In 1999, Coda Music Technology Inc. set the stage for a new era of music notation software by releasing their plug-in developer’s kit (PDK). Today, Finale is still the only notation software that can serve as a platform for powerful third-party extensions with full access to its notation data, and it is therefore the only program that is being perfected by many programmers wordwide.
I started developing TGTools in May 1999, and it has become the most comprehensive set of plug-ins available. It adds a new, hierarchical menu with over sixty commands including many big time-savers as well as things you wouldn’t have thought possible. I have attempted to provide solutions for many engraving tasks that are difficult to accomplish with Finale alone. Quite a few of these features are unique and neither exist in any other notational software, nor could they be added to competing products - because those lack a suitable plug-in developer’s kit.
TGTools have been a success right from the beginning – they are now the #1 recommendation made by experienced Finale users and professional engravers. They are equally useful to the beginner because they fill in some gaps that Coda has left in the main software.
Here’s an example of a frequently needed tool: the Tremolo plug-in. Finale itself cannot easily notate piano tremolos (tremolos between two notes or chords). This notation requires that both notes or chords be shown with the full duration of the tremolo, and tremolo beams in between. Using TGTools, you simply enter the two parts of the tremolo with half the duration so that all the notes still fit in the measure. Next, you select TGTools > Tremolos from the menu, click Ok, and the tremolo is automatically set up for you, with doubled note values.
Another useful plug-in is the Beam Breaker. It is mostly used for breaking secondary beams – such as to visually divide a sixteenth note sixtuplet into two or three parts. Beam Breaker does this automatically for you, intelligently analyzing the underlying rhythms and breaking the correct beams. Rather than doing each measure manually, you can have Beam Breaker process the whole score at once.
There are more commands in TGTools that relate to visual musical elements; they are all in the Music menu. For example, easily notate artificial string harmonics with correct playback using the Harmonics tool. Or, you can now mass-create slurs: if you want slurs put over a specific number of notes per slur, then TGTools can create them for you. That’s a lot more convenient than drawing each slur individually using the mouse. Just select some measures, choose Music > Create Slurs, specifying how many notes go under each slur.
Another related command is Mass-Create Hairpins. These are placed between dynamic markings, which you need to put in first (using Finale’s Expression Tool). Create Hairpins will put hairpins between all - or specific - dynamic markings in the selected measure range, automatically recognizing crescendos and decrescendos. In big scores, this can save you hundreds of tedious mouse-clicks and drags.
Speaking of dynamics, with TGTools it is now finally possible to align dynamics: both hairpins and dynamic markings are aligned vertically, and you can also move them up or down. Align/Move Dynamics knows which of your text expressions are dynamics and will operate only on those markings. This is a major revolution: you don’t need to pay much attention to positioning dynamic markings and hairpins manually any more since TGTools will align them for you, and also straighten the hairpins.
There’s more … the Layout Utilities, for example: Staff List Manager enables you to specify which instruments should appear on which pages or staff systems simply by placing a checkmark next to them, and it also displays the vertical distances. These can be scaled in order to make systems with different instruments have a uniform height on all pages.
The Lyrics Utilities solve some common spacing problems with lyrics. New Spacing, for example, improves Finale’s spacing of melisma syllables, and the revamped Word Extensions plug-in adds a few options and calculates the required length more precisely than Coda’s original – a must for anyone using word extensions.
If you work with scores where two or more instruments share the same staff, TGTools’ Smart Explosion will help you create the parts. It intelligently recognizes keywords such as 1., 2., a 2, solo etc. and does a completely automatic explosion, correctly distributing smart shapes and nicely positioning expressions.
This article coveres TGTools only in part, but I suppose you get the idea – third party programmers can provide some advanced features that Coda doesn’t have the time to make. A fairly complete plug-in directory can be found on http://www.finaletips.nu.