Finale 2009 still sucks

Finale 2009, by its own admission, is more paid bug fix than new feature upgrade, and even then it falls short. It is a program full of potential yet completely hampered by bugs. Those skilled in using Finale do not really use the program, as much as they have developed a vast palette of workarounds to get the output desired. Using it is feels like building a deck of cards.

I was glad to see that 2009 fixed their incompatibility with MOTU devices using non-default CueMix names (as in “Finale crashes-on-launch, can’t use the program at all” incompatibility). They left this specific fix off the list – but Finale 2007 worked, 2008 didn’t, and now 2009 does again. (Yes, I deleted my preferences.) $90 upgrade for nothing, thanks ‘08. It stayed in the box and was never installed.

“Save as PDF…” problems not fixed since 2007

OS X’s built-in “Save as PDF…” feature is one of the best things ever to happen to Finale for sharing music electronically. But just try to “Save as PDF…” a part that has a slash in the name (say “Piano/Vocal” for instance). Finale just decides to leave the part name off. This would barely make sense on WINDOWS (maybe replace the illegal character with an underscore?), nevermind that “/” is a legal character for Mac files. WTF? And hopefully you don’t want to “Save as PDF…” both the score and the offending part in the same “Print…” command, because the part will overwrite the score without any warning, and you’ll be left with only the part – but named to look like the score. Nice hack-up of OS-level file operations.

Another example of bad Save box behavior is evident in Auto-Saves. Old Finale files always open as “Untitled” in newer versions. If you have Auto-Save enabled, it will prompt you to “Save As…” upon the first saving. But, if you have any other dialog box open at the time Auto-Save is triggered (which in Finale is extremely likely), the “Save As…” sheet opens behind your dialog box. The save window can be clicked forward in front of the dialog box you’re in, but it never gains the mouse or keyboard focus. Meanwhile, it did manage to steal the focus away from the box you were just in, thus leaving you with zero control over the program, no ability to save your work, and your only recourse is to Force Quit, losing all your work. This is exactly the opposite result you should get with an Auto-Save feature. This is not new to 2009. Does anybody at MakeMusic actually use Finale on a Mac? They’d find this bug in under 15 minutes. How is this okay in commercially-released software – not to mention, version 2009b.r3!!

Other little things

Staff styles no longer have the final say. My old trick of selectively enabling “Allow optimization” on only certain measures doesn’t work anymore. And when I tried to selectively hide Measure Numbers (staff style with Items To Display > Measure Numbers unchecked), it did nothing.

The new 2009 Expressions categories work beautifully. But the arbitrarily hard-coded six categories is odd, nevermind the fact that it doesn’t merge categories when you import a library file. How else do you push a house style out to other files, then? The whole thing is still clunky and does not foster any confidence. Plus, I heard these categories only came to Finale because Sibelius does them that way.

Lyrics still are tedious in Finale. You already hope and pray they don’t get messed up, and after a certain amount of copy/paste, you give up on keeping anything orderly behind the scenes. I was surprised that now in 2009 Automatic Hyphens and Word Extensions don’t display when you first open the file. Open and close the “Edit Lyrics…” dialog box and they reappear. Why? Why not! (It’s not every file, just don’t forget to always check that the program is doing its job.)

Now that Finale 2009 “runs” sufficiently on Leopard and our score files aren’t stranded forever, it’s finally time to box this line and investigate Sibelius.