QuicKeys and Finale

Tips, suggestions, and advice for increased productivity

Last edited by Ward Baxter, 1/17/2005

Below is a series of helpful hints about productivity in the music notation software Finale® (by MakeMusic) through the use of QuicKeys© (by CE Software.) This webpage is not endorsed or affiliated with either companies. Please visit their websites for product-specific information. I am not a tech rep for either software title. If you would like to contact me, please e-mail ward@wardbaxter.com. I am currently using QuicKeys for Windows v2.5 and Finale for Windows v2002b and v2005.

This page is not necessarily specifically for Finale users. I suppose that most of it applies to any program, but these are things that I've found greatly enhance the QuicKeys functionality within Finale, and therefore most of the examples reflect that. I personally believe that Finale can do anything regarding music notation. A lot of it requires third party workarounds or a lot of extra work, but it is all possible. QuicKeys can help take some of the work out of the repeated tasks when they do arise.

10 things that will help you get the best out of QuicKeys in Finale:

1.) Keyboard shortcuts

Use keyboard shortcuts for things that you can remember...sequences you perform so regularly that it becomes second nature. For less frequently used sequences, use toolbars. You can use any combination of CTRL, SHIFT, WIN, and ALT. Within Finale, stay away from CTRL on its own, as most built-in shortcuts use it. ALT can be useful, but bear in mind that it may restrict shortcut key access to some menus. I find that WIN+ALT combinations are very safe. For a list of restricted keyboard shortcuts within QuicKeys, follow this link.

2.) Use toolbars

Most people associate QuicKeys with keyboard shortcuts. It is one of the most powerful features in the program, but remembering keystrokes can be a hassle, especially if it is a sequence that you may use less frequently than others. Using multiple toolbars is a good way to keep organized and be able to remember where the sequence you want is. For example, create a "Text" toolbar that has all text related sequences in it, or a "Printers" toolbar that has sequences for formatting and adjusting printer options. Place similar items in a toolbar, and assign a keystroke to it. Any time you need one of those sequences, use your keystroke to bring up the toolbar.

TIP: Click n' Go toolbars

Of all of the toolbar choices, I find the "click 'n go" the best choice. Click on the icon, and the sequence runs AND the toolbar disappears. Pretty slick...

3.) Plan ahead

7 4 2
1 8 9
3 6 5
1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
Figure A Figure B

Toolbars have no capability for organization once buttons have been added. In other words, If you have the buttons as in figure A, you couldn't simply drag and drop or re-organize them to appear as in figure B. In order to create the toolbar in B, you would have to delete the buttons from A, and add the buttons in B. Plan your toolbars carefully, and just plan on having to redo them from time to time as you add sequences. Keeping things organized is very helpful in QuicKeys. Toolbars will retain the shape and layout you set for them each time they appear.

TIP: Re-organization

When it comes time to "move" the buttons around, first figure out how you'd like them laid out. Create each button in order to the existing toolbar, and once you've finished, delete the original buttons. I find it easier to add buttons manually than through the QuicKeys wizard for this reason.

4.) Icons

Looking at a series of the same default QuicKey icons makes for very difficult quick access. Spend some time and create some icons for your toolbars. You can use an icon editing program, like Microangelo or Iconcool Editor, or with more current versions of QuicKeys, you can use bitmaps for icons. They don't have to be pretty...just clean enough for you to figure out what they are at a quick glance. The primary difference between the two file types is that icons have set dimensions and bitmaps don't. Icons must be 16x16 or 32x32 pixels. If the dimensions of a graphic are different than one of those two settings, the graphic should be a bitmap file rather than an icon file. Icon files are easier for QuicKeys to work with because their set dimensions work well if you use the small or medium button view. However, bitmaps work just fine if you use the large button view.

5.) Naming your sequence

QuicKeys doesn't really have a system of organizing sequences. It will separate them by Action Scope, but that's about it. Especially when you have MANY sequences for one program, such as Finale, it gets difficult to get in and find the sequence you want for editing and such. Since you can't create folders for like sequences, create "false" categories by the first word(s) of the sequence name. For example: "Fonts: JazzCord to SwingCord" or "Text: Page Headers." Since QuicKeys displays the sequences in alphabetical order, the words "Fonts:" and "Text:" makes finding the right sequence fast easy, especially if you have many sequences for "Text" or "Fonts". Get in the habit of being concise and specific with your titles.

6.) Action Scope

ALWAYS use program-specific Action Scope when dealing with Finale. If you assigned an easy-to-remember keystroke to something in Finale, chances are that another program has that keystroke built in. Let's say you assigned CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-P to a page formatting sequence. Seems natural enough...Finale certainly isn't using that combination. However, next time you're in Photoshop, and you use the shortcut for "Save for Web..," aha...you're in trouble. The page formatting sequence runs AND "Save for Web..." runs. Results? Probably just an annoying error message, but sometimes...your sequence will make a mess. With the Action Scope set, there will be no conflict. The shortcut will ONLY work within Finale, and ONLY work when Finale is active. This also makes organizing the sequences easier.

TIP: Upgrades? Multiple versions?

Because QuicKeys needs to associate itself with a program file, sequences won't retain the Action Scope for all versions of Finale. If you are upgrading and not using the old version, edit the Action Scope on one of the sequences to the newer version of Finale. Now, in the QuicKeys editor, under the "My Actions" tab, you should have a tab for each version of Finale (ex. Finale 2000 and Finale 2003.) Select all of the sequences in the older version (shift-click or "select all" from menu) and drag them to the newer tab. Done and done. For multiple versions, copy them all first before dragging. It's a bit of a pain, but having two separate folders is very helpful, escpecially considering that some of your perfect QuicKeys in the older version may need some editing in the newer.

7.) Record and Edit

QuicKeys does a great job of recording, but it micro-analyses what you're doing. It records the action so that the sequence will be duplicated in the same situation. In other words, it doesn't take into account certain factors that may change, such as filename, action scope, window position, etc. Because of this, you must go in and edit almost every sequence. "Every sequence?!?" Yes, get used to it. Believe me, it will work a lot better in the long run. OK, the nitty gritty...what to edit:

TIP: Waiting and Pausing

Sequence hanging in a spot repeatedly? In general, QuicKeys moves as fast as it can. Sometimes, that's not such a good thing. Check to make sure that your sequence has enough wait time. Manually insert a short Pause command in the spot right before it hangs and see if that clears it up. If so, you will probably want to add a "Wait for Window" command (slightly more complicated to add), as it is more reliable than the Pause.

8.) Start small

If you have a sequence that has many operations within it, start by doing several small sequences. You can always bridge them together by copying and pasting and you may find that you need a portion of the larger sequence sometime. For example, let's say that you wanted to create a sequence to change the measure number default positions, display key signatures on all staves, and not abbreviate common time as 4/4. I would recommend creating 3 independent macros, and then bridging them together.

  1. change the measure number default positions
  2. toggle display key signatures on all staves
  3. toggle abbreviate common time as 4/4
  4. sequence with all of the above

That way, if you wanted to just toggle the key signature display, you could do so without running the entire long sequence.

TIP: To Toggle or not to Toggle

When dealing with checkboxes, it is important to figure out how you would like the button treated.

9.) The finishing touches

Certain things will make your sequences hum and make them work for you. Adding the finishing touches to macros makes them maintenance free. The following are suggestions that you might not think of, but help a lot...

TIP: Copy and Paste

For the best results, most sequences begin with the same three or four lines and end with the same three or four lines. Rather than trying to record them each time, just copy and paste them from one sequence to the next.

10.) Multiple selection methods

Certain steps are just quirky. Experiment with trying different ways to reach the result if you're having problems. For example, if you have a step in which the "Set Font..." button is supposed to be clicked, it could be done in any of the following ways: (purely example...these settings are not based on anything)

  1. Button Click [Set Font...] (set by name)
  2. Button Click [22] (set by ID)
  3. Button Click [48,179] (set by coordinates)
  4. Type Keystroke [Alt + F] (set by Finale shortcut key in that menu...look for underlined letter)
  5. Type Keystroke [TAB], Type Keystroke [TAB], Type Keystroke [TAB], Type Keystroke [TAB], Type Keystroke [SPACE] (the long way, but sometimes necessary..."tabbing" through until you reach the right button)

Just like Finale, there's usually a way to get QuicKeys to do what you want. It just takes a little time, experimentation, and patience.