Sibelius 7.5 announced

So, as I predicted last month, Sibelius 7.5 was announced today at the NAMM show.  But was I right about the features that I predicted?  Mostly, yes.

Playback enhancements

The playback enhancements have gone beyond tweaks to the patches (although this update does include some of those) and include new Espressivo settings, with lots of new detailed options.  Very good news for those relying on Sibelius for demos.  There is no completely new library, which in some ways is a surprise, but in others not: for a point update it is perfectly reasonable to just offer enhancements to the library.  Especially as the Sibelius 7.0 library was such an improvement over what was offered in Sibelius 6.x.

Export options

Yep, they’re there – present and correct! A very useful feature for educators and pros alike – also utterly predictable that it would be included!

Interface enhancements

I must admit that I was not quite on the money with this one.  There are no ribbon enhancements (such as the customisation options that I predicted) – instead, we see a new ‘timeline’ window.  This looks very neat indeed, and I look forward to experiencing it – surely something that was designed and implemented by the London team before their dismissal?!  It certainly bears their hallmarks.

Operating system compatibility

It certainly looks like Sibelius 7.5 will run on Mavericks, but we shall see!  No news about native full screen (although that might, I suppose, be one of the small tweaks that are promised) – I reckon that if it had full gesture support, such as Finale 2014 then that would be shouted about from the rooftops, too.  I must admit that I would be very disappointed if native full screen was not implemented – this is a feature that I was wanting since the launch of Sibelius 7 in 2011 (which practically coincided with the launch of Mac OS X Lion, which contained this new full screen paradigm) and I’m sure that had the original development team stayed with the company they would have done so.  If this feature is included then I will eat my words!

The next ‘big’ feature?

Well, simply put, it doesn’t include one!  The nearest that we get is the timeline interface and the espressivo and playback enhancements.

Small tweaks

There are several useful features, such as an ability to place system objects (such as symbols) on all staves at once and some enhanced tuplet functionality.  This is something that has been long-requested by many a Sibelius user and it is rather cheeky that a tiny, tiny portion of this has been addressed in this update.  The cynical side of me wonders if this has been put in as a way to ‘snare in’ long-term, hard-core users through the marketing blurb.  All that has changed is the ability to paste text, such as dynamics, into a tuplet – not previously possible.  It’s a step forward, but not the revolutionary update that many would have wanted (or possibly expected, given the vague wording given on the press release!).  Ah, well, perhaps Sibelius 8?!

Conclusions

So, Sibelius 7.5 is here, and it certainly looks to have maintained the slickness and class of previous versions when it comes to design of features.  It will be very interesting to see how stable the software is upon release.  This does beg the question as to how much of this update was prepared by the London team before they departed in the summer of 2012.  I would say that the design of the timeline and espressivo features certainly bear their fingerprints.  Of course, such features could have been ‘polished up’ by the new team.  The pricing seems fairly fair.  I should be getting it free as part of 4 years’ free updates that I received with my student purchase of Sibelius 7, but a £40 update fee from Sibelius 7 is reasonable.  As far as I can see, the update from Sibelius 6 (or earlier) to 7.5 is the same cost as it would have been to 7 – thus this Sibelius policy is maintained.

Since I published my post of predictions, Sam Butler was announced as the new product manager of Sibelius, and Joe Pearson the new designer.  Both are members of the ‘old’ Sibelius team – left over in support, when Daniel Spreadbury was let go as product manager alongside his development team.  It is notable that Avid seem to have realised the value of having long-term members of the Sibelius community (people who spent a lot of time with the previous designers and developers) running the show, rather than Pro Tools experts trying to jump ship.  These moves seem positive.  But, in many ways, this update was the easy one to release – it contains new features and code begun by the London team and the new developers just needed to polish this up into a product.  Plus, as a .5 release, there are nowhere near as many new features, and thus there is less complexity.  Sibelius 8 will be the acid test – this new team now needs to come up with some new ideas of its own and develop them stably and competently.  And – who knows – by the time that that package is released, they may have a new competitor – Daniel Spreadbury’s team’s new application from Steinberg.

One thing is for certain – interesting times are ahead in the world of notation software and this seems like just a very small chapter.

The preview of Sibelius 7.5 at Phillip Rothman’s Sibelius Blog is a must-read, going into far more detail on the new update than I have here.

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