I spent this past weekend getting familiar with Finale, and I have to say, it’s one of the most antagonistic user experiences I’ve ever encountered. I often felt it went out of its way to prevent me from accomplishing anything. I got curious about how Finale managed to earn its clout as the premier software for music notation. How can so many users settle for such hostile interface?

I did a search for "finale sibelius" to see what kind of discussion I’d find. One thing Finale seems to get credit for is minute control over all aspects of a score, and folks who use it value that thoroughness over any need for an intuitive interface. I also get the impression that Finale users just settle for what they have because it gets the job done.

This post, however, details the shortcomings I discovered in Finale on my first try. The author also compares Finale with Sibelius and found Sibelius easier to work with.

I installed a Sibelius demo over the weekend, and I have to say I liked what I saw. The documentation that came with the demo version was too basic for the kind of work I wanted to test, so I’m not getting a great sense of how it would work for me. But the things I could do were far more easier in Sibelius than Finale.

However much I felt covetous for Sibelius’ shiny interface, a few things give me pause. The sound with the splash screen is just tacky. Using a JAVA applet to deliver documentation is overkill. And the terms of the competitive cross upgrade seem pretty extreme. Finale doesn’t ship a printed user manual, so I’m not sure what pages I would submit as proof of ownership. I’m also not comfortable sending my installation discs if I’m not going to get them back.

For the time being, Finale can get the job done, so I’m in no rush to drop the cash for Sibelius. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a situation where I dread having to work in a particular application. Every time I launch Finale, I wonder what new ways it’s going to fuck with me. A relationship with software shouldn’t have to be combative.