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Finale 2010 — Review

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I've had Finale 2010 since , and I've been meaning to write an article/review about it for some time now. I've had a lot of people ask me what I think of Finale 2010, what's new and if it's worth upgrading, etc. so I know this review will be appreciated by a lot of you. Sorry it's taken me so long to get this up.

I should probably mention that since Finale 2005 (or so), I've upgraded every year without fail. I realize that for many people, this might not be as easy a decision, but I use Finale all the time (at least once a day) for my charts & arrangements, so for me, it's a no-brainer to upgrade every year. Even the smallest time-saver goes a long way, again, for me… With that in mind, I'm sure you'll understand that the differences between each version, (and exactly when the new features were introduced), is somewhat of a blur to me. Compared to Finale 2009, my initial impression of Finale 2010 was that there wasn't a ton of "new stuff" as much as "refinements", but still worth the upgrade nonetheless.

When launching Finale 2010 for the first time, the new blue splash screen is a welcome change – I really hated the burgundy splash screen from Finale 2009 with the weird, gay-looking sax player. But beyond just the aesthetic changes, there really are a lot of new things in Finale 2010 that, after having used them for a couple months, I can't imagine going without. Here are a couple of the new features/changes in Finale 2010 that I use quite a bit:

Automatic Rehearsal Marks
In older versions of Finale, you'd have to create a separate rehearsal mark for each letter (using measure expressions) but in Finale 2010, you have just one rehearsal mark that automatically updates as you add them to the score/parts. So if you want to add a new rehearsal mark between sections B and C, for example, you can now do it much quicker and all other rehearsal marks forward will update automatically.
Broadway Copyist Font
Having clean, tidy, easy-to-read charts is extremely important, but I also like the look of handwritten fonts. It seems I am one of the few people who doesn't like the extremely popular "Jazz Font", and for me the new Broadway Copyist font offers a much better approach to being a handwritten font, but is still neat and clean. I used to always use the Maestro font in all my charts since it was the most easily-sight-readable and clean font, but after installing Finale 2010, I spent a lot of time creating a new document style based on the Broadway Copyist font, which I now use as my default for all charts.
Beat Attached Chord Symbols
In previous versions of Finale, chords had to be attached to notes. If you wanted to create a simple chord chart, you'd first have to enter a bunch of notes (or rests) to attach the chords to, but now, you no longer have to do that. It did take a while for me to adjust to this at first, and it seemed to be slower when entering two (or more) chords per bar, but then I discovered that, (while using the "type chords into score" mode), you can use the shift key in combination with the arrows to move back or forward within a measure, and now it's a much quicker process. This time-saver alone was worth the upgrade for me.
More Control in Alternate Notation
Finale 2010 now offers more control over what elements are shown or hidden when you apply alternate notation – and the interface for doing it is very well thought out. I use this all the time when doing percussion and drum charts and want to hide accents attached to notes in slash notation… Yes, it was possible to achieve this before, but it's now much easier, quicker and a much more elegant, non-destructive method of doing it.
Audio Playback Enhancements
You can now add VST plugins to each audio unit (group of 16 channels) and add plugins/effects to the master track, but the big news (for me) is that you can now adjust the master volume for each audio unit. So if you use a combination of Garritan sounds and SmartMusic SoftSynth sounds, (like say, Garritan's jazz horns along with José Cortijo's Latin Percussion sounds), you can now adjust the master volume for each audio unit, not just for each track. (In terms of the VST plugins, yes, it's still MIDI sounds and you'll never convince me that Finale is a good tool for audio/midi production, (I use Logic and Pro Tools for that), but I recognize that having this control within the notation program itself does have it's advantages for some.)
Improved Help and Topic Organization in the User Manual
I like that Finale has opted to have the user manual in HTML format for some time now, but I don't like that it seems to be geared more towards IE (or Windows-based browsers) than towards the Mac, which is after all, the platform of choice for anyone serious about music creation/production, no? Not all the features of the user manual seem to work perfectly in Safari and there's definitely still a lot of work to be done with the user manual, but I notice huge improvements in the manual with Finale 2010. It is much easier to find things in the manual now, but I hope this is only the first installment of many more user manual improvements to come.
Improved Percussion Entry
When using Speedy or Simple entry on percussion/drum staves, Finale now shows you the note/percussion instrument name that you are about to enter on the staff. Very nice! Makes entering drum parts much quicker (but still not as quick as using a midi controller of course).

So, as you can see, if you use Finale a lot, just these seven things alone are reason enough to upgrade to 2010 and they really do offer a lot of time-saving opportunities.

There are, of course, a couple things that I don't like about Finale 2010, but they are not deal-breakers in my opinion. There are issues with "Spaces" on a Mac that get annoying really quick; I don't like the look of the quarter rests in the Broadway Copyist Font; the "Handwritten" document style that uses the Broadway Copyist font uses a lot of other fonts (Times, Maestro, etc.) on some elements that really should be done with the Broadway Copyist font for consistency (which was annoying more than anything, and in my case, only meant I had to spend more time editing/creating my own document style); and, there are bugs with the new transparent handles (which I do like, but the bug needs to be fixed) which can be fixed by disabling the "show rulers" option in the meantime, though not ideal by any means. Again, these things are not deal-breakers if you're considering upgrading to Finale 2010 and I'm confident (hopeful?) that at least this last issue will be addressed in the first update, which should hopefully be out soon.

Well, I hope this answers a lot of your questions. I know it's pretty brief – is there anything I missed? If you still have questions, please submit them as a comment and I'll be more than glad to respond.

When Finale 2011 comes out next year, I'd like to see a better interface for adding José Cortijo's Latin percussion to charts, the ability to add this using the Broadway Copyist Font and most importantly, being able to add this to charts without it affecting other items (like staff names, etc.) Just that one thing alone would save me enough time to justify the $100 upgrade fee again…