QuickScore Elite Level II v8.0 and Copyist v5.0

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send
Published by: Sion Software Ltd., go to the web site
Requires: 386 33MHz or higher PC running Windows 3.1 or later with minimum 4MB RAM, MIDI keyboard optional
MSRP: US$179.95 for QuickScore Elite Level II v8.0, and US$69.95 for Copyist v5.0; bundled price is US$219.95

(Ed. Note: reviewed in 1999)

Music notation and sequencing software have been rare and high-priced, probably because of the tremendous amount of effort that are needed for a special type of software like this. Another complication is that current computer capabilities present a difficulty between users and the music software developers. A special convention needs to be established in order to facilitate the translation of music on the screen, in print, and in the real world. The logic developed by programmers may not be obvious to software users--even for those who are considered experts in Music. Thus a steep learning curve has to be mastered before the software can be productively used. Earlier versions of QuickScore have won Editor's Choice for Notation Software from Electronic Musician in 1995 and 1998. Thus, it should represent an advanced product in this category. The new version has several enhancements over the previous version. In this review, I'll try to focus on the discussion of the two products (QuickScore and Copyist) in their current forms.

Both QuickScore and Copyist share the same installation process: They ask if you want to install to the hard drive or to a floppy disk. Then they ask if you want to install the Mozart font to the system. The whole process takes less than one minute, and then the installation program suggests that you restart Windows. I did not encounter any difficulty during installation of either product at all.

Getting started with either product, however, requires some reading of the manuals that come with the software. When you start the QuickScore, several default windows are opened, including score editor, piano roll editor, and controller editor. Five other windows are minimized at the bottom of the MDI frame window. Since it has been the Editor's Choice for notation software, I test its flexibility in allowing me to enter notes with my mouse. The interface is pretty intuitive. You select the type of note from the menu, set the position of the note with the left or right mouse button (depending on the tool you are using--pointer tool use left mouse button, whereas pencil tool uses right mouse button), and place the note by clicking the left or right button (again, depending on the tool--pointer tool uses right mouse button, whereas pencil tool uses left mouse button) on the position. The difficulty lies in the entry of notes with dot notation. The menu does not offer an obvious choice for that. After a sound overnight sleep, I picked up the manual and read it. A line reads, "The duration value is chosen from the duration palette at the right-hand side in the main control area." After a short period of exploration, I found the button that initially displays a duple. Clicking on it changes it to triple, and another click changes it to dotted note. Its location is actually the eighth button from the left of the top menu bar. After this is discovered, entering a note becomes an enjoyable process in QuickScore.

The Copyist is even harder to get started. An empty window is presented to you when you choose File/New. There is no staff line for you to enter notes. It took me a while to read the manual before I could select the staff line option and draw the lines on the screen. That's because the staff option is hidden behind a menu button and there is a menu button that works as a Select tool but looks like the Line tool. Without reading the manual, you tend to try the Select tool and only find nothing happen on the screen. I think the reason it is designed this way is that Copyist is meant for touching up the score you generated from other program such as QuickScore. You can easily add text or symbol to the music without worrying about the music rules. And that's all about the functionality of Copyist.

Changing the notes you have already entered in QuickScore also requires you to go though the tutorial section in the manual. The icons with arrows are actually the dragging tools for changing the notes. Once you have gone through the tutorial sections, you gain a tremendous amount of flexibility in entering and modifying notes in the score editor. This is a case where reading the tutorials in the manual really help you master the software. Although I don't have a MIDI keyboard to do the step entry, I am able to mimic the process using the mouse. This software is extremely powerful if you want to compose music.

One needs to take note for the QuickScore: When you move in position, the display may not show what you have for the particular bar. For example, notes from one bar linked to the next one will show a rest if the display is only for the second bar. If you think you have forgotten to enter a note for that bar and try to enter one, you will end up with two notes instead of one.

Other than the learning curve that could have been shorter, both products perform what they are supposed to do: QuickScore is a professional package for composing music while the Copyist is a graphical tool to modify or enter music without being bound by the music rule. I am particular impressed by the smallness in size of both products. Unlike other bloatware, Copyist comes in one floppy disk and QuickScore comes in two floppy disks. That's a good example of careful programming efforts to put a lot of functionality into small programs. If you are serious about composing music, QuickScore is the best package that I have ever seen.

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