It’s with great pleasure that we introduce to you the new features and improvements in our November release for 2023. In this update, you can expect to see ground-breaking AI technology being used on iPhone and iPad to generate chord symbols based on harmonic analysis, a brand new Keypad across all Windows, Mac, and mobile devices, improved reliability across our licensing framework, new capabilities in ManuScript, and more. Plus, we’re introducing support for macOS Sonoma and iOS 17.
If you’re running an old version of Sibelius and wish to upgrade, please find your options here.
Let’s jump into what’s new in Sibelius:
AI-Driven Workflows Come to Mobile
For the first time, we’re introducing our AI-powered Chord Symbols to iPhone and iPad. We’ve added touch gestures and Apple Pencil support and integrated it with our recently-added Enhanced Redo feature to make this feature simple to use.
To get started, make a selection in your score, go to Command Search, and type Chord Symbol, or type Cmd + K on your keyboard if you have one connected. You’ll be asked to turn on the feature the first time you use it—just like you do in Sibelius on desktop. This is in line with our open and ethical policies around using AI-based features in our applications. As soon as the feature is enabled, you will see an automatically-generated chord symbol appear on your score. If there’s more than one suggestion, you can tap the dots above to cycle through the options. Tap the score to exit Chord Symbol entry or press Space or Tab to move to the next note or bar.
To make adding further chord symbols really simple, you can make another selection in your score and tap the Redo button on the Keypad. This will trigger another chord symbol suggestion in a single tap!
For a full overview, see this video guide:
Since introducing this feature in Sibelius on desktop earlier in the year, we’ve had great feedback regarding the ways you like to interact with the feature. We’ve since added a useful preference on desktop to only enter chords when you need them. With this preference off (by default), a new chord is suggested each time you press the space or tab keys while entering chord symbols. With the new preference, found in File > Preferences > Other, called “Suggest only on new chord symbols (not during navigation)”, you can navigate the music whilst entering chord symbols with Space and Tab, and only when you type Cmd + K or Ctrl + K again will a chord symbol be suggested by the AI model. In addition to this, you can now click or tap on the dots to cycle through the suggested chords, as per the above.
Improving Discoverability with a New Keypad
The Keypad is hallowed ground in Sibelius. It's one of the many things that identifies Sibelius thanks to its ease of use and intuitive interface. We've been adding touch gestures, new buttons, and more in recent times, and now it's time to give it a new, refreshed look:
In 2023.11, we're not only increasing the default size of the Keypad, but we're improving its appearance in a number of ways, including bringing over the Delete, Undo, and Redo buttons from mobile. The new icons are scalable vector graphics (rather than bitmaps), making it look nice and sharp on displays on Mac and high-dpi displays on Windows. The color scheme has been meticulously reviewed on both desktop and mobile to support better contrast ratios, making each button, the selections, and the surrounding boxes stand out more clearly. On mobile, we’ve revised the dark mode too, making it look even more fabulous.
The icon set has been completely redesigned to more accurately represent the musical elements that end up on the score. In each case, we have ensured that they are more musical and easier to understand now with shadow notes that help to add context and explain the purpose of each button. This solves an age-old problem of knowing if you’re going to add a staccato or rhythm dot, for example.
Introducing the Keypad Button on Desktop
We’re also solving one of the more fundamental discoverability issues. We've heard a number of times that some users are disorientated when closing the Keypad panel and have a hard time discovering how to open it again. It's not entirely obvious that you need to go to View > Panels and then check Keypad, especially if you missed the fact that it was called a Keypad (a name echoing the close ties to the numerical keypad found on full-size keyboards).
The Keypad is the most-used panel in Sibelius, so to help new (and seasoned!) users keep it to hand, the Keypad now closes down to a new Keypad button when tapping on the close button on the top:
As before, each score window has its own Keypad, and now each score window get its own Keypad button as well. You can move the Keypad button around the score window to live in a handy spot wherever you like. Clicking it will open up the Keypad again, which you can then position independently to the button, and even drag the Keypad on a separate display. The position of the Keypad button and the Keypad itself are saved as part of the main preferences, and you can save these per score in the “Window Sizes and Positions” section of File > Preferences > Files.
Those familiar with the mobile version of Sibelius will already know the Keypad button. Under the hood, we’ve brought along the modern mobile codebase to desktop, so we now have shared code. This is allowing us to make improvements in the codebase once to see it benefit all platforms of Sibelius.
If you prefer to not see the Keypad button on desktop at all, go to File > Preferences > Display and uncheck “Minimize Keypad to floating button.” When closing the Keypad now, it really will close, and you’ll need to remember the shortcut Cmd + Opt + K or Ctrl + Alt + K, or go to View > Panels > Keypad to bring it back up.
As with every new feature or improvement in Sibelius, we consider how it will interact with screen readers. If you use a screen reader such as VoiceOver, Narrator, or NVDA, you will be able to navigate the Keypad with ease while the buttons and selection states are read out to you. To bring focus to the Keypad, simply close and open the Keypad and you’ll start to hear the description being read out.
To further improve the accessibility of the Keypad for those with none to partial sight-loss, we’ve added a box to follow the mouse around the Keypad. This helps to highlight the button you’re looking for, and to show the selected item more clearly.
More System Object Positions
Now for something completely different! Up until now, the number of System Object Positions you can add to your score was limited to the top stave, three other positions, and the bottom stave. Now you can have up to 11 System Object Positions, which includes the compulsory top stave and the optional bottom stave. This will be most useful to those creating orchestral and film scores in Sibelius.
You’ll see these new additional positions when editing text styles in the Vertical Posn tab:
On mobile and desktop, we are including two new commands so you can add or remove System Object Positions from Command Search. Combined with the recently enhanced Redo command, you can add a new System Object Position, then select another staff and tap the Redo button on the Keypad, and so on.
For those who write plug-ins on desktop, we’ve added two new commandIDs for these, which are:
NOTE: System Object Positions, like much of the House Style etc., are shared across Score Subsets, so any changes to System Object Positions you make in Score Subsets will be applied to the full score too. If you need this level of flexibility, we suggest you use a dynamic part with the staves you need.
File Format Change
To support this new capability, we have upgraded the internal file format. If you keep your software up to date and work with people who also keep up to date, you don’t need to do anything at all. If you are working with someone who hasn’t upgraded yet, you can export your score to be compatible with their earlier version. To do this, go to File > Export > Previous Version. NOTE: Since the earlier versions don’t support more than a few System Object Positions, you will find any additional positions you’ve set are removed and it’ll keep the top, middle three, and bottom, if in use.
We’ve been hard at work investigating various licensing issues reported to us where, in some cases, the local license wouldn’t be updated—especially when Sibelius was continuously open for longer than a week. We’ve made some changes under the hood to make the licensing experience more reliable and introduced some new logging. If you have licensing problems in the future, you can now send logs from both Sibelius and Avid Link, and our dedicated support team will be able to compare them both to better identify where the issue may be.
Smaller Improvements and Bug fixes
It wouldn’t be a Sibelius release without the development team working on improving the application as a whole, so here’s a list of what we’ve fixed and improved in 2023.11:
- Sibelius on mobile will display the recently introduced Lelandia font family from Notation Central
- When exporting PDFs on Mac for fonts with synthesized bold style (rather than a dedicated bold style), Sibelius will now print these correctly
- Tie chains no longer break when any note is set with Live Playback data
- Lyrics no longer overlap when notes on the same stave are hidden
- The "Slide notes or rests left" Command ID is no longer missing an underscore
- Pitch Correction Tool on the Keypad no longer crashes. Quartertone support has been reintroduced on desktop, and introduced for the first time on mobile too, which is enabled when holding Alt while dragging left and right on the Pitch Correction Tool
- Stability improvements when importing a score from PhotoScore on Windows 11
- Sibelius could, in rare cases, crash when quitting the app. We’ve fixed this up so it shouldn’t happen anymore
- The image displayed in the Sibelius installer on Mac is no longer cropped
We very rarely remove features from Sibelius. In fact, we strive to maintain and improve every feature we’ve ever put into Sibelius (of which there are thousands!), but this time we couldn’t keep the “Send using email” feature alive in the File > Share page of the Backstage. This used a rather outdated method of allowing you to email a score and PDF to someone else. Since the introduction of Sibelius Cloud Sharing, where you can get a unique URL to your score with a single click to send to anyone and everyone around the world, the need for a legacy email client has become less relevant.
To learn more about Sibelius Cloud Sharing, we invite you to watch this video:
Improving our built-in ManuScript plug-in language allows us and others to extend the feature set and workflows of Sibelius in ways that suit your unique workflows. In this release, we’ve added a new method to control the Erase Background control that’s available in the Inspector. You can apply these to staff text, system text, and lyrics.
The behavior is controlled by the following two variables that were added to Text/SystemTextItem, as well as LyricItem ManuScript objects:
- EraseBackground - returns True when the background of this item is erased, otherwise returns False. Writing True or False to this variable creates an override so that the item ignores the value from its text style and uses the provided value instead, as if the user had set it using the Inspector (read/write).
- EraseBackgroundOverridden - returns True when the item has an override of the style’s “EraseBackground” value, and False otherwise. Setting this variable to False clears the override so that the value specified by the style gets used. Setting this variable to True has no effect (read/write).
We’ve also added support for a proper function to save a score as an earlier version.
A new variable has been added to the Sibelius object:
- EarlierVersionNames returns a sparse array of strings containing the names of all the earlier versions of Sibelius that a score can be exported to using the SaveAsEarlierVersion method. (read-only)
One new method was added to the Sibelius object:
- EarlierVersionIdFromName(versionName) returns an internal version identifier that can be used as input to
Score.SaveAsEarlierVersionmethod. The method expects one of the names that the
One new method was added to the Score object:
- SaveAsEarlierVersion(versionIdentifier, filename, [foldername]) saves the score in the format of an earlier version of Sibelius, overwriting any previous file with the same name. The optional foldername specifies the folder in which the file is to be saved. Note that the folder, if provided, must already exist for the method to be successful.
While improving System Object Positions mentioned above, the
SystemObjectPositions.NumStavesShowingSystemObjects variable now returns the number of staves in the score, not the number of System Object Positions chosen.
Italian Support comes to mobile
We’ve had a huge number of requests to translate Sibelius for mobile into Italian, so we’re pleased to introduce this in our most recent release.
This completes the translation efforts to bring parity to Sibelius running on desktop and mobile. To change the language of Sibelius on your iPhone or iPad, go to the system Settings app, scroll down to Sibelius on the left hand side, and you’ll see the language options there.
And that’s it, folks! We hope you’ve enjoyed the updates and improvements we’ve released in 2023, and we can’t wait to show you what else we’ve been working on in early 2024.