look of the document. To benefit from the new functionality, the accidentals in the unison interval has to be un-frozen.

The old Check Accidentals data check feature has been removed in Finale 2014 (since Finale now decides on the accidental state at draw time).

Since this new feature is a major change in how Finale works technically, make sure 3rd party plug-ins related to accidentals are updated to support Finale 2014.

Merge Rests Across Layers

Finale 2014 can now automatically consolidate rests (of the same rest duration) that appear at the same place across multiple layers. For the feature to activate, the Consolidate rests across layers option needs to be ON at the Document Options->Layers page. Imported documents from older Finale versions can also use the feature by just setting that option.

The keystroke to split or merge rests is S in both Simple Entry and Speedy Entry. Simple Entry works better than Speedy Entry in this case, since Speedy doesn't show the correct state until after the speedy frame has been closed.

The rests will not be consolidated if any of the rests have been moved (vertically or horizontally), or if any layer consist of a note. For example: if layer 1 and layer 2 contains rests and layer 3 contains a note, the rests in layers 1+2 will not be consolidated.

TIP: To split or consolidate rests in larger regions, it can be done in the latest beta update of the JW Change plug-in.

Unlinked Special Tools

Since the introduction of linked parts in Finale 2007, one major problem has been that the edits made in the Special Tools couldn't be separated between score and parts. The most common problem in the past has probably been the inability to adjust grace note spacing separately for score and parts. Finale 2014 now makes it possible to unlink some of the Special Tools edits between score and parts:

Unlink Support in Finale 2014 No Unlink Support
Note Position Tool
Stem Length Tool
Stem Direction Tool
Beam Angle Tool
Beam Extension Tool
Tie Tool
Dot Tool
Beam Width Tool
Beam Stem Adjust Tool
Notehead Position Tool
Note Shape Tool
Accidental Mover Tool
Broken Beam Tool
Double/Split Stem Tool
Reverse Stem Tool
Custom Stem Tool
Secondary Beam Break Tool
Secondary Beam Angle Tool

This new feature gives a huge freedom to tweak the layouts in linked parts. Some potential uses for it include:

  • Space grace notes differently in the part compared to the score.
  • Using a different horizontal beam gap in score and parts in multi-note tremolo passages.
  • Using different stem/beam layout in score and parts, such as with Patterson Beams.
  • Separate tie adjustments in score and parts.

The unlink/link between score and parts works similar to other tools. When a Special Tools handle is adjusted in a part, the adjustments automatically unlink it to the score. All handles that supports unlinking have a context menu where linking/unlinking can be controlled individually.

When the music in a part is respaced (using note spacing), grace notes are still positioned "globally" (in both the score and part). For my personal workflow, this feels wrong, since the beat chart always changes separately for the score and part(s). On the other hand, I can understand that some users might not want items to unlink automatically.

Please note that voiced linked parts are not affected by the new unlink capability in the Special Tools. The note material in a voiced linked part is still automatically generated by Finale.

Modified Percussion User Interface

The user interface for the Percussion Layout Designer has been improved Finale 2014. It's not a redesign of the underlying percussion map engine, but the user interface has been reworked to provide easier access and editing of percussion staves. In short, these changes have been made to the Percussion Layout Designer compared to Finale 2012:

  • The staff name to where the percussion layout is connect is displayed.
  • The current Percussion MIDI Map is displayed (and it can be changed).
  • The MIDI Note (from the MIDI map) is listed
  • "Guessed" and "unknown" MIDI notes are clearly listed.
  • For the note type selection, an option to only list the note types available in the current MIDI map has been added.
  • A push button to add all note types from the current MIDI map has been added.


By selecting the New... push button, the Percussion MIDI Map Editor is accessed, and MIDI Maps can be selected/edited (or a new map can be created). When the Percussion MIDI Map Editor opens, the layout's current map is preselected. This gives very easy and convenient access to the relevant MIDI maps - but it's not made clear to the user that any edits made in the Percussion MIDI Map Editor is made to Finale's data files, not to the percussion data in the document.

In the list with the layout's note types, there's now a separate info column with the mapped MIDI Note, which makes it much more clear what playback to expect for a specific note type. This MIDI note comes from the currently selected MIDI map. If a MIDI note is not in the MIDI map but is "guessed" by Finale (based on a "parent" note), the MIDI note appears within parentheses. (Example: (78) for a guessed note, 78 for a note actually appearing in the MIDI map.) If a MIDI Note isn't available in the MIDI map and can't be guessed, "--" is displayed (meaning that Finale will play nothing for such a note type). If the MIDI map is changed while working with the percussion layout, the mapped MIDI notes in the list refresh according to the new MIDI map.

The Only View Note Types in <MIDI map name> check box is a filter setting to only display the note types that are defined in the currently selected MIDI map. If percussion playback on the current system is important, that's a box that should be used. If that box is checked, the Add All button will be enabled.

The Add All push button will add all note types in the selected MIDI map that aren't already in the layout. All added note types will be set to a default of staff position 0 and standard noteheads.

In addition to the changes in the Percussion Layout Designer dialog box, the Percussion MIDI Map Editor now includes a Remove button (to remove a map from a percussion device).

New on-line documentation

The on-line documentation in Finale 2014 has taken a large step forward compared to previous Finale versions. The ambition to really help both new and old Finale users shows clearly throughout the documentation.


When the help contents is first displayed to the user, a list of very clear and well-defined list of topics is displayed (shown in the screen shot to the right).

The sections Welcome to Finale, What's New, Finale Interface Changes, Visual Index, Finale Tutorials, QuickStart Videos, How do I..., What does this do... were all present in Finale 2012, but even here noticeable differences are shown: How do I... for example, was called Encyclopedia in previous Finale versions.

One "new" section is Best Practices: Making the most of Finale. This section has actually been available in earlier Finale versions as well, but it was placed at the end of the tutorials where many users might not have found it.

The Getting Started section has also been moved compared to earlier Finale versions. It was previously a subsection in "Troubleshooting", a location where it made little sense.

The documentation can be browsed in three different ways: by browsing the Contents, by searching the Index or by searching the Terms. The Contents and Index works pretty much as in previous versions. The Terms is where the user can translate "Finale speak" to English. For example, searching for "beat chart" or "metatool" would explain those terms.

Many important pieces of advice that appear throughout the documentation have now been put in special "Tip" boxes, which makes the info much easier to find.

The earlier excerpts from the Knowledge Base have been removed from the on-line document. Instead, there's a direct link to the Knowledge Base on the initial help screen. Screen shots and documentation has generally been thoroughly updated in the new documentation, but quite a few QuickStart videos from earlier Finale versions still exist.

TIP: The Finale 2014 on-line documentation can conveniently be read by Safari on an iPad. Just carefully type in the full URL that you get when you select Help/User Manual in Finale 2014 and bookmark it - or open the page through iCloud. (Other brands of web-enabled tablets will probably work as well.)

Integrated Human Playback

In earlier versions of Finale, Human Playback was a separate module that was connected to Finale. In Finale 2014 however, Human Playback is now an integrated part of the Finale application itself. (The Apply Human Playback plug-in still exists as a stand-alone plug-in in Finale 2014.)

The Human Playback Preferences are now moved to Finale's Preferences dialog box. The user interface design has been improved, particularly the editing of Instrument Techniques. The Name/Action/Filter information fields now get more space, and the activated/deactivated state for each technique is displayed and accessed directly in the list.


Sometimes, the Human Playback preparation (prior to playback) tends to take a bit longer than in Finale 2012. In the files I've tested, it's the hairpin processing that seems to be slower. However, I don't know if this is caused by some new work regarding the Human Playback hairpins, or if is caused by the changes to measure-attached smart shapes in Finale 2014.

Integrated Software Update

Finale 2014 now downloads and starts the install of updates directly from Finale. It's no longer necessary to log in to a separate download page and download the updater. The good thing with this feature obviously is that it's now much easier for users to update Finale. However, if you have a slow connection and handle downloads through a dedicated download manager, that's not possible with the new system.

You still need to exit Finale during the installation, but the update software will automatically tell you when it's needed.

New Sound Engine

Finale 2014 has a new sound engine (again). The new sound engine is based on the technology by Plogue Art et Technologie, Inc. (the creator of the ARIA player, Bidule, and other products). Since I didn't have any troubles with the old sound engine, I can't really test the benefits of the new sound engine. However, as mentioned earlier, I noticed a substantial speed boost when saving the document as an audio file, and I believe part of this is thanks to the new playback engine.

Additional Garritan Instruments

The following new instruments has been added to Garritan Instrument for Finale in Finale 2014. The new instruments are compiled from 4 different "full" Garritan packages: Garritan Personal Orchestra, Garritan Jazz & Big Band, Garritan Instant Orchestra and Garritan World Instruments.

Plucked Strings Woodwinds Brass Percussion Orchestral Effects
Banjo (World Instruments)
Celtic Harp (World Instruments)
Alto Flute Solo (GPO)
Bass Flute Solo (GPO)
Oboe D'Amore Solo (GPO)
Eb Clarinet (GPO)
Contrabass Clarinet Solo (GPO)
Fife (World Instruments)
Piccolo Trumpet Solo (GPO)
Flugelhorn (JABB)
Tubular Bells (GPO)
Percussion Toys (GPO)
Basic African Percussion (World Instruments)
Steel Drums (World Instruments)
Tablas (World Instruments)
Earth Drums (Instant Orchestra)
Silvery Winds (Instant Orchestra)
Octave Winds Mix (Instant Orchestra)
Brass Agg (Instant Orchestra)
Snap Pizz (Instant Orchestra)
Col Legno Full Strings (Instant Orchestra)
Supernatural Orchestra (Instant Orchestra)
Ethereal Orchestra 1 (Instant Orchestra)
Silvery Choir (Instant Orchestra)

Staff Names on Screen in Scroll View

In Finale 2014, the staff names to the left of the staves in Scroll View are now automatically positioned on screen.

While this might seem like a minor change to many Finale users, I personally think this is a major increase in productivity. It's no longer necessary to drag the staff names into view when I'm working in Scroll View. When zooming in and out in Scroll View, the staff names always repositions nicely to the new view.

Default Scroll View Positioning Example

Other smaller additions and changes

  • Font Annotation (FAN) files now supports more than 256 characters, so symbol fonts in Unicode can be fully supported by FAN.
  • The rulers in Page View now display measurements for all pages in multi-page view. Where a new page starts, the measurement on the ruler restarts at 0.
  • New version of SmartScore Lite, which is now based on Musitek's SmartScore X2.
  • MusicXML has been updated to support keyless scores and cross-layer accidentals.
  • The Studio View graphics has been changed to a darker gray theme. It's now easier to see where the L/R control is positioned and the volume slider handle is wider and easier to grab.