Updating old – and not so old Finale files

Which example do you prefer?

Part of my work at MakeMusic involves updating Finale files we receive for use in SmartMusic.

It’s not unusual for us to receive a file that was created in Finale 2012 which looks like a file created in an ancient version of Finale. When this happens, I might peek in the ScoreManager’s File Info tab, and see something like this, suggesting the file in question wasn’t really started in Finale 2012 after all:

The solution to this mystery is that someone created the piece from a template (or other re-used file) that originated in a much earlier version of Finale.

Why is this a problem?

Finale has seen incredible improvements over the years. The way Finale draws slurs, spaces music, creates beams, and displays notes have improved dramatically in just the last few years (just to mention a few of the changes).

However, when you open an older file in Finale, we assume you want it to look the same as it did the last time you saved it. We make every effort to not change the way older files look, which is good if all you want to do is change the copyright information and print an identical copy. The downside is that you don’t automatically get the benefit of all of the advances made in the interim.

Let’s take a look at a specific file. Here’s a few things that I feel could be improved in this example:

  • Slurs look flat and collide with accidentals, as they do in bar 24.
  • The music font is Petrucci, identified by narrow noteheads, which I find hard to read.
  • Check out the nearly illegible tiny tie ends at the beginning of bar 199.
  • How about the unsightly beaming around the rests in bar 80?

Again, while these problems are common in old files, none of these issues will occur for folks who create new files in Finale 2012, unless they start from an old template or file.

The solution?  Simply recreate all your old files from scratch.

Actually, I’m kidding.

Moving forward, I’d suggest that if you like to use templates, create a new one. But it’s pretty easy to covert these old files (and genuine old files) to modern settings after-the-fact, without having to tweak each individual item. I’ll share my solutions below.

Before you start, if you liked the layout of the original file, lock your systems. To do so, choose the Selection tool, select all, and from the Utilities menu specify “Lock Systems.” Then follow these steps:

  1. From the file menu choose Load Library > Miscellaneous then select Maestro Font Default.LIB
  2. Go to Utilities > Music Spacing and apply a music spacing (I prefer Note Spacing).

That’s changed every issue mentioned above, except the slurs. If you’re comfortable losing any previous SmartShape tweaks, here’s a quick way to update all your slurs.

  1. Select the SmartShape tool
  2. Select All
  3. Hit the clear (Mac) or backspace key (Windows)

Check out the resulting file, which I think looks much better.

Try this out on some of your older files (or those created with old templates) and let us know what you think by clicking on “Comments” below.

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