Finale 2005 Review

Finale 2005 by makemusic! is an awesome piece of notation software that does a lot more than help you do music notation. It has a lot of features without a lot of complexity and is good for both the beginner and experienced person interested in making music digitally as well as the music teacher and student. Below are two thumbnail images of the user interface; one is the default interface and the other is with a lot more of the toolbars open (not nearly all of them though) so you can see them. You’ll need to click on each image to see a larger more clear view of each which will open in a new window. Because there is so much to cover I’ll break it down into menu sections and try to cover all the outstanding features of Finale 2005.

Click on image to open larger view in a new window


Click on image to open larger view in a new windowinterface2-small

Click on image to open larger view in a new windowinterface2-small

Click on image to open larger view in a new window

You can choose to have the Launch Window open when you start Finale 2005 or you can turn it off. If you turn it off you can access it from the File menu. The Launch Window gives you instant access to several different areas of the Finale 2005 program making work flow a lot smoother.


We’ll start at the File menu that has a lot of cool options that make it easier for you to create music.


The New menu option gives you several different choices of how you want to start a new document and what type of document you want to start.


Below are screenshots of the process using the Document With Setup Wizard.






With just a few screens you can quickly and easily get your document setup and ready to take notation.

The Exercise Wizard lets you set up exercises so that you can create custom lessons. It is a four step process just as the Document Setup Wizard is.

You name the lesson, what exercises should be included in the lesson, the concert key for each exercise, the articulation pattern and the group of instruments to be used. You can choose from a lot of different types of exercises which allows you to create robust lessons. These lessons can then be printed and distributed to students making that work flow wiz right along.





The Performance Assessment Wizard is another really cool tool. You can create a score, open an existing score or choose exercises included in Finale 2005 and then use that file to practice. You can’t do it all in the main interface. You need to create a .PFA, Performance Assessment file in Finale 2005 or a .SMP file for SmartMusic, save it and then open it with Finale Performance Assessment. Teachers and students alike can use this tool to their advantage. It is a time saving and learning tool that is very valuable.


The Assessment setup wizard starts when Finale Performance Assessment starts. You may need to change a couple of settings and then test it to be sure that you equipment is connected and working properly. This takes just a second to do if all goes well and it went well for me.


The file you created in Finale 2005 opens and when you hit the play button you play your instrument. There is a metronome sounding so you can keep time. If you do not keep time, as shown below, you will see red notes where you hit the notes and the black notes for where they should have been hit. You can then click on the Assessment button and it will tell you how well you did.


For beginners just learning to read music there is a handy little tool that allows you to click on a note and a little window pops up and shows you where on the keyboard that note is and what that note is. Pretty slick I think.


Along with saving files in the Finale default format, .MUS you can also create midi, wav and mp3 files with Finale 2005.

You can import Encore, Midiscan, Rhapsody, SCORE and SmartScore files.

You can scan music in and you can import .tiff files from the File>Scanning:SmartScore Lite menu option.

Finale 2005 comes loaded with libraries that you can use to customize your music.


You can also save libraries with the File>Save Library menu option.


There are several file formats that your Finale files can be saved to.


You can open .MUS (Finale Notation Files), .ETF (Enigma Transportable Files), .MID (Midi files), .FTM (Finale Template files), .LSN (Lesson files) and .FPA (Finale Performance Assessment files).


So far we’ve only covered the File menu and there is lots more to cover. Finale 2005 is truly an amazing piece of software in the power it gives you over every aspect of what you need to do with music.

From the Edit menu you can do a lot of things. Some of them are familiar such as Cut, Copy, Paste and others but there are more. You can Export and Import MIDI from the clipboard. This comes in handy if you are using other software that supports getting MIDI information from the clipboard. You can add SmartMusic markers to accompaniment files. SmartMusic markers tell SmartMusic how to handle different types of performance characteristics during playback.


The View menu is fairly self explanatory so we’ll just look at the screenshot and move on.


The Options menu has some interesting options.

You have different choices for measurement units which include EVPUs, Inches, Centimeters, Points, Picas and Spaces.

Enharmonic Spelling allows you to set a global option for how you want your music notated. The example in the manual explains it as; if you were creating music in the key of G major and you enter an F sharp it will be notated as such unless you alter that in the Enharmonic Spelling options. With this option it could be changed to notate as G flat. And, this does not work with Simple Entry or Speedy Entry without MIDI. Since this option is global, it will affect all files you work on until you change it manually. You’ll also set all your program options from this menu and there are a lot of options to allow for greater control over how the program looks and works for you.


The Document Options option is a very powerful tool that allows you to set just about anything you can think of to get your document to look like you want it to.

Click on image to view larger version in a new window

The MIDI menu is pretty self explanatory.


There are a lot of plug-ins that extend the capabilities of Finale 2005 and give it a modular behavior. Being modular makes Finale 2005 even more powerful and as you can see from the screenshot below there are a lot of plug-ins included.


The Tool Menu is straight forward and as you can see from the screenshot below there are a lot of tools available.


I thought the Advanced Tools option looked like it needed special mention and you can see all of it’s options below.


The Simple menu deals with simple entry and is straight forward.


The Window menu is where you’ll find all the palette options. You can turn them on and off and you were able to see that in one of the first screenshots of the interface above. The Instrument List option opens a dialog to show the instruments that are in the score you are working on.


The Help menu is standard. The help you get from this menu is way above standard!


There are 6 ways to enter notation into a score. One is to use a midi keyboard, one is to use your mouse, another is to use your computer keyboard, scan the music in, import a midi file and play a solo instrument. You can click your mouse where you want notes to be placed, you can use the letters a-g on your computer keyboard (Simple Entry/Speedy Entry) or you can use a midi device such as a midi keyboard or a microphone to record your live performance (Hyperscribe). In recreating the An Alexis score I used all but a microphone (which I don’t have) to enter notation into the score. Everything went very smoothly and was fairly quick.


analexisUse the link below to hear the full piano score in midi format.

An Alexis.MID

You can download the  .PDF file from here.

New Features for Finale 2005

  • Finale Performance Assessment™
  • Launch Window
  • Expanded Setup Wizard
  • SmartMusic® Wizard and More
  • Engraver Tuplets & Spacing Controls
  • Intelligent Repeats
  • Row-Loff® Marching Percussion Sounds
  • Third-Party Sound Font Support
  • More Human Playback
  • Grace Note Spacing Improvements
  • Transportable Staff Lists
  • Advanced Hyperscribe™
  • New TG Tools Plug-ins
  • FinaleScript version 1.5
  • Mac/Win Hybrid CD
  • Upgraded Simple Note Entry
  • Better View and Navigation Controls

For a more robust look at the Features of Finale 2005 have a look at this web page.


Finale 2005 comes with an installation and awesome tutorial manual that will get you started quickly as well as .

Support Forum

Web Site


To sum everything up, Finale 2005 can do just about anything you can think of. I only say just about because maybe you can think up something I can’t. Finale 2005 was easy to install and very easy to move around in. Learning the interface was a non issue as it is a very well designed and intuitive user interface.

If you are a beginner or student you’ll find that there is a real value here. Nothing can take the place of a real live teacher but, Finale 2005 comes really close. There are pre-designed exercises included and a facility to create your own tutorials. There is an assessment tool that will show you where you need to improve and where you are doing great. Teachers can use Finale 2005 to create custom lessons using the built in exercises, create their own from scratch or use a piece of music then print them out and distribute them to students.

Creating scores and lessons from scratch is super simple with the wizards that are included in Finale 2005.

If you are experienced, Finale 2005 has all the tools you’ll need to compose very simple to very complex scores and everything in between.

Unmentioned in the review above is FinaleScript. This scripting ability is similar to what you see in some higher end graphic applications. It allows you to automate tasks through a document or documents greatly increases productivity. This is a very valuable tool.

Twain Scanning support in Finale 2005 has improved so that Finale 2005 will automatically set the correct dpi and color depth taking out the guess work.

There have been a lot of enhancements from the 2004 to the 2005 version that make working with things like tuplets, grace notes, spacing and more much easier and more precise.

I am really impressed with the ability to save to audio as well as midi files. Normally, with other software, if you wanted to save as audio you’d have to create a midi file and then buy software to convert that midi to audio. Finale 2005 allows you to save to .MID, .WAV and .MP3.

There are a few cool things you can do if you want to share your Finale 2005 documents and all of them are cool. You can create a PDF file if you have Adobe Acrobat (writer). You can publish your files to Finale Showcase for free to share with others. You can also have your friends download Finale Notepad so you can share your files with them. This would be a great tool for teachers too. Users of Finale Notepad can play, print and edit files you send to them. We have a separate review for Finale NotePad 2005 that you can read to find out more about it.

You can import and export graphic files for use in Finale 2005. For Windows, Finale 2005 exports .TIFF files and imports .TIFF and .EPS. For Mac, Finale 2005 imports and exports .TIFF, .PICT and .EPS.

There is so much that Finale 2005 can do that I don’t think I do it justice in this review. The best way to find out if Finale 2005 is for you is to download the demo and try it out for yourself. Take the time to go all through the interface and all its options. There are many, many things included in Finale 2005 and the click of one option in some instances opens lots of others! It’s like Christmas learning this software. All kinds of goodies are included.

Just to recap, Finale 2005 is for beginners, students, teachers, hobbyists, musicians, composers and anyone who wants to create music. The developers of Finale 2005 have it all covered so that any level of user can get started quickly and easily creating their own music or learning music. With Finale 2005 you get all the tools you need in one package. But don’t take my word for it. Download the demo today and try it out for yourself.

Finale 2005 is available in several languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese as well as English.


$600.00 (US)
There are many other options so you might check out their pricing page to see if you qualify for upgrades from an older version of Finale, other Finale products or a competitor upgrade.

System Requirements

Finale 2005 for Windows

  • Windows 98/2000/ME/XP. Import and export of EPS files supported under Windows 98, and ME only.
  • CD-ROM drive.
  • 800×600 minimum monitor resolution.
  • 256MB RAM recommended (128 MB may be sufficient in older operating systems).
  • 200MB hard drive space required for software
    and user manual.

Finale 2005 for Macintosh

  • G4 or higher recommended. OS 10.2 and higher.
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 800×600 minimum monitor resolution
  • 256MB RAM recommended.
  • 200MB hard drive space required for software
    and user manual


  • MIDI interface
  • MIDI input and/or playback device
  • Printer
  • Scanner
  • Microphone required for use of Finale Performance Assessment (except when using MIDI keyboard) and MicNotator.