EOL 5: Finale 98 review (Signell)
Powerful and complex word processors such as WordPerfect or Microsoft Word take a long time to learn. Finale 98 is likewise a powerful and complex program that can handle many tasks in a wide variety of styles. It can be frustrating to learn, so almost everyone needs help.
Fortunately, Coda supplies a printed manual (for an extra charge) that runs to forty-five chapters and measures an inch-and-a-quarter (35 cm) thick in an 8.5x11-inch (about 22x28 cm) format. A composer friend of mine prefers this printed manual, but it's an anachronism in recent software packages. It's bulky, expensive to print and send, and cannot be easily updated. Nor can the user easily jump from one topic to another.
I prefer the free manual in Adobe Acrobat PDF format that comes with Finale. While using Finale, when you have a problem or a task you don't know how to do, you just click on "online documentation" under Finale's Help menu to call up the manual from your hard disk. Hot links in the PDF manual are a godsend for jumping immediately from the index or table of contents to the exact reference. No thumbing through pages or keeping your finger in the other page. You can jump to a cross-reference from one paragraph to another, no matter in what chapter. Or you can search the whole manual for a keyword. This is an intelligent and considerate use of technology. I haven't yet found the other Help options, "Contents" or "Search for Help On," much help; I almost always go directly to the index in the "online documentation" PDF manual (Sample page).
But if you don't know the Finale term for a task you want to do, you'll have to do some creative searching. It's like looking up a word in a dictionary when you don't know how to spell it. Suggestion to Coda documentation team: include plain English words and cross-reference them to Finale terms. For example, if I want to create a custom symbol, I should be able to find a cross-reference from "custom" or "symbol, custom" to the Shape Designer tool which would otherwise take me a long time to stumble onto.
Different users learn best in different modes: