I’d like to devote this post to a basic topic: 10 basic keyboard commands in Finale  that I find essential.  Whether it’s composing fast or making engraving your scores easier, these are some of the commands that are second nature to me because I constantly use most of them.  I’m a big advocate for keyboard shortcuts because they save time, energy, make complicated tasks simpler, and are versatile and ubiquitous.

These are for Mac, but their PC shortcuts are generally similar (eg. substitute Ctrl for Cmd).  These are in Finale 2010; they might differ slightly in different versions, but do look up their equivalent in your version through Finale’s Help menu, because I cannot stress enough how much time and effort I save with them.

*Please note that “Cmd” means the “Command” (or “Apple”) button.  “Opt” is the “Option” button (the Mac “Alt” button).

In no particular order:

  1. Cmd + U – This is essential if you ever have collisions or other formatting issues caused by changes and need to update your layout (eg. inserting 5 measures which results in spillover into the page margin).  It updates the layout and redraws the screen, giving your file a “refresh” button.  If you don’t want to update the layout but want a refreshed screen, press Cmd + D to only redraw the screen.
  2. Cmd + 4 (or 5) – If you want to respace notes (eg. after adding or subtracting beats or runs of notes) select the measure and hit either Cmd + 4 or Cmd + 5.  I prefer to use Cmd + 4 because I was taught under the Note Spacing style, so it looks more natural to me.  Beat spacing (Cmd + 5) should be okay, too, but go with whatever is clearest to the performer.
  3. Cmd + LCmd + Shift + L, and Cmd + Shift + U – The first of these locks  the selected system, preventing measures from spilling over to new systems (which can mess up your layout).  The second unlocks the particular system(s) that is/are selected, and the third unlocks all systems, no matter which one(s) is/are selected.  These are crucial shortcuts for creating and solidifying a layout of your systems post-composing, to give a professional look that doesn’t change each time you update content in the measures.
  4. Cmd + Opt + 1-4 – This shortcut allows you to switch layers (depending on the layer number you press, 1 through 4) quickly without moving your mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen.  It’s a huge help for placing articulations and entering notes.
  5. Tool selection + Shift + [button] –  This creates a metatool for the tool you select.  In simpler terms: the “button” you press becomes the new hotkey/keyboard shortcut for the tool you’re using.  (Eg. Expression Tool + Shift + B, and then selecting mf in the box that pops up redefines the mezzo-forte shortcut to B.)  This works with the Articulation, Expression, Tuplet, Time Signature, Clef, Chord, Selection, Key Signature, Smart Shape, Staff, and Repeat tools.
  6. Ctrl + Opt + (F, G, H, J, K, L, ; or ‘), Double Click – This programs the tool you double clicked to the letter or symbol (F, G, H, J, K, L, ;, or ‘) you typed.  This is useful because instead of clicking the tool in the Main Tool Palette, you can now hit Ctrl + (key you assigned) and the you will switch to the tool. Example:  You hit Ctrl + Opt + J and double click on the Expression Tool.  You hit escape twice to switch to the Selection Tool and do a task with that.  But, when you next need to put in an expression, you hit Ctrl + J and it switches to the Expression Tool (and you’re instantly ready to put in that expression you want).  It removes many time-consuming clicks if done right.
  7. Expression Tool + (choose 1, 2, 3, etc. through 0) + Click – Assigns a dynamic marking to the note (eg. 3 + click assigns a ff to a note).
  8. Smart Shape Tool + (< or >)+ Double Click + Drag – Creates a hairpin (< or > in the direction you drag for crescendo or diminuendo).
  9. Escape – The ultimate “cancel” button for dialog boxes, and if you hit it twice when not in a dialog box, it switches the tool to the Selection Tool.
  10. Space – A no brainer–the ultimate playback button works in Finale too.  Hit Space once to start playback, and once to stop.  Simple!

There are of course many other helpful shortcuts, but I figured I’d limit this list to make things simpler.  I might come out with a another list if I find others that really help, but I thought I’d give this post an easy-to-swallow size.

Thanks for reading!

Dan