What does stacking order do?

• Mar 23, 2019 - 18:27

From the Handbook:

"Stacking order
To change the value for Stacking order:

Select the element and change the "Stacking order" value in the Inspector.
In cases where elements are allowed to overlap, Stacking order controls the order in which they are placed on top of each other. The element with the lower value will be placed behind."

Based on this, what I expected is that if there are two items attached to a note (or perhaps just potentially colliding), changing the stacking order in the Inspector will control which one appears higher (i.e. nearer the top of the page) than the other. However, this does not seem to work.

For example: attach a tempo text to a note (tempo text stacking order = 4000). Then attach stave text to the same note (stave text stacking order = 4100). Result, tempo text is shifted up and stave text is inserted below it. If I change the stacking order of the tempo text to 4200 in the Inspector so that it is now greater than that for the stave text, my expectation is that the tempo and stave text would switch positions. But they don't.

Perhaps this only works for inititial placements I thought and so I tried changing the tempo text stacking order in the Inspector before adding the stave text. However, the stave text again was inserted below the tempo text.

I tried the experiment with two stave text elements (lest call them TEXT1 added first and TEXT2 added second). Now, the stacking orders shown in the Inspector are the same, but with auto placement enabled, it is impossible to change which of the elements is on top; it is TEXT2. Changing the stacking order in the Inspector has no effect and if I try to drag TEXT1 to a position above TEXT2, TEXT2 moves up to remain on top of TEXT1.

Perhaps text is a special case I thought and tried the experiment with a fermata (stacking order = 2900) and an accent (stacking order = 2800). Curiously, the element with the higher stacking order is on top this time whereas with the tempo text and stave text it is the item with the lower stacking order (tempo text) that is on top.

Perhaps it is something to do with automatic placement I thought and tried toggling it on and off for each of the elements attached to the note. With it off, the elements are overlaid, with it on, they stack but always in the same order regardless of what has been set in the inspector.

So..., I am obviously missing something here as what I expect to happen doesn't.

When the handbook refers to an element being placed "behind" what does that mean?

Is it possible to change the vertical stacking of elements attached to a single note by changing the stacking order specified in the Inspector?

If so how?

If not, what is stacking order there for?


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

OK. So stacking order moves things in the z-direction, in and out of the score, towards or away from the reader.

Why would one want to do that and what visual difference should it make?

And if the stacking order is not going to do it, is there any other way to control automatic placement's ordering of elements in the y-direction.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

But that only helps if automatic placement is off - which I suppose is the way we have to work it. If I have tempo text and stave text attached to the same note I can adjust the vertical offset of the stave text (in the -ve upwards direction) and the tempo text moves with it if automatic placement is on. My incorrect expectation was that altering the stacking order could make the automatic placement process reverse the vertical order of the elements. Perhaps there ought to be a "vertical stacking order" as well as a z-direction stacking order.

In reply to by Jm6stringer

Interesting. I can see that stacking order is useful for publishing purposes and I have had occasions when that would have been useful. But why do we need different stacking orders for each different element? That seems a bit of overkill.

Why has tempo text got a stacking order of 4000 while stave text has a stacking order of 4100? Is it envisaged that a user may want to put a picture on a layer between a tempo text and a stave text by setting its stacking order to 4050? Or is there something else clever that I can do by tweaking the stacking order.

In reply to by jeetee

Are there really engraving consensus/standard/rules about vertical stacking of tempo markings and other text, I wondered? It was having problems getting what I wanted in this situation that prompted me investigate whether the stacking order entry in the Inspector could help me. (It can't.) Your comment made me wonder if I might be doing something non-standard by trying to add text above a tempo marking? I looked through a few of the orchestral pieces i have played recently. Here are two example of a tempo marking below other text which automatic placement would force to be the other way round. There are others.

Ex 1.PNG
Ex 2.PNG

These are pretty mainstream publications. Are they really non-standard? It seems to make more sense to have the tempo marking closer to the stave as the tempo is something the player needs to be aware of, whereas the fact that we are looking at the theme and what it is called is of somewhat less immediate importance to the player. But then I have seen other vertical stacking orders, particularly when the part is marked solo at the same time as a tempo change. In this case, the solo marking is more often nearer the stave than the tempo marking (as in the example below). Again, it probably is the more sensible order as the fact that there is a solo (play this bit if nothing else!) is the more important information needed by the player.

Ex 3.PNG

It seems that, as you say, turning off automatic placement is the only way, which is a pity. The automatic placement works well, but it would be even nicer if we could have control over the vertical stacking order that it uses/forces. I am sure there are going to be other cases where changing the stacking order will be useful.

In reply to by SteveBlower

There is indeed variation from one publisher to another publisher, different norms from one century to another, etc. Your example both look to be pretty old. Today the universally acknowledged standard reference is Elaine Gould's "Behind Bars", so the recommendations and examples there set our default. So unless there is a specific reason to copy the decisions made by a 19th century editor, better usually to follow the modern standards and go with the defaults. But if you do have a special reason to deviate, then disabling automatic placement for that specific text is the way to get that result.

In theory, we could eventually provide some limited customization of the stacking order, but as it is. there are many dependencies that really require things to be done in the order they are in order for things to work correctly (eg, for playback).

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