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No fiddling claim

From: Jonathan Wilkes
Subject: No fiddling claim
Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2009 14:22:10 -0700 (PDT)

     Not too long ago, I gave my opinion that "No fiddling" should be 
changed to "less fiddling" for the new website.
     After trying to do a quick exercise with a Schumann score, which I 
posted here concerning a slur tweak after a line break, I don't think the 
"less fiddling" claim is valid, either.
     I've only used Finale before, so I'll compare to that, assuming the 
knowledge one would have after reading the relevant tutorials and manuals 
for both pieces of software:

* slur tweak after line break: 
finale: find the smart shape tool, click the slur button, click the 
line-broken slur, and adjust as needed OR press <escape> to get the global 
select tool, double click the slur, and adjust.  Time: about 5-10 seconds.

lilypond: see the section on difficult tweaks in the NR, copy and paste 
the scheme code, spend anywhere from 1 minute to 1 hour realizing that 
that this scheme code isn't giving the desired output, write to the 
mailing list, get an excellent response that has the correct scheme code 
for changing the slur, then spend about 1 minute setting control-points. (OR 
spend a few days/weeks/months learning scheme.) Time: however long 
it takes to get expert support, or to learn scheme-- both take longer 
than 10 seconds.

* move grace-notes slightly to the left to improve spacing:
finale: select "special tools", click the handle for each grace-note (or 
select them all at once) and move to the left.  Time: 20 seconds (possibly 
a minute or two if one doesn't right away where to find the "special tools" 

lilypond: I believe there's a warning about not being able to decrease 
spacing in the NR 4.5.1, but I tried nonetheless and after about 10 
minutes figured out that \once \override NoteColumn #'X-offset got the 
job done (although it only had an effect with values smaller than -1 for 
the grace-note a in m. 6).  Time: I suppose if I had a better handle on the 
spacing objects in Lilypond, I could *write* the overrides in about 
20 seconds, but then I have to take at least another 6 seconds to get 
visual feedback on the values I've used, and if they're not quite right, 
I have to type new values and compile the score again.

* adjust thickness of piano braces:
finale:  I'd never done this before, and after looking in the wrong place 
I saw an entry under "document options" for "Piano Braces and Brackets" 
which has a stretchable graphic brace with handles to change the size, 
thickness, and curve of the brace.  Time: about 30 seconds total.

lilypond: I spent about an hour going through every possible property for 
SystemStartBrace, and it was only after getting a response from the 
mailinglist that I learned this cannot be adjusted in Lilypond. Time: a 
few hours, plus no suitable overrides.

* minor vertical spacing tweak between systems:
finale: choose "page layout", drag system with mouse.  Time: about 4 
lilypond: add some object to the relevant staff, use a Y-offset, Y-extent, 
or staff-padding property to nudge this away from the other system.  OR 
change the 'Y-extent on an existing object (like a pedal mark) to get the 
extra space.  Time: took me about 5 minutes.

* slur tweaks
finale: press <escape>, double click the slur, drag handles and go to 
town.  Slurs are connected to horizontal note positions, so when the 
spacing changes, so do the length of slurs.

lilypond: use the alist properties, 'positions, or 'control-points. 
'positions are problematic because you're never guaranteed to get the 
positions that you specify (as far as I can tell), and control-points 
destroy the connection between the slur and the horizontal note 
positions.  Actually for long slurs, I haven't found a solution that 
a) makes a beautiful slur and b) is flexible enough so that if I add a 
break or put another measure in that system, the slur still looks good.

If there are faster ways of tweaking for the examples above, I'd love to 
hear them.  And of course there are many things Lilypond does better 
than Finale (independent time signatures, for one), but I only mention the 
above tweaks because I think they're examples of common, reasonable tweaks 
to make in a piece of music, and they certainly take longer in Lilypond 
than at least one other piece of music software.  Even if there are 
less overall tweaks in Lilypond (which I think is questionable), those 
tweaks take a substantial amount of time to get right.

So I'm curious: what do the experienced users think about what I've said 
here?  If there's anyone out there who has used other notational 
software and thinks the "less fiddling" claim is true?



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