Ux is backwards for tablature editing

• Jun 4, 2020 - 14:17

Regarding the up and down arrows changing pitches and the ctrl modifier being necessary to change strings:

The Ux should be defined in such a way that the default behavior without using a modifier is non-destructive to the note's value. It's all too easy with musescore to accidentally change the note value. It's a backwards Ux. Hitting the up and down arrow's default action should be to keep the note value and change the string. The modifier key should be required only when changing the pitch. That's pretty common-sense Ux.

This is what makes finale easier to edit tab than musescore. With finale I can quickly navigate through the tablature part of the document with one hand, changing strings assigned to tablature. With musescore, I have to keep my left hand poised on the control key the whole time.


But if like me you use Musescore both for tablature and for normal staff notation, it would be confusing. When writing staff changing pitch with the arrow keys is normal behaviour. Not having used Finale this seems entirely logical. In any case it's only necessary for correcting mistakes. In note entry mode the up/down arrows do change the string. Personally I'd prefer your requested default (if I understand it correctly) to be an option rather than a hard change.

In reply to by Brer Fox

that doesn't take into account the fact that if you have standard notation you are always generating the tab from the notation. So most of the time you will not be inputting accidentals into the tablature, you will simply be recalibrating the correct frets since the algorithm for generating the fret numbers if fixed with no fret range flexibility unlike sibelius/finale.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

In my case I am making editions and arrangements of lute and early guitar pieces, sometimes from original sources which use French or Italian tab. I always start by inputting the tab, which generates the standard notation, kept only as a guide. Mostly I am making straightforward transcriptions, but am sometimes arranging 6/7-course lute music for 4-course renaissance guitar.

I can proof my transcription easily without having to go into note input mode: pitch errors (typos) in the tab are corrected with the up / down arrows, and in the lute-to-R.guitar arrangements I use CTRL+arrrow to change string to avoid a difficult stretch. Since I am not in note input mode there is no risk of changing the note value by mistake.

I can understand that you are used to the Finale way, but spare a thought for those of us who are used to the Musescore way! I am only asking that your feature request should be an option to be set in Preferences rather than a hard change.

In reply to by Brer Fox

Clarification? I'm just wondering if there is a misunderstanding here, probably just on my part.

I thought that the OP meant that the up/down arrows should move the cursor up or down a string, leaving the note completely untouched. Brer Fox seems to be responding as though the OP meant that the up/down arrows should MOVE the note to the string indicated, (e.g. to reduce stretch.)

@Jack A. Zucker, could you please clarify?

In reply to by yonah_ag

Indeed, Jack is suggestion up/down shoud move a note from one string to another. I'm not so fond of that idea myself, since up/down has such a well-known function on standard staves. But, we've made the conscious choice to do things inconsistently in other places, so if the majority of tab users wanted that inconsistency here, I think it should be considered.

It's worth putting it out there that we could also consider changing up/down behavior for standard staves. Somehow it seems wrong that left/right don't change anything but up/down do. If we were starting over, I might suggest none of these should change anything, and you should need Alt+up/down (which currently does the navigation) to change pitch instead. But at this point I'm not sure such a change would make sense.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

Yes, arrow keys should be for my navigation but your example describes arrow keys moving a note between strings. This is not navigation but is score editing. My preferred option for arrows without a control key would be that they do navigation ONLY.

I have no experience of Sibelius or Finale, only of MS, Guitar Pro and TablEdit.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

what does navigate with up / arrow mean in a tablature staff? I think we're getting confused over semantics here. The point is usability. We should be striving not for keeping things the same if "the same" means more work. With finale you can zip through the whole tablature score with one hand and not have to worry about coordinating ctrl-clicks when changing the tablature string choice. And this is exacerbated by the fact that the handling of tablature and string choice is particularly poor in musescore. Much worse than finale, sibelius or notion because there is no provision for selecting the fret range when pasting to the tablature or when importing a file and also because changing the notation in a dual staff (notation/tablature) system automatically recalculates the tablature back to the problematic defaults.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

Well, up/down navigation would normally mean, from staff to staff. While in note input mode, on a tab staff, it would mean string to string).

And this to me is about usability. I think a large number of new users would probably expect up/down to literally just be navigation, like left/right are. It's definitely a point for blind users, who do a ton of navigation by keyboard are usually confused at first that up/down changes pitch on standard staves. So it is worth considering whether that should change. But, it isn't a change that should be considered lightly, because at this point there are literally tens of millions of users accustomed to and relying on the current behavior.

Anyhow, as I have acknowledged, there is room for improvement in the how default string assignments are made. I still think a plugin could probably solve this pretty well.

Anyhow, if navigating by keyboard and changing string assignment is something you personally do in your own workflow a lot - remember, different people have different workflows, many of us essentially never do that - then I do recommend you customize the shortcuts as I suggested earlier so that this workflow is more optimized for you. That's one of the great things about MuseScore - the ease with which things like this can be customized to suit one's own unique workflows.

I would say that while someday I could see up/down being changed to be pure navigation by default, I would be more surprised to see them change to something that is both destructive (string assignment change) and inconsistent with standard notation. Not saying it could never happen, but to me it doesn't feel right. If enough people end up agreeing with you, though - to the point where it starts to feel like a majority of users - then sure, maybe it will eventually happen.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

"if the up arrow is changed to navigate from tab to notation staff, that's almost worse!"

I only use tab so I hadn't thought of that but I can see that it would be annoying if it jumped from tab to standard notation and vice versa. I would've thought that when both TAB and standard are displayed that users would predominantly work in one or the other.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

Navigate up/down means move the cursor position up or down a string. This would be my preferred option and would seem most intuitive. I still fall foul of this and end up accidentally changing fret numbers.

Up/down with control keys could take care of increasing/decreasing fret number, and moving a note to the same pitch on an adjacent string.

An option in preferences would be nice so that users who have no interest in this would not be affected.

In reply to by yonah_ag

@Marc yes please we must change the current up/down behaviour.
It is completely erroneous design that raw navigation keys modifies the document.
And if the shortcut system is well designed and all actions can be reconfigured (as it should be) users keen to keep the current behaviour could do so.
Possibly even with a global option in the shortcut preferences loading all v3 behaviours (as I imagine that such a change would be for V4 only)

In reply to by frfancha

But Musescore isn't a Word document. The up/down keys are useful in various ways, e.g. moving stave text, bar numbers, frames by small amounts.... A plain 'Up' moves the object up by 0.10 spaces; CTR+Up moves it by a whole space. In my experience of admittedly non-professional graphics, DTP and photo-editing programs these keys work in a similar way. I'm sorry if it offends the purists that I see these keys as more than just navigation aids, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.

In reply to by yonah_ag

When writing tab most of what you ask is already the case IF you are in note entry mode - up/down moves the cursor to the next string, and with the control key moves a note to the same pitch on another string. To increase/decrease fret number just retype the number.

If you are NOT in note entry mode and highlight a note, up/down changes the pitch/fret. CTRL+Up/Down works the same as before, i.e. moves the note to the same pitch on another string.

The trick is to remember which mode you are in. Until Marc and the team adopt your wishes - and it would take some time to implement - you could try using Edit/preferences/shortcuts and modify it, though possibly there might be knock-on effects elsewhere.

In reply to by Brer Fox

Thanks, this helps. I prep my scores in guitar pro, (as I find it easier), then hand them to MS for formatting. Because of this workflow I haven't been using note input mode.

I use up/down arrows already for moving things like text up or down and do agree that this is very useful - and intuitive. However, using up/down on tab numbers changes the pitch rather than moving the number up or down the page. This is inconsistent.

In reply to by cadiz1

OK, but it is still unintuitive that notes can be edited in non-note input mode. Presumably non-note input mode is formatting mode but changing pitch is not a formatting function.

I'll create my next score wholly within MS and then maybe I will appreciate why things are the way they are. So, until then I will not comment further on this thread as I feel that I am not qualified.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Think of note input as being what the note suggests - the mode for inputting new notes. But indeed, most editing is done in normal mode. That includes pitch change, string change, duration change, voice change, transposition, copy/paste - really, just about everything you might want to do other than correct a quick mistake on the note you just entered, is done from normal mode.

Interesting discussion! :-) I think everyone has perfectly good points - depending on one's personal workflow and expectations, any of the suggestions made here could seem good. So to me, the answer is to make sure we can support them all - I mean that seriously.

Personally, the consistency-with-standard-staff and existing-user-base arguments, combined with the obvious lack of consensus about what change would make the most sense if anything is to change, still has me leaning towards the status quo. But I do think it should be easier to set up sets of shortcuts that are optimized to one's personal preferences. That is, perhaps there should be some predefined shortcut sets one can load. This idea has come up before, maybe this will be one of the deciding factors. But also, we'd need to find a way to decoupling the change pitch commands from the move text or articulation commands - unfortunately right now they are tied together due to the way they are implemented.

One thing I wonder, Jack - you mention using left/right to move from note to note, then want an easier shortcut (which you are assuming should be up/down, but to me would be better suited as [ and ]) to move a note to another string. But - what about chords? What about multiple voices? Or are your scores always completely linear, so you literally never need to navigate through the notes of a single chord or between multiple voices on a single beat? Or are you expecting left/right would do that?

I will again say if I were designing this from scratch, I'd probably push for the idea of up/down being pure navigation, probably staying within a single staff but moving through the notes of a chord or between voices, and propose a different key. But, I would also say, it's not so crazy that we treat vertical navigation differently from horizontal. After all, this isn't a graphics editor - musical symbols have meaning, and in a very real sense, navigating horizontally is something completely different from moving vertically. So somehow it doesn't bother me that much the way things are.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

IMO, Either make all the characters to navigate part of the normal qwerty keyboard or all arrow keys. General Ux is to avoid having to shift from keypad or arrow keys to qwerty during normal edit and navigation sequences and also to avoid modifier keys like shift/control/alt, etc. Going back and forth from arrow keys to a bracket is a very awkward move.

in my case, 99% of my work is single line stuff so my use cases for chords will not be particularly useful i think. One thing that might help would be a selection mechanism that allows you to quickly select the entire chord so you can move it into a new fret position in the tab staff easily (maybe this already exists?)

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

I prefer navigation be all cursor plus usual other navigation keys like Home/End/PgUp/PdDn, since that is most intuitive to most users and of course the whole reason for having navigation keys. As for avoiding modifiers, not sure what you mean here, Ctrl+Left/Right is practically universal to move a word (measure, in MuseScore), as is Shift+anything to select while moving, etc. But unfortunately, music is unique in the many dimensions it offers, I don't see a way to provide all possible navigation commands using only cursor keys without use of modifiers. Next element vs next note vs next measure, up within chord vs up between voices vs up staff, etc.

That's why to me having the customization we have is a great thing, it allows you to customize the shortcuts to suit your particular needs. After all, everyone has a different notion of what constitutes a "normal edit and navigation sequence", everyone differs in their willingness to memorize QWERTY shortcuts or in their reluctance to use modifiers or to use two hands, everyone's keyboard differs in terms of how far the brackets are from the cursors, etc.

It would be interesting to collect data on what constitutes a normal edit & navigation sequence, though. You mention you do a lot of moving note by note and changing string position, and I guess that's unique to tablature users, and furthermore unique to those who enter their notation onto standard staff first rather than entering onto the tablature staff directly. No doubt there is a sizable minority of other users with similar needs, but also no doubt there are many other users with other workflows to consider.

This is the kind of stuff that so far has developed organically over the years. Something is implemented, we get feedback on how well it works, it gets tweaked to work differently, complaints arise from those who preferred the original way, we look for compromises or ways of supporting both workflows, etc. For MuseScore 4 there will be a different approach as I have mentioned, a bit more of a top-down process involving usability studies, telemetry data, formal proposals from a full-time professional designer, etc.

In reply to by Jack A. Zucker

Oh, as for selecting a whole chord - I assume you mean with the keyboard, once you have selected a single note already by navigating with left/right? Then yes, Shift+down selects the chord, and then Ctrl+Down moves the whole chord down to the next strings, etc. However, the algorithm for figuring out how to redistribute notes to strings with multiple notes selected can sometimes produce surprising results, depending on which direction you are going, because the notes are processed one at a time.

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