Every 18 months or so, Coda Music Technology releases an $80 to $120 upgrade to Finale, its venerable music-notation program. Some of these upgrades-the leap from Finale 98 to Finale 2000, for example-have enhanced the program in very significant ways. Others, such as the recently released Finale 2001, offer improvements that look great on paper but are less spectacular in practical application.
Despite the largely lackluster new features, however, Finale remains the Mac's premiere notation application. Whatever type of score you're creating-choral, orchestral, classical, pop, or jazz-Finale is likely to provide all the tools you need (perhaps far more than you need) to produce professional-looking results.
Leader of the Band
Coda has changed few of Finale's notation-creation capabilities in the 2001 edition. The improved Setup Wizard makes it easier to lay out a score's foundation, and Finale is now smarter about fitting music systems onto the page. But most of the changes introduced in this upgrade focus on getting music into and out of the program.
For example, Finale 2001 includes MIDIScan, an optical character recognition (OCR) component that allows you to import scanned, printed scores as editable notation. But even with uncomplicated scores, the resulting file is a barely recognizable mishmash of notes. Fortunately for those interested in OCR, Finale can import files produced by a more capable program, Musitek's SmartScore (Reviews, December 1999).
A more functional new feature is MicNotator, which lets you place notes in a score by playing single pitches into a microphone attached to your Mac. When we used Apple's PlainTalk microphone to record a melody from a recorder, Finale notated it with about 80 percent accuracy. An instrument with less-variable pitch, used in conjunction with a better-quality microphone, would likely produce even better results.
Coda has also added commands for exporting Finale files directly to the Web via Coda's Finale Showcase and the Net4Music Web site, where you can upload your scores for $7 each. By the time you read this, Coda should be distributing Finale Viewer, a free plug-in for viewing, playing, transposing, and printing Finale files saved as Web pages.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Finale 2001 is a great choice for people seeking the most comprehensive notation application available for the Mac. Finale 2000 users, however, already have the program's best elements and may find the upgrade's new features unnecessary.Scant Scanning The results of Finale 2001's MIDIScan feature leave much to be desired.