Re: [linux-audio-user] Linux music notation editor criteria

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Subject: Re: [linux-audio-user] Linux music notation editor criteria
From: Chris Cannam (
Date: Thu Jul 15 2004 - 21:58:38 EEST

On Wednesday 14 Jul 2004 11:00 pm, Dave Phillips wrote:
> As promised, here's a set of test criteria used by Alan Belkin in
> his 1994 review of notation programs for the Macintosh. I hope
> that the authors of Linux music notation software will consider
> this list against the features of their own efforts.

I presume that part of the motivation for this is the observation that
notation software in 1994 was pretty advanced already, and the field
doesn't seem to have advanced much (if at all) since. I think that
would be a fair comment, anyway. 1994 was when I started working on
Rosegarden 2.1, and I remember being hugely impressed at the time by
the capabilities of even relatively modest software like Encore. I
don't think Rosegarden today does as much as Encore did then. The
main advance is that free software now has access to a better
notation font, thanks to the excellent work of the Lilypond project.

Of course it's also true that notation software on Windows and Mac now
(Sibelius, Finale etc) does very little that the same or equivalent
software didn't do ten years ago. Most of the improvements since
then have been in details of user interface polish, fine-tuning the
output, and things like native synthesis for playback.

Anyway, I'll happily respond to the list by filling in the things you
can and can't do in Rosegarden at the moment. In our defence, before
I start I do want to point out that Rosegarden is not primarily a
score typesetter at all.

> Note entry:
> [x] mouse & keyboard
> [x] MIDI step-time
> [x] MIDI realtime w. flexible quantization
> audition other saves while recording

I'm not sure I understand what that one means.

> [x] retain performance data for playback

I wonder whether he meant velocity and instrument data only, or
pre-quantization timings as well? Rosegarden does all of these.

> [ ] number of independent rhythmic layers per staff

Not supported at all -- a big omission.

> maximum number of staves per system

No built-in limit.

> Entry of slurs, articulations, dynamics, etc.:
> [x] intelligent default placement
> [ ] apply to multiple staves at once
> Selection in regional edits:
> [x] vertical, horizontal slices within and across measures, staves,
> system, pages, etc.

Well, partly -- you can select individual notes, rectangles,
incremental selections of rectangles etc, but you can only select
from a single staff at once.

> [x] non-contiguous
> conditional selection

What do you think that means?

> [x] click & drag positioning of symbols
> [x] transposition (note, staff, selection, etc)
> [x] enharmonic change by region
> [ ] rhythm: change note values (ease of use)

Not currently easy to do en masse.

> [x] rhythm: auto-rebar
> [x] cut/copy/paste: music
> cut/copy/paste: non-musical items, formats, etc.

Partly -- things like text are generally cut and pasteable, and of
course there is also cut and paste at the segment editor level
(something which doesn't necessarily exist in a pure notation

> mirroring (intelligent copies)

Again, things of this nature generally happen at the segment level.
For example, there are repeating segments that permit you to turn
individual repeats into real copies after the fact, and segments that
are triggered by individual events (for ornaments, pattern sequencing

> Special/custom notation:
> [ ] unusual staves
> [?] simultaneous key signatures

Not quite sure what's intended here either.

> [x] unconventional time signatures
> [ ] additive time signatures
> [ ] simultaneous different time signatures
> [ ] drawing tool
> [x] user-created symbols

To a limited extent. Note heads etc are configurable to different
font glyphs or pixmaps through various XML configuration files.

> user-selectable fonts for all elements

Rosegarden can use lots of different notation fonts, but it's actually
not possible to choose your text fonts at all (a silly omission).

> [ ] chord notation: graphic, playback, learn via MIDI
> [ ] fretboard notation
> [ ] figured-bass notation

None of these is supported at all.

> [x] unusual note heads (slashes, harmonics, etc)

As above, may take some configuration.

> [ ] easily adjustable cross-staff beaming

Cross-staff beaming is not supported at all.

> Lyrics:
> [x] mass create
> [ ] create on page

Individual lyric elements can be added and removed by hand, but it's
laborious -- you can't just click and type.

> [x] import from text editor

Well, you can cut and paste!

> [x] auto layout
> [ ] multiple fonts
> [ ] flexible placement
> MIDI playback:
> [x] ALSA or OSS support


> [x] channel support
> [x] playback includes modifiers (crescendi, dynamics, etc)

You do have to tell Rosegarden to use them though -- it won't do it by
default because it would be bad form for a sequencer to override
velocities etc you might have already entered via MIDI.

> [x] direct editing of MIDI data
> [x] import patch lists (GM, GS, etc)
> [x] scrolling playback
> [x] edit during playback
> Entry layout:
> [x] flexible engraver spacing within measure

To a very limited degree.

> [x] account for dynamics, slurs, annotative text, etc.
> Page layout:
> [x] auto layout with engraver spacing
> [ ] reduce or enlarge symbols, staves, text, systems, by any
> percent, locally or globally
> [ ] full control of measures per system
> [ ] full control of systems per page
> [ ] remove empty staves within systems
> [ ] flexible spacing of staves within systems

All automatic only.

> Part extraction:
> [ ] automatic with new layout
> [ ] dynamic links to master score
> File operations:
> [x] follow Linux standards (?)

(?) indeed.

> [ ] simultaneous multiple files open
> [x] printed output: PS, PDF, DVI, etc.
> Interface/overall ease of use:
> [x] undo/redo any operation
> [x] user-defined key bindings
> [x] user control over notational defaults

Some of them, anyway.

> [x] views: scroll, page, template, any percent, multiple
> simultaeous views

Linear, continuous page, multi-page, any size and multiple
simultaneous views anyway.

The rest are all rather too relative for me to comment on.

> priorities clear
> logical organization
> simple language and icons
> overall speed
> on-line help
> documentation
> ease of learning
> general solidity and stability


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