When I received my copy of Finale 2009 last week I was anxious to get started on doing an in depth review of it. Now that I have had few days to kick it around I am confident I can give you preliminary review of the newest music notation software product from MakeMusic. One that is not without its ups and downs.
While it is often the case that software vendors will release new version before all of the companion products are ready, I had hoped that one of my most anticipated new features of Finale 2009 would be bug free. For me, the new easy export of full scores to SmartMusic accompaniment files would have been the single most important reason for me to buy the upgrade. In truth, the export of the file was incredibly easy and dozens of times easier to do than the old Finale 2008 method. As band director wanting to create assessment files for an entire band of instruments, my frustration with the old method often left me giving up and forgoing the use of SmartMusic to assess those custom exercises and etudes. As mentioned, exporting such documents is no longer problem with Finale 2009. The problem is that SmartMusic CAN'T READ THEM YET! (Note: See UPDATE at bottom of article)
After saving out new SmartMusic file and trying to open it in the most recent version of SmartMusic I was greeted with the error message that I needed to upgrade SmartMusic and that my accompaniment file could not be used until I did so. Umm... I just downloaded the newest version of SmartMusic... After few minutes on the SmartMusic tech support line I was assigned case number and was told I would be contacted shortly with solution. An hour later I did indeed receive this reply:
As of now, the most recent version of SmartMusic will not open custom files exported from Finale 2k9. The engine for creating these files changed too much for Finale 2k9 to be supported by SmartMusic 10.2 or earlier. SmartMusic 11, which we anticipate to release in early Fall of 2008, will be able to support these files. Until then, you can export these custom files with your copy of 2k8. To get the custom files you created in 2k9 to open in 2k8, export them as XML files in 2k9 and open the .xml file in 2k8.
Well... Isn't that nice... School starts in three weeks... Think it will be done by then?
I must confess that of all the fiddling around I have done with the new Finale 2009 so far this has been the only sticking point I have run across. The other new features of the program are nice improvements and I still think the upgrade is worth it, but for those of us that really want to use SmartMusic files without having to jump through hoops to get them to work, I guess we will have to wait while longer.
I'll be posting more in depth review of Finale 2009 in the coming days. Until then you may also want to check out new review of The Finale Projects by Tom Carruth, an excellent tutorial/textbook for Finale users.
UPDATE- OCTOBER 1, 2008
The new version of SmartMusic has shipped and does indeed work very well with the new file formats used by Finale 2009. However, after playing with the software for much longer I have to say that although the export of SmartMusic files is much easier in Finale 2009 than in previous versions, it is still not as intuitive as it could be. Getting piece of music to display on the screen still requires saving two seperate files, one for the user to view and one for the accompaniment.