We are delighted to announce the immediate availability of the fourth significant update to Dorico 4 since its release in January of this year. Dorico 4.1 is available now as a free update for users of Dorico Pro 4, Dorico Elements 4 and Dorico SE 4, and brings with it dozens of new improvements, including continued refinement of the Key Editor, significant changes to lyrics, customizable user interface colors, a handy new way to print or export graphics from selected flows, new effects plug-ins, cloud-aware project handling, and more. We have also made available Dorico for iPad 2.3 in the App Store, which is up-to-date with Dorico 4.1 and introduces a new Lifetime Unlock in-app purchase option to gain access to all of its premium features for a one-off fee instead of an ongoing monthly or annual subscription.

What’s new in Dorico 4.1

For an overview of the new features and improvements in Dorico 4.1, check out this video from my indefatigable colleague Anthony Hughes, who has rounded them all up for you:

You can also read more than 15 pages of documentation for these improvements, including details of more than 80 fixes for issues encountered by customers, in the Dorico 4.1 Version History PDF.

Key Editor

The headline improvement to the Key Editor in Dorico 4.1 is the reintroduction of the dynamics editor, but it is by no means the only significant change in this update. Dorico 4.1 also brings powerful new editing tools in the MIDI continuous controller editor, and makes it easy to edit the velocities of individual notes within chords in the velocity editor. When taken together with the improvements in the previous three Dorico 4 updates, the new Key Editor is really coming on in leaps and bounds. Anthony has put together a video summarising the changes and improvements introduced not only in Dorico 4.1 but in the previous updates, too. If you’ve not taken a look at the power of the reimagined Key Editor that’s new in Dorico 4, here’s an overview:

Our goal with the Key Editor in Dorico 4 is not only to match the functionality provided by Dorico 3.5 and earlier versions, but to add greater capabilities while making the editors feel as good as possible, ideally as good as they feel in your sequencer of choice (which I very much hope is Cubase). Some edits in Dorico 3.5 and earlier could be a bit unpredictable and produce peculiar results. We have worked hard to make all of the editors more robust, and this is particularly evident in the reintroduced dynamics editor.

Dynamics that appear in the music in Write mode appear as green regions in the dynamics editor, while grouped dynamics are indicated with a solid blue line at the top of the editor, indicating the extent of the group. The point at the start of a green region is larger, to indicate that dragging this left or right will move the whole green region, including any other points and green regions that are part of the same group. The points within green regions that indicate the shape of envelope-based dynamics like sforzando can now be edited more reliably, and their movement is constrained to prevent you from creating peculiar dynamics that Dorico can’t make sense of.

Freehand dynamics that you create with the draw (pencil) and line tools are shown as blue regions, and you can overwrite green regions with blue regions to provide specific nuance or detailed performance. In common with the MIDI continuous controller editor, you can also now use Shift to constrain the dragging of points, so it’s easy to drag up and down with Shift to change values without changing positions, or to drag left and right with Shift to change positions without changing values.

Speaking of the MIDI continuous controller editor, we’ve put a lot of work into improving the feel of this editor. Firstly, the resolution for freehand drawing is much, much higher, allowing much more precise control over the specific contours produced. Secondly, Dorico can now seamlessly merge freehand regions, so that you don’t end up with unexpected gaps between regions that can produce glitches by way of momentary unwanted value changes. Thirdly, the way you can manipulate selected points is greatly enriched: hold Shift to constrain values or positions as you drag, and hold Alt to make a copy of the selected values. (These editing improvements have also been applied where possible to the MIDI pitch bend and tempo editors.)

Last but by no means least, the velocity editor has also been greatly improved, and it’s now very easy to edit the velocity of an individual note within a chord. Velocity bars are now drawn with an outline to make it easier to tell where each one ends, and the velocity bars for notes at the same rhythmic position are now always drawn in velocity order, with the lowest velocity at the front and the highest at the back, making it easy to select any of the notes for editing. The performance of the draw (pencil) and line tools has been improved, and they also now only affect the selected velocity bars if only some of the velocity bars at a particular position are selected (otherwise affecting all notes at a position if none is selected). This makes it possible, for example, to select the highest notes of a series of chords on the piano right-hand staff using a filter, then create a velocity contour with the draw tool that only affects the melody notes, leaving the other notes in the chord at their original values. For good measure, we have also added a Velocity property to the Notes and Rests group in the Properties panel, allowing you to edit the velocity of any selected note numerically in Write mode.

There is more to come in the Key Editor in the next Dorico 4 update: two further editors remain to be added – the specialised drum editor as an alternative to the piano roll for unpitched percussion instruments and kits, and the semantic pitch bend editor – and we also have plans to further improve the overall user experience of working with the Key Editor. Watch this space for more details, but as always, please give us your feedback on how we could make working in the Key Editor more comfortable for you.


Lyrics have had a significant overhaul in Dorico 4.1. In previous versions of Dorico, lyrics were drawn using font styles, which are the more basic of the two ways of describing text in Dorico. Font styles lack some of the advanced capabilities of paragraph styles: they cannot have different sizes in score and part layouts; they cannot take advantage of advanced typographical features like changing word and letter spacing, or dynamically compressing or expanding characters in the font; and they cannot handle changes of style, for example to have both italic and bold styles in the same text item. Font styles are also, perhaps paradoxically, slightly more expensive for Dorico to draw, so in projects with many lyrics, using font styles can cause screen redraw during panning and zooming to be a bit slower than it would otherwise be.

Now in Dorico 4.1, lyrics use paragraph styles for drawing, which brings a host of subtle but significant improvements, thanks to the greater capabilities of paragraph styles: lyrics in score and part layouts can be different sizes, you can slightly squash or stretch font characters or tweak the character spacing to slightly tighten or loosen all your lyrics, and so on.

We have also introduced a new Edit Single Lyric dialog (easily accessed via the jump bar, or via the right-click context menu, in the Lyrics submenu), allowing you to edit an individual lyric with the full power of Dorico’s rich text editor – so if you encounter extraordinary circumstances such as needing to underline particular letters in a syllable (for example, to show where the singers should put the stress in pointed psalmody) or even to change the font for a single letter (for a special effect, or to access an accented character or diacritic not found in your normal font), you now have new options.

And we’ve added a new Paragraph style property that allows you to override the paragraph style for one or more selected lyrics. You could use this, for example, to switch all the lyrics on a particular system to a duplicate of the main Lyrics paragraph style that is set to compress the font to, say, 96% of its normal width, producing a result that doesn’t look too peculiar to the performers but allowing you to fit that tricky extra-long syllable onto the system.

Finally, we have also added support for ignoring hanging punctuation when determining the optimal alignment for lyrics, via a new option Punctuation at the start or end of individual lyrics in the Spacing section of the Lyrics page of Engraving Options. The effect is subtle, but when set to Ignore when positioning, Dorico will discount the width of any punctuation at the start or end of the syllable when determining how it should be positioned relative to the note to which it belongs. Everything just looks a little neater and more balanced when leading or trailing punctuation – such as commas, full stops (periods), semicolons and quotation marks – hangs to the left or right of the optimal alignment. This option is set to Consider when positioning in existing projects to avoid affecting any existing adjustments you may have made, but it’s set to Ignore when positioning in new projects, and it looks great. It’s a subtle detail that elevates Dorico’s default output ever closer to the finest published music.

These improvements to lyrics don’t come at zero cost, however. Because the way text items that use paragraph styles is measured and drawn, you will experience some changes in the layout and spacing of existing projects last saved in Dorico 4.0.31 or earlier versions when you open them in Dorico 4.1. Lyrics drawn using paragraph styles occupy slightly more height (since they take into account the ascender and descender height specified in the font metrics), and slightly more width too (since they take into account the side bearings of the characters at the start and end of each lyric item). We aren’t attempting to account for these changes automatically, since it’s impossible to know exactly what adjustments to make, but you may want to review the settings in the Vertical Position and Spacing sections of the Lyrics page of Engraving Options, and also potentially the staff spacing options on the Vertical Spacing page of Layout Options.

For existing projects in which you’ve already done a lot of fine engraving work on lyrics, we recommend that you continue to work on those projects in Dorico 4.0.31, unless you want to re-do a lot of that work in Dorico 4.1. It’s easy to keep your existing Dorico 4.0.31 installation alongside the new Dorico 4.1 application if you want to. On macOS, simply rename your existing Dorico 4 application package (for example, to Dorico 4.0.31) before you download and run the Dorico 4.1 installer. On Windows, simply rename the Dorico4 folder in C:\Program Files\Steinberg to something else before you download and run the Dorico 4.1 installer.

We did of course consider retaining the ability to draw lyrics using font styles in Dorico 4.1, but we decided against it on the grounds that it would require us to continue supporting this deprecated way of working with lyrics indefinitely, adding a significant maintenance burden and potentially creating a new area for bugs to occur. We hope that the significant new capabilities introduced by this rework of lyrics will more than make up for any short-term inconvenience you experience as you transition your existing projects.

Finally, a note on backwards compatibility: Dorico does also try its best to ensure that the new lyrics paragraph styles are set up as closely as possible to the old lyrics font styles in existing projects when you open them for the first time in Dorico 4.1, and although it is not possible to specify all of the characteristics of a paragraph style in a font style, if you open a project last saved in Dorico 4.1 in Dorico 4.0.31 or earlier, you will find that the legacy font styles for lyrics have at least been set to the same font family, style and size (in score) as the paragraph styles, to maintain as much backwards compatibility as possible.

Custom colours

Although we are a long way from Dorico being fully accessible to users with visual impairment, we have taken a significant step forwards in Dorico 4.1 with the introduction of a dedicated new Colors page in Preferences. The existing options for setting the page colours for different layout types and the background colours or gradients for the different window modes have been moved from the View section of the General page to the new Colors page, and they are joined there by several new options.

Firstly, it is now possible to specify the colours that will be used for the first eight voices used on each instrument. The default colours have been improved, giving them better contrast both with each other and with other important default colours used by Dorico, such as the selection colour. However, if you have any kind of visual impairment, colour blindness or even a simple preference for which colours should be used for the voices on each instrument when View > Note and Rest Colors > Voice Colors is active, it’s now easy to adjust them.

Secondly, the colours used for important user interface elements and colours used to convey some important kinds of information can also now be customised. You can now change the colours used by the caret and the rhythmic grid, the shadow note, the playhead (both during playback and real-time recording), notes out of range, and notes on fretted instruments that Dorico cannot automatically assign to an appropriate string.

Finally, it is also now possible to invert the display of the music, so that rather than appearing as black on a white or light background, the music is instead drawn as white (actually a very light grey) on a black background, or another colour of your choosing if you prefer. Again, this can be helpful for people with certain kinds of visual impairment, and you might even find it helpful when working late or in a dimly-lit environment.

We hope that these accessibility improvements will be useful to many users, and we plan to introduce further affordances for users with accessibility needs in future versions.

Printing flows

The ability to have multiple pieces of music (movements, songs, scenes, etc.) in the same project is one of Dorico’s unique superpowers that other music notation and composition applications just can’t match. But one thing that we have heard from many users is that it should be easier to print or export graphics of a selection of flows within a particular layout – and Dorico 4.1 brings the solution.

In Print mode, the Job Type section in the right-hand options panel now contains a new option: in addition to printing all pages (All), or a specific page range (Pages), you can now click Flows to print specific flows. Click the Choose button that appears to choose which flows to print or export as graphics from a simple dialog.

This is really just a much more convenient way of specifying a range of pages to be printed: instead of needing to look up that (say) the fifth flow is on pages 36 to 41 and then specify that range of pages after clicking Pages, now you can click Flows, choose just the fifth flow in the Print Flows dialog, then click Print. Dorico will only print complete pages, so if you have your layouts set up to allow a new flow to start on the same page as an existing flow, when you specify that the new flow should be printed, the printed page will also include the final system or systems of the flow that ends on that page.

Dorico remembers the selection of flows you choose for each layout and it is saved in the project for easy recall next time you come to print.

Other improvements

Dorico 4.1 also brings a number of other useful improvements, including:

  • Two new high-quality effects plug-ins from Cubase Pro have been included with Dorico: the Frequency eight-band EQ, and the four-band Multiband Compressor.
  • When you’re editing a project saved in a cloud-enabled location like iCloud Drive or Dropbox, Dorico will warn you if the project has been changed on another device (e.g. another desktop computer, or on your iPad), allowing you to choose what to do – save the current version under a new name, load the updated version, and so on
  • The option for whether chord symbols should be drawn above the top staff or between the two staves of a grand staff instrument can now be set per-layout in Layout Options, rather than globally for the project in Engraving Options
  • A new option for whether articulations should appear only on noteheads belonging to the main stem or to all stems in altered unisons
  • A new option (and corresponding property) for whether horizontal lines should be included in or excluded from cues
  • A new Library > Export Library command has been added, allowing you to export library files from existing projects and import them via the Library Manager rather than using the project itself
  • A new preference to control how far Dorico should be allowed to jump when encountering passages of rests in Lock Duration, allowing you to tell Dorico to switch back to regular note input after repitching a passage instead of jumping many bars to the next existing note in that voice in the flow

And you can add to this more than 80 bug fixes, including some important ones, like greatly increasing the speed of Edit > Select All in large projects, fixing up voice properties in percussion kits, and some fixes to the way add-on switches in expression maps are handled in playback, among many others. As always, we recommend spending the time to read the detailed notes provided in the Dorico 4.1 Version History PDF.

Installing the update

Dorico 4.1 is a free update for existing Dorico Pro 4, Dorico Elements 4 and Dorico SE 4 users. If you are currently running Dorico Pro 3.5 or Dorico Elements 3.5 or earlier, you can buy an update to Dorico Pro 4 or Dorico Elements 4 from the Steinberg online shop.

Assuming you already have an earlier version of Dorico 4 installed, you can update to Dorico 4.1 free of charge. First, quit Dorico and any other Steinberg application that you are running on your computer. We recommend that you run Steinberg Download Assistant, which will automatically update Steinberg Activation Manager to the latest version, along with any other elements of the Steinberg run-time environment (including eLicenser Control Center and Steinberg Library Manager) that may be outdated on your computer.

Once Steinberg Download Manager has finished updating any required components, go to My product downloads in the left-hand list, where you will find Dorico Pro 4, Dorico Elements 4, or Dorico SE 4, depending on which product you have installed. Select this, and on the right-hand side you will see Dorico 4.1 Application Installer. Click the Install button immediately to the right. This will download and run the Dorico 4.1 installer.

(Unlike with previous versions of Dorico, there is no longer a separate updater installer: you can simply run the Dorico 4.0.30 installer to update your existing Dorico 4 installation, rather than using a separate installer.)

On Windows, pay close attention to whether it is recommended to restart your computer at the end of the installation process: if recommended, do restart your computer, as this should avoid font cache problems that you might otherwise encounter, which result in some icons in Dorico’s user interface and some music symbols in the score not appearing correctly until you restart your computer.

What’s next

We are already hard at work on the next Dorico 4 update, which will restore the last remaining editors to the Key Editor and Play mode – the percussion kit or drum editor, and the pitch bend editor – and will focus on ensuring a smooth, comfortable workflow with the Key Editor. Our goal is to really polish the Key Editor to ensure that it is an even more practical and enjoyable place to sculpt the performance of your music, and we are confident you will like what we have planned. We also have an exciting arranger-focused feature in progress that we expect to be included in the next update.

We are also working in collaboration with the Steinberg Licensing team to introduce multi-seat support for educational institutions, and although this will very likely come after the next Dorico 4 update, it is coming as soon as possible, since we know there are schools, colleges and universities that are patiently waiting for the opportunity to roll out the latest versions of Dorico and other Steinberg creative tools into their classrooms and onto faculty and student devices.

We are also planning some special offers for the summer, so if you are currently on the fence about updating or upgrading to Dorico 4, or are thinking about buying the new Lifetime Unlock in-app purchase in Dorico for iPad, you might want to hold off for a little while. Keep an eye on this blog and on the Learn page of the Hub window in Dorico on your desktop computer or on your iPad for more information as it becomes available.

In the meantime, thanks for reading this update, and thanks for being a part of the Dorico user community. We hope that you will derive a lot of utility and pleasure out of the new features and improvements in Dorico 4.1, and we are looking forward to sharing further developments with you soon.

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