Today (October 4, 2016) Daniel Spreadbury posted the final installment of his blog Making Notes with a list of what will and will not be included in the first release of Dorico. He believes, as do I, that the “missing” features will garner more discussion than the actual contents of the first release. The issue comes down to this: Should I buy the first release of this software, or ‘wait and see’?
Having spent much of the last 8 years deeply immersed in the jazz world, I would guess that the lack of jazz articulations will keep away many if not most jazz musicians out of sheer necessity. The lack of chord symbols and guitar tablature will also lessen its appeal to guitarists of all genres, as well as songwriters looking for just melody, lyrics, and chords on lead sheets. Why on earth would the software be released in this state? Pure speculation would suggest that Steinberg’s accountants could only be kept at bay for so long, and the Xmas shopping season is just too big a window to miss. So there is a lot that screams “VERSION 1.0 — BEWARE!!!”
But not necessarily.
While Dorico is obviously a work in progress, its foundations appear rock-solid, and by this time next year we will most likely be celebrating the amazing progress it has made in a single year as well as its total domination of the high-end notation market. The strength of its architecture as well as the quality of the programming team give us every reason to believe that the missing features will be incorporated, and in ways that make them even better than we might expect. If you read the second half of Making Notes (and you should read it all at least twice!) you will see the careful attention to detail in every parameter. Consider the missing jazz articulations. I have received angry email from users of both Sibelius and Finale because someone’s favourite articulation is either missing or doesn’t “work as it should.” I applaud the decision not to rush Dorico’s inclusion of some set of articulations rather than put the thought and time into designing the best possible set and get them working correctly the first time. The same goes for all of the other missing features.
I believe that the question is not IF to buy Dorico, but WHEN. There are good reasons to wait as there are for getting it on Day 1. Let’s consider both.
As a jazz arranger, I can understand waiting for jazz articulations to be added. As a composer of guitar music, I can see waiting for chord diagrams and TAB to be added. In fact, for any specific use, you may want to wait for all of your necessary features to appear. Common sense.
While there is an inevitable allure for some people to be the first to own something cool, there are other reasons to buy software that is incomplete even for your uses. One of the strongest is the Xmas shopping season, which alone might justify new software in lieu of yet another instrument (I’m thinking especially of guitarists here — we never have enough). Early adopters will also have time to work with the software and be proficient with it when their favourite features are added and they want to become productive ASAP. Institutional budgets with a fiscal year-end in December, or with any other cycle that encourages procurement at that time of year can make it more attractive than waiting for a time that might be great for a certain feature but fiscally inopportune.
I was not able to get an answer on what features might be included in a free update versus a paid upgrade, but that’s not surprising with a package that has not even been released yet. So if the initial release has all of the features that you need, I think it would be wise to buy it; if not, waiting is always an option. Many of us will be able to take advantage of the cross-grade pricing but final details on which programs (other than Sibelius and Finale) will qualify and how long the time limit will be to cross-grade will be available closer to the launch date.
Daniel Spreadbury has informed me that the plan is to offer a series of free updates as features are added to Dorico following the original release. While he obviously can’t say which these will be, it would be a good bet that the most sought after omissions would be added, and both jazz and guitar are pretty hot these days so they are both good bets to get solid attention. So it still looks like the entire paradigm of notation software is about to change. Very exciting news!