Boxing GloveI was skimming the home page of MusicEdMagic yesterday to check the latest blog posts from other music education authors when I noticed an interesting back and forth between Tom Johnson of Finale and Daniel Spreadbury of Sibelius.  Essentially they got into a little sparring match over which software truly was more user friendly when it came to sharing scores with other people.  Tom made the opening salvo in his blog post titled "Finale Shares Better," when he posited that Finale was better for sharing due to its ability to open and edit files in any Finale notation product, from Finale 2010 all the way down to Notepad.  That same day Daniel fired back in his post, "Share and Share Alike,"  countering with the convenience and accessibility of using Scorch to publish Sibelius files to the web for free or for sale.  They each had a few other points as well, and while some of them make sense to me, others do not.  I thought it might be fun to dissect the positions of both sides and see where things fall out, so here we go.

Round 1- Exportability
In one corner we have Sibelius 6, with the ability to natively export or save files in the Sibelius file format plus MIDI, WAV, and Scorch.  I know that Sibelius can also export to MusicXML but that requires an additional paid plugin called Dolet so for the sake of this discussion I don't factor that in since that plugin does not ship with Sibelius.

In the other corner we have Finale 2010 with the ability to export or save to Finale file formats plus MIDI, WAV, SmartMusic, and MusicXML. 

The Narrow Winner of Round 1-  Finale 2010

Round 2-  Sharability
Finale allows you to save in a large variety of file formats and does allow the user to open and edit scores in any of their products from 2010 all the way down to Notepad ($10).  If a person only wants to view the file they have to download and install the free Finale Viewer.  A user can also offer their scores for free through the Finale Showcase web site. 

Sibelius offers the ability to export and share files using their Scorch web browser plugin or through their online store, SibeliusMusic.  This is nice, but there seems to be no way to open Sibelius files unless they are Scorched or unless you purchase Sibelius First or Sibelius Student.  Unless I have missed it there is no free Sibelius format viewing program.  What if a person does not want to publish to the web?  If I am wrong on this one please correct me...

EDIT:  As Daniel Spreadbury reminded me on Twitter (@dspreadbury), you can drag Sibelius files into a web browser window to open them if you have the Scorch plugin installed. For this fact I downgraded the win to a narrow one.

The Narrow Winner of Round 2- Finale 2010

Round 3-  Backward Compatibility
Sibelius allows you to save files so that they can be opened with any earlier version of the product.

Finale files are not backward compatible unless you export through MusicXML.

The Solid Winner of Round 3- Sibelius 6

Round 4-  Accompaniment Software
Finale has the ability to export to SmartMusic format which allows users to open the file and practice it using their SmartMusic subscription.

Sibelius had previously partnered with StarPlayit (formerly known as "In The Chair") to allow Sibelius files to be opened and played in StarPlayit.  This alternative accompaniment system has never caught on though, and apparently has not made much progress over the last year with their latest press release coming out in May of 2009.

The Solid Winner of Round 4-  Finale 2010

This Judges Decision on Which Product Is Best For Sharing-  Finale 2010
At least in terms of being able to share and distribute files easily and effectively with other users (which is what Tom and Daniel's original blog posts were about), it seems that Finale 2010 wins hands down on this topic.  Other topics are not so cut and dried, and maybe we can save those discussions for future posts.  Other topics such as interface design and ease of use jump to mind as those that might potentially lean toward Sibelius, but other areas such as page design, graphics,  and customization lean toward Finale.  Both products are great pieces of music notation software and each has its own fan base so don't look for the debate to be over any time soon.  Perhaps these discussions are a good thing in that they will help keep both companies innovating and developing more and more mature products in coming years.

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