Today we released an updated version of our Dolet® 6 for Finale plugin. The Dolet plugin adds some features to the MusicXML support built into Finale 2014, such as batch import and export. It also makes the improvements to MusicXML support for Finale 2014 available to people using older versions of Finale. You can download this new version as well as our other Dolet plugins from:
Version 6.5 runs faster on Macs. It also adds support for exporting scores whose default music fonts follow the Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL). SMuFL font support works in Finale 2012 and 2014, with Finale 2014 providing the better experience. The benefit of faster performance should be obvious, but what exactly is this SMuFL support?
Current music fonts in products like Finale and Sibelius use font mapping conventions that date back to the 1980s. These mappings use older, pre-Unicode technology that limits individual fonts to about 200 symbols. Western music notation requires many more symbols than that, so most programs have families of fonts to cover a wider range of musical symbols. Each font tends to use a somewhat different set of symbols, mapped in a somewhat different way. This causes problems when switching fonts in a musical score, or switching fonts when moving between notation and digital sheet music applications.
This diversity in font mappings also creates problems when writing software to export or import MusicXML files. The MusicXML software developer is usually never quite sure what a particular font character means. To accurately interpret what a character number means, you need to be able to tell which font is being used with that character, and you need to have seen that font before to know how it maps that number to a musical symbol.
SMuFL aims to fix these problems. To quote the SMuFL site, “SMuFL is a specification that provides a standard way of mapping the thousands of musical symbols required by conventional music notation into the Private Use Area in Unicode’s Basic Multilingual Plane for a single (format-independent) font.” Using the Unicode Private Use Area allows SMuFL to map thousands of symbols. SMuFL 1.0 currently maps nearly 2400 glyphs.
The SMuFL project was initiated and developed by Daniel Spreadbury at Steinberg. Like MusicXML, SMuFL was opened to community involvement at an early stage. At MakeMusic, Mark Adler and I have been involved with SMuFL even before it was publicly announced 18 months ago. Mark has focused on an updated OpenType version of our Maestro font family that will be SMuFL compliant. I have focused on how MusicXML and SMuFL might work together better in the future. Dolet 6.5 for Finale’s support for exporting files created with a default SMuFL music font is another step towards bringing SMuFL technology to MakeMusic’s products.
We are happy to release the Dolet 6.5 for Finale plug-in together with our Finale 2014d maintenance update. MakeMusic’s new CEO Gear Fisher has posted more information about MakeMusic’s future direction on the Finale and SmartMusic blogs. MusicXML is a key part of MakeMusic’s vision: it is essential for bringing more repertoire into our SmartMusic product, and for people creating music in Finale to share that music with the widest variety of applications in the rapidly changing world of digital sheet music.
In Gear’s update, he mentions how MakeMusic needs to make it easier to publish content into SmartMusic. Many of the challenges that we face in doing that are similar if not identical to the challenges the entire music notation industry faces in moving from printed to digital sheet music. That is what has driven my work with MusicXML, and I came to MakeMusic for the chance to work on these issues on a larger scale.
We made some important foundational steps forward for digital sheet music production with Finale 2014. Having MusicXML as a common exchange format is another part of the puzzle, as is having SMuFL as a common music font layout. There is still much more to do. I am looking forward to what we can accomplish as MakeMusic enters the next step in its evolution.