Working with the Sibelius 7 Quick Start, New Score Wizard and a Screenreader

Out of the box, the combined quick start and new score wizard in Sibelius 7 are not yet particularly forthcoming with information when you are using a screenreader, due to a new graphical implementation combining the features of both windows. For users of screen reading software on windows, however, there is a workaround which I will detail here.

Firstly, when the application starts and displays the quick start, press control plus comma to display the preferences dialog.

Next, go down the categories list box (which starts with display, files and so on) until you get to “Other”. Tab through this page until you get to the “Show Quick Start dialog” checkbox. Uncheck this, press OK on the dialog and restart Sibelius.

Next time it starts you will be presented with a blank score document rather than the quick start. From here you can use the backstage to access your recent files, or you can add instruments and other operations via the ribbon that the new score wizard otherwise offers.

Features on the quick start can be accessed via other means; it has five sections ordinarily – Learn, New Score, Recent, Import and Latest News. Recent can be accessed via the recent files and folder options on the ribbon backstage (File tab) once you have the score document open, and most of Import can be accessed via the standard open dialog (you can open midi and XML files, for instance).

The Learn tab has two types of option – links to open on the Sibelius website, and links to files in the Sibelius 7 Installation. These are:

  1. Quick Tour – links to a video at
  2. What’s New – links to a video at
  3. Sibelius for Switchers – links to a video at
  4. Sibelius 7 Tutorials – this links to a PDF document called “Sibelius Tutorials.pdf” in the Sibelius installation (I’ll tell you below how to find this)
  5. Sibelius Reference – this links to a PDF document called “Sibelius Reference.pdf” in the Sibelius installation
  6. What’s new – this links to a PDF document called “What’s new.pdf” in the Sibelius installation
  7. Finally, there is a link to online support – this takes you to the web page at

Here’s how to find the PDF documents in your Windows Sibelius installation: Go to the C drive, then go into the folders AppData, then Avid, Sibelius 7, Resources, en.lproj (for English speakers, other language folders also exist) then Sibelius Help.

All of the options on the new page (which replaces the new score wizard from previous releases) can be accessed via the ribbon. Finally the Latest News page is the news feed from Daniel Spreadbury’s blog at, a RSS feed for which can be found here at

Finding commands on the Ribbon

With the release of Sibelius 7.0.3 (available as a free update if you have Sibelius 7), the excellent Find in Ribbon feature is now more accessible.

This consists of a small edit box that is always visible on the ribbon bar, and which can be accessed by hitting alt then zero. You can then start to type the feature that you wish to find, and a menu will drop down with all the found options. Navigating through the menu and selecting an option should land focus on that control on the ribbon.

So, for instance, hit alt then zero, then type “Find”. This gives me a menu with several choices, firstly Find, then Find Next. If I navigate down to Find Next the Find drop down button is opened up, with the Find Next option selected on the menu.

An introduction to the new Sibelius 7 user interface for screenreader users

With the release of Sibelius 7, the user interface has been extensively redesigned. The experience is much more task-orientated, and the old menu has been replaced with a ribbon, much like you will find in the more recent versions of Microsoft Office. On Windows at least there is no longer any menu or toolbar. As part of this aspects of the user interface and the score view have been made more informative out of the box for users of screenreader software such as JAWS, however it should be noted that at the moment this only works on Windows.

One major difference with the score view now is that there is now a single document interface system, so you get one window per score. Each window has a ribbon, and each score view on that window appears in a tab. This means that by default, if you open a part, an idea or a version, it will appear in a tab in the same window. To switch between the different tabs, use control and tab together. If you open a score, it will open a completely new window, leaving your current score open.

As in previous versions of Sibelius, the score can be accessed via the keyboard using the tab key. Once you are navigating the score (the navigation keys are largely unchanged) you should hear a basic description of what is selected.

Probably the biggest difference that you will notice is the ribbon, which consists of 11 tabs:

  • File (which I’ll come back to in a bit)
  • Home
  • Note Input
  • Notations
  • Text
  • Play
  • Layout
  • Appearance
  • Parts
  • Review
  • View.

To access these hit the alt key and focus will land on the Home tab label. You can access the other tabs by using the left and right arrow keys. Each ribbon tab has an associated page, and to get focus onto these from the tabs use the tab key.

Within each of the ribbon categories there are controls grouped together. For the screen reader the group description is prepended to each control to give some context on what the control does. Controls may include:

  • Simple buttons, e.g Home then Cut
  • Buttons that open a simple menu, e.g. Home then Paste
  • Buttons that have an on/off state, e.g. Home then Transposing Score
  • Buttons that open more complex menus, for instance Note Input then Clefs
  • There are some standard radio buttons, checkboxes and numeric spin controls
  • There are also some gallery controls – these offer functionality that are entirely duplicated within the menus that drop down, and are not keyboard accessible.

So to summarise so far, the ribbon has a series of tabs, each of which opens a page that shows groups of controls. There are two other details worth knowing about the groups. Many of the groups have buttons to launch dialogs that can be accessed to offer more in-depth configuration, as an example the instruments group on the home tab has a button to launch the edit instruments dialog. Secondly, if screen space is restricted then the groups collapse to become panels of controls that are revealed by buttons, all of which should be reported by the screen reader.

Each button on the ribbon has an associated key tip, as do the tabs. These are announced by the screen reader and can be memorised, so to speed up access to Show in Parts for instance, you can type alt, then H (home tab), H (hide or show button), S (show in parts). Over time learning these will make using the features much quicker than navigating through the ribbon pages with the arrow or tab keys. Also, many of the commands have a keyboard shortcut, mostly unchanged from previous versions of Sibelius, which is also announced.

As I mentioned earlier, the File tab has a different behaviour as it launches the backstage view. Unlike the ribbon this obscures the score when it is open. The easiest way to access this is Alt then F, which produces a vertical menu of buttons and tabs. This is slightly confusing if you are accessing it via a keyboard, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. Essentially what you have in the menu are 6 buttons which do score operations:

  • Save
  • Save As
  • New
  • Open
  • Close
  • Append

followed by 6 tabs stacked vertically, that open up pages:

  • Info (score info)
  • Recent (recent files)
  • Print
  • Export
  • Teaching
  • Help

Then another three buttons:

  • Plug-ins (which opens a small menu of options)
  • Preferences
  • Exit

The confusion arises when you first access the backstage as the Info page is selected by default, and is open, but if you start moving the selection down by arrow key it actually starts from the save button at the top. Each of the backstage tabs has a slightly different behaviour. The Info page contains a number of text edit boxes that allow you to fill in the score information, replacing the score information dialog in version 6.

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that once you conclude an operation on the Backstage, it is closed and you see the score again.

The Recent page contains the recent files and recent places (folders) list – each file represented by a button, and additionally for each entry a pin button that allows you to “stick” the file to the list more permanently. The first column is the files, the second column is the folders, and tabbing through alternates between the file or folder and then the related pin button.

Print replaces the old print dialog and with a score displayed consists of a number of controls. The order of these was revised in the 7.0.1 update, and from that version are as follows:

  • Print button – a simple push button.
  • Number of copies spin control.
  • Printer combo box, listing the printers on your system.
  • Printer properties link button, opening the printer properties page from the printer driver.
  • Page range combo box – options are print all pages, print current page, print range.
  • Page range edit box, where you can enter the range you want. Only enabled if print range is selected on the previous combo. If the range isn’t valid the print button is disabled.
  • A pagination combo box, with options for Normal (just prints the pages), Spreads (or concertina if you prefer), Booklet and 2 Up.
  • Orientation combo box – sets portrait or landscape as you wish.
  • Duplexing combo box – currently this has two options – Print one sided and Manually print both sides. The latter prints to one side of the paper, then puts up a message box prompting you to replace the paper as appropriate in the printer to print on the other side once you hit OK.
  • Collation combo box – Options are collated and uncollated.
  • A link button to launch a page setup dialog, which gives you the chance to set the page size and orientation.
  • A fit to page checkbox to scale the score to the selected paper size
  • A scale editable combo box, which allows you to set either a custom scale or a preset when you print. This is disabled if the fit to page checkbox is checked.
  • Finally, 5 checkboxes affecting what appears on your printout – Date and time footer, Border, Crop marks, View options, and Print in color. Print in color is disabled if your printer driver doesn’t support colour printing.

There are also further controls on the print dialog, but these are to support the visual appearance of a print preview panel, and have no effect on the outcome of the print job.

The next backstage tab is Export. This has two columns, the first being a series of buttons that select the type of the export to take place – one of Audio, Graphics, MIDI, MusicXML, Previous version, Scorch Web Page, PDF, or Manuscript paper. These correspond to the old export menu in Sibelius 6 and earlier. The right hand column consists of the controls that relate to the chosen export method, with a button to actually do the export. Unlike printing this button is last on the screen. It can be disabled if the options selected are not valid for some reason.

You can navigate through the export types using the up and down arrows; when you have selected the export you wish to do then tab onto the right hand column controls.

The next tab is Teaching, which consists of three buttons, Worksheet Creator, Add Worksheet and Edit Worksheets. Each one launches a modal dialog, thereby closing the Backstage view.

The final tab is Help, which contains some of the links formerly found on the Sibelius 6 help menu. Here you can open pdf files to view the reference guide, tutorials and find out what is new. You can also open the preferences dialog or check for updates, and access the online support options. You also access the registration.unregistration system here. All options are accessed via buttons.

So that’s it – I hope this posting helps.