What DORICO is, and is not (yet)

Thank you for all of your email (and even those who managed to sneak comments in via the spam filter). Since spam has been a problem on several blogs I’ve left comments turned off here. However, anyone can still use the email address that former Just Jazz Guitar readers have from my columns there: drdavejjg which is still up on gmail.

I had planned to do a review of Dorico, but due to an unavoidable delay and the proximity to the first update, I thought I should address some of your concerns first. While I do appreciate your concern about my sanity, I can assure you that Dorico is the new paradigm in music notation. The software is brilliantly written and the number of options sometimes defy belief. Still, it is not perfect (what is?) so let’s take a closer look at areas of concern.

INCOMPLETE FIRST RELEASE

By far the most concern I’ve heard is that the first release was “incomplete.” My take on this has consistently been that marketing will only wait so long for a product to sell. Those of you who have managed to avoid the corporate world may not know that departments are typically divided into cost centres and profit centres. Cost centres, such as Human Resources, cost the company money but are necessary expenditures, while marketing is a profit centre (if it doesn’t produce enough profit, goodbye company). Research and Development (R&D) is an odd combination of both. It is most often a cost centre, but is expected to come up with new products that will produce profit. The team that created Dorico was given 4 years to be a cost centre, an almost unheard of amount of time to develop a new product, especially given the talent in the group. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that the project was so close to completion of a viable first version that there was too much pressure to hold it back this close to the Xmas shopping season. What is included shows the power “under the hood” and also betokens very good things to come.

FEATURE XXX IS MISSING

Dorico is undoubtedly missing features that most of us would like. Guitar and jazz articulations and tablature are the ones most of you have requested, and are also ones that seem to be high on the “to do list” for the Dorico team. In fact, many of these will likely be in the first of several free updates that should appear near the end of November.

Aside from that, Dorico’s developers have been incredibly forthcoming about missing features in release 1.0. It takes a great deal of confidence to be able to say we won’t have these features in the first release, and from the outcry over certain missing features we probably have a good idea of their current priorities. From what we have seen, I believe that we can expect these features to be as extraordinarily robust as Dorico has been. It is true that some people have found actual bugs in the software, but the ones that I have seen are pretty arcane. If you are not a computer science major, you may not know that it is mathematically impossible to test every possible route through a program, which means that unless it’s mindlessly simple, any program is bound to have unexpected problems (bugs) and Dorico has had fewer than any project of that complexity that I am aware of.

Finally, check out the list of features that Dorico contains, and note how many exist ONLY in Dorico and no other notation program.

NO FREE TRIAL VERSION

There is a free trial version announced and said to be coming with the first update. I always think it is wise to try new software in a trial version if you are unsure of whether to buy it.

THE “DONGLE”

Although none of you have written about this, I saw some lively discussion of the copy protection of Dorico on their forum. First, with code this valuable I think it is naive to assume that they are going to make it easy to pirate. You can use it on one computer, or if you use the USB eLicenser “dongle” you can use it on up to 3 (I don’t even have three computers that I would use it on). I already have two dongles for programs from Slate Digital, Vienna Symphonic Library, and other high-end programs. Sure, they can be inconvenient, but if these companies didn’t make enough money to continue putting out new products we’d all lose, so for me the inconvenience isn’t even worth considering. I have a USB hub that I put the dongles on and leave it plugged in; it even adds more USB ports to my laptop.

NOT ENOUGH DOCUMENTATION

The documentation that exists is very good and broad, but not very deep. It is also all in English. This is set to be rectified along with the first update. Obviously documentation can only be written after programming is complete, so the rush to market almost always leaves documentation lagging for a while. Dorico does provide enough resources to get a project completed, but it may take some time.

The System Requirements web page also has 7 short tutorials that are packed with information. Daniel Spreadbury does these himself, and they will get you up and running in less than 10 minutes (or about half an hour if you watch all 7, which is not really necessary just to start working). These tutorials are mostly overviews, and there is more in-depth information in the Dorico user forum, in  a thread titled “Frequently asked questions: try this thread first“. It is so helpful I printed a copy to a PDF file to have it on hand without needing to be online (although that means checking periodically for updates to it). The FAQ complements the tutorials very well. Finally, there is an online manual being started, but much of it is covered in either the tutorials or the FAQ, but it is worth checking out if you still have questions, or if you’d rather read than watch a video to learn. Again, this manual will be fleshed out and should be available in different languages by the end of November.

The forum is very useful because Daniel Spreadbury and members of the Dorico team are quite active in it. There is already a dedicated user base that discusses issues, problems, and solutions, so it is a very good place to check out for answers and just for ideas.

SUMMARY

Dorico is an excellent program that still has some important features under development. If you need these features, then it makes sense to wait for the first update. If not, there is good reason to buy it now and start learning its interface. Even if you plan to stay with another program, I would urge you to try the free trial version to see what you are missing.

I will do a complete review of the program after the first update, which is a couple of weeks away.

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