MuseScore 2.01 out. The Handbook is terrible and what can be done about it.

• May 28, 2015 - 05:01

I downloaded 2.01 yesterday and decided to give it a spin. I have owned many notation programs for the Mac since 1986. I currently use Finale and Encore. I heard good things about MuseScore 2.01 and was prepared to like it. But I can't.

Part of the reason is the Handbook. It reads as a total disconnect from the software.

I found many examples of what's wrong but let's start with a couple of basics:

How do you change the value/duration of rests? I spent a bit of time figuring That one out -- it's easy once you do but it's not in the handbook. No, it's not. It's a basic function of all notation software.

The web site claims that there are three musical notation fonts. Really? How do you change them? What are there names? Where is any mention of this in the documentation?

Someone needs to sit down with the software, work through it and check it against the documentation. I wish that I could volunteer but I have too many projects now.


Thank you for sharing your feedback Mike. I concur that all basic questions should be covered in the community handbook. Sometimes as long time users/developers, we forget what it was to be a newbie with the software. But it should not be an excuse. So keep on posting the questions you believe should be covered. We'll gladly work them into the handbook.

You may be interested to know that besides the free community written handbook, there is also a much more elaborated and just released book "Mastering MuseScore" written by Marc Sabatella. Where the community handbook stops, this book continues. You may want to check it out.

In reply to by Thomas

You may be interested to know that besides the free community written handbook, there is also a much more elaborated and just released book "Mastering MuseScore" written by Marc Sabatella. Where the community handbook stops, this book continues. You may want to check it out.

No. Not for me. I'm fairly convinced that MuseScore is not ready for prime time. It's not just the poor and missing documentation. Between no real-time entry and step entry that, even after I understand it, is more complicated than most programs I have used... When I dislike something because it's more complicated than Finale and Encore, that's saying something.

I do note entry single-handed with a mouse (Magic Trackpad nowadays). Any process that involves two hands can't work for me. This is the first notation program I can recall that does not have a rest palate. End of story for me – way too many mouse clicks and no way around that.

A "community written" manual without a strong editor makes for terrible documentation every time. Such an editor should know that there are many things missing and others that are terribly written.

I would really like to be able to recommend MuseScore to students and teachers I know. MIDI is not great but fair. MusicXML is well done. I can't -- not yet. It's still Encore for those whose needs are not great and Finale for those who need a pro version.

MuseScore does not need to aim for Finale or even Sibelius level ever. It really does need to be as good as Encore. Right now, it only looks better (a lot!) and supports MusicXML 3 instead of 1.3. Otherwise, it's not even close.

Not this version, anyway.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

The documentation is there, as the other commenters linked you to it. If you're having trouble finding other specific things in the Handbook, we'll be happy to help out.

You mentioned "way too many mouse clicks." This suggests that you're trying to write music with the mouse, which can definitely be very time-consuming—go up and click the duration in the toolbar, go down and click on the staff, go back up to the toolbar to change the duration (and perhaps also change to a rest), go click on the staff again, etc. This is not actually the recommended way to use MuseScore—it's likely easier for beginners to understand, but it's an extremely time-consuming process. The much faster way (and, once you know it, the easier way) is to use the keyboard. Not a MIDI keyboard—your computer keyboard.

So, to enter a note (see also Note input in the Handbook), you tap the corresponding number on your keyboard to choose its duration, and then the letter name (or 0 for a rest) to place it on the staff. That's it.

May I recommend a resource to quickly get used to the basics of MuseScore? There is a score called "Getting Started" that should appear in the Start Center when you first open MuseScore (if it no longer appears because it's been replaced by your recently opened files, go to the File menu, choose Open Recent -> Clear Recent Files, then go to the View menu to reopen the Start Center). Spend ten minutes studying it and practicing note entry in the spaces it provides.

If you'd rather keep your list of recently opened files, you can also simply download a copy of the Getting Started score from MuseScore's sheet music sharing site:

BTW, I actually saw your comment on the MOTU forum before I saw you posted here. There you had some comments about the general appearance of MuseScore's printed output. Generally the default settings produce a very high-quality printed result, but for advanced options to customize a score's style, go to MuseScore's Style menu. It's possible not only to switch to the music fonts Gonville and Bravura, which you may find more appealing, but you can also even control things like the thickness of the staff lines (I believe you found the default too heavy for your tastes).

I encourage you to experiment and try to get used to MuseScore. Once the initial shock of unfamiliarity has worn off, it's possible you'll come to enjoy MuseScore as much as music educator Robert Smelser did, at the end of his tour through a sizable number of major scorewriters: (And that was with a version of MuseScore that really was not ready for prime time!)

In reply to by MikeHalloran

I don't understand what you mean about needing two hands. There is no rest palette because it would have no special advantage. Press the keybaord shortcut for the duration, type "0" - that's one hand, zero clicks. It doesn't get more efficient than that.

Anyhow, it seems you are still just scratching the surface of the capabilities MuseScore. So I would say it is too early for you to be able make an informed judgement on how it compares to other software. But FWIW, I have been using notation software the 1980's, and was as big a Finale opower user as they come, and I also know MuseScore inside and out. MuseScore is a lot closer than you think to Finale in terms of capabilities, and in terms of ease of use, its actually ahead by a large margin, in my opinion as an extremely knowledgeable user of both programs. Pretty much anything you can think of you would want to do, you can to in MuseScore and it will take less effort than with Finale.

There are a very few things it cannot do, so indeed for some extremely demanding users, Finale (or Sibelius) still makes sense. But if there are things you are having trouble figuring out how to do, just ask. Someone will probably be able to show you very quicky.

Well, changing a note's or rest's length is done the same way as entering it, see But yes, that should be mentioned separately, together with the fact that shortening a note/rest would add another rest to make up for the difference and lengthening of a note/rest results in time being eaten from the next notes/rests.

These musical fonts are mentioned, see Again, we may need to be more explicit about this.
I've now extended that a bit:

..., there are 3 musical fonts available (for symbols used in the staves) , Emmentaler, Gonville and Bravura. There are 4 musical text fonts available (for use in texts like tempo markings, system- and staff text, lyrics, etc.), Emmentaler, Gonville, Bravura and MuseJazz. Of these Emmentaler is the default and Bravura the most complete one.

FWIW, I think you are confused regarding rests. I saw your comment elsewhere, but it seems you are not talking about *changing* the duration of an existing rest - which is not that common of an operation, although it is simple enough (click rest, click new duration icon). Instead, it seems you are talking about *entering* a rest in the first place, and selecting the duration for the rest that will be entere.d In which case, it most definitiely *is* covered in the Handbook, and is simpler than what you figured out (which works as well). See The process is the same for notes and rests: select the duration then enter the note or rest. And while you can indeed use the rest icon to enter rests, it is much more efficient to simply press "0" as documented on that page of the Handbook.

perhaps you were confused thinking there would be a separate page for rest entry, but it's all covered under Note input.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Please read the following and then tell me how, having read this, one enters a rest and selects its duration.

Basic note entry
Adding notes and rests to a staff requires four basic steps:
1. Select your starting position for note input
2. SelectNoteInputmode
3. Select the duration of the note (or rest) you want to enter
4. Enter the pitch (or rest) using keyboard shortcut, mouse, or a MIDI keyboard
To add notes that start/end at different times (polyphony), see Voices. For chords, continue reading here.
Step 1: Starting position
First, select a note, or rest on the score as your starting position for note input. Note input in MuseScore replaces the existing notes/rests in a measure with your new notes (i.e. overwrites, rather than inserts). However, you can insert new measures at any point (see Measure operations: Insert), or use copy and paste to move a passage of notes.
Step 2: Note input mode
The "N" button on theNote Input toolbar indicates whether you are inNote Input mode. To enter or leave Note Input mode, you can click on the button, or you can use the shortcutN. To leave Note Input mode, you can also hit Esc.
Step 3: Duration of the note (or rest)
After entering Note Input mode, select the duration you need from theNote Input toolbar, or use the corresponding shortcut.
Note that if you have an irregular rhythm division (like 3 eight note in the time of two), see Tuplet

This is where it should be but it's not there.

> it is much more efficient to simply press "0" as documented on that page of the Handbook.<

…as a list item in the shortcuts only? No. That is not acceptable. Th basics should be clearly spelled out so that someone new can follow them successfully.

I also notice that you didn't address the musical fonts issue – no surprise because it isn't found in any of those pages. Searching 'music font' or any variation pops up this only: "You can also change the musical font for text and symbols. (To change text font and properties seeText style)"

I like .pdf manuals because they can be searched. A good .pdf manual has hot links in it so that you can click on the referenced section and go to it.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

You just posted the exact quote of how to select a duration: "After entering Note Input mode, select the duration you need from theNote Input toolbar, or use the corresponding shortcut." And it then goes on to list the shortcuts. "select the duration you need from the Note Input toolbar" - I don't understand source of confusion? The fact that the duration icons happen to have pictures of notes instead of rests? They also show stems up rather than down, and show eighth notes with flags rather than beams, but they are just there to select the duration, and again, the shortcuts are listed as well. I guess a sentence could be added to clarify that, but that's not the same as it being "terrible". It's community-provided, so if you see an opportunity, you can help improve it. No need to spend hundreds of hours going through every single feature looking for omissions. just when you find one thing that you think could be clearer, submit the improvement. That's how open source works.

Anyhow, the Handbook is only part of the documentation. There are also tutorials, and as mentioned, a new book. Plus free community support via these forums, where questions are often answered within minutes. I think you'll find, if you give it a chance, that MuseScore ends up being incredibly easy to learn and use if you take advantage of the resources that are provided.

BTW, I didn't address the musical fonts issue in my previous response because it is a highly esoteric subject. The Handbook indeed probably doesn't cover every single option in every single dialog - just the things most users are apt to find important. Sure, it wouldn't hurt to mention this more prominently.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Re: PDF manual:… Note that, as stated, the online manual is continually being edited, so every so often it's a good idea to re-download the updated PDF version.

EDIT: A search for "music font" brings it up as the fourth result, and it's easy to see immediately which is the one you want:

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Which of course highlights one of the truly wonderful things that puts MuseScore heads and shoulders above most commercial applications when it comes to documentation especially: if you find and report an issue, chances are it will be fixed, and soon. And translated into multiple languages to boot.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

See, right here is a (big) problem with your documentation. The above reads: "1. Select your starting position for note input". Simple, right? Not really. If you're trying to just add some notes to a measure after the last note (or rest), you can do the input steps in any order you want, but it's not going to do what you want. You'll get all kinds of other behavior - changes of note values, added ties, all kinds of stuff, BUT YOU WON'T GET TO ADD ANY NOTES! Is there some kind of voodoo incantation or just a clear explanation posted somewhere that tells you how to do such a simple thing? (Despite my gripe above, I think this is a great program and has helped me a lot. It's just danged tempramental when it comes to simple functions.) Thanks

In reply to by john_shannon

In Step-time (default) input mode notes are added to the current location and always have been. When this thread started there was no easy way to add beats to a measure because that's not what happens in most music. Today there are a couple of ways to add beats to a measure using insert modes. The latest version is 3.5.2 and you really should read the manual for it once so you can see what MuseScore is capable of.

In reply to by john_shannon

First, do note you are replying to a thread from six years ago, so no surprise if some of the information in it is out of date.

That said, "Select your starting position for note input" really is simple. Click the note or rest that is currently occupying the place at which you want to begin note input, it really is that easy. However, you seem to be describing a totally different situation from the usual note input. You say you want to add notes to a measure after the last note or rest, but since the measure is normally already "full" - it should already contain exactly as many beats as the time signature says it should - you shouldn't normally be trying to add more notes to that measure in the first place. Not without changing the time signature anyhow.

Of course, there are a few very special unusual situations where it is acceptable to add more beats to a measure than the time signature calls for - cadenzas, non-metered music, examples in educational materials, etc. For those special cases, we do provide a number of special solutions. So if that is what you are trying to do, best to start a new thread rather than using this unrelated one, and describe in more detail what you are trying to do and why. When we can understand and assist better.

I tend to agree with Mike that the handbook is not up to scratch. Is it possible that the current handbook could be converted into an OpenOffice writer document (for example)? Once that is done, an editor could start to improve layout and text, add styles, chapter headers etc.

In reply to by geetar


To reiterate Jojo's reply, the handbook authoring is all done online on There is nothing which can stop you from editing a handbook page and improve its content.

As for the layouting, styling, ... it's indeed all a matter of improving the css. If you are familiar with this, please don't hesitate to provide an improved stylesheet so I can incorporate your advice.

Hope to see you joining our effort to improve the handbook!

I just wanted to add that the online handbook looks fine. The main problem is that it is incomplete.

The online handbook and the pdf manual have different formatting needs. So, could they be edited as separate entities?

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