Read the friendly manual

by Philip Rothman on April 5, 2013 · 12 comments

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The Sibelius 2 User Guide is available on eBay, for the nostalgia-minded

The Sibelius 2 User Guide is available on eBay, for the nostalgia-minded

Often I receive questions from friends, colleagues and strangers alike, asking for help with one Sibelius question or another. While I’m not an official source of information, I try to help when I can, although it’s not always possible for me to reply to every question.

Sometimes the question is along the lines of “Sibelius can’t recognize my sound card using my specially configured computer running an out-of-date operating system PLEASE HELP” — sorry, no can do. Sometimes the question is complicated, but possible (and even fun) to solve, such as “How do I make a B flat Clarinet playing in the concert key of E major show a transposed key signature of G flat major instead of F sharp major?” (More on the answer here.)

Sometimes, though, the question is easily found in the manual, such as “How do I add a bar?” I was really asked this question the other day. I don’t necessarily blame the user; we can debate ad nauseam whether Sibelius is intuitively designed, and in this era of smartphone apps and other software with little or no documentation, consumers are conditioned to fend for themselves until they figure it out or give up.

But Sibelius is a powerful tool and it comes with extensive documentation, in which many answers can be found. “RTFM” is a common, if impolite acronym, meaning “look it up.” In Sibelius’s case, I think the “F” actually stands for “friendly” because the help documentation is so well-written. (The “manual” actually refers to the whopping 780-page Reference as well as four smaller documents: the tutorials, the “What’s New” primer, the Sibelius Sounds guide and the action-packed ManuScript Language guide.)

We can bemoan the lack of an included printed manual, although if you have a tablet, reading the reference materials can actually be quite pleasant (see this earlier blog post on how). You can read the Reference from start to finish, or skip around, or skim the sections where you most often need help. There are even several “visual” indices if you don’t know the name of what you’re looking for, a glossary, and an extensive index. Each section and its sub-sections are bookmarked, making for easy navigation whether you’re viewing the Reference on a computer screen or a tablet.

reference 1

Using bookmarks in the Reference in Preview (Mac OS X)

Taking the time to look something up might seem quaint in the era of smartphone and tablet apps. But it takes a fraction of the time you might otherwise spend flailing about and growing frustrated — and who knows, you might just chuckle at one of the several cheeky bits sprinkled in along the way (“Tab can be fun…oh yes it can!”).

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