Our Progress on MuseScore 4 - Part 2
I wanted to give a quick update about our progress with MuseScore 4, which we had hoped would be ready for an initial alpha release by today. Although the app is clearly coming together nicely (as can be seen from checking the nightly builds), we feel we are a few weeks away from our first alpha. I will be posting a revised release timeline shortly.
Apart from that, here is an update on our progress:
Despite the delay on alpha, we're very happy with how things are going. The app has been completely rearchitected and is now running quickly and smoothly. We have implemented basic VSTi & VST support and our new interface is just about done. We have completely overhauled how the inspector works and how part scores can be generated and modified. We're still porting a few remaining functionalities and shortcuts from MS3.6 but the major work is complete. Our most significant remaining efforts will be spent on the default playback of MuseScore 4. Until this work is complete, anyone trying out our nightly builds will probably notice some unusual, overly soft playback.
Apart from the headline features, there are a lot of smaller changes in MuseScore 4: our MusicXML import is vastly improved and we will be including dozens of engraving improvements also.
Apart from that, it is also worth mentioning a few things that will be missing in MuseScore 4.0
The piano roll & automation (delayed)
Although the implementation of a new piano roll is already underway, we feel that the scope of the remaining work is too large and it would be unwise to try to include it in MuseScore 4.0. We will instead prioritise it for MuseScore 4.1 or 4.2 instead.
The Zerberus synthesiser (removed)
In MuseScore 3, the Zerberus synthesiser can be used to load .sfz files. However, it also has numerous problems and limitations and we think it makes more sense to focus our efforts on building up VSTi capability instead. For those who wish to still use SFZ sounds in MuseScore 4, a good alternative would be the free VST player, Sforzando, which supports SFZ playback. However, please note this plugin only works on Mac and PC. We are currently investigating alternatives for Linux.
Documents side-by-side (possibly delayed or removed)
This feature allows users to have a split screen view where they can compare scores in the same window. In MuseScore 4, while working on creating a much more powerful audio engine, we discovered that it advisable to move to a new model for displaying scores, where each project opens in its own window (similar to how most other notation apps and DAWs work). The 'Documents side-by-side' feature is therefore likely going to be an unfortunate casualty of this new model. It may still be possible to retain the feature for individual projects (so users can compare the main score to a part score, for example) but we will need to investigate it further.
Below is an outline of how we intend to handle the release process for MuseScore 4.
1. 'Private' Alpha
A 'Private' alpha stage does not include all functionality. Its purpose is to lock down the 'core' components of the app (creating scores, working with parts, playback, opening old versions, exporting, etc.) We will also focus on identifying functional problems and missing behaviours. We're using the term 'Private' to mean that we would not encourage users outside of the developer community to try it out.
2. 'Public' Alpha
The public alpha will contain everything we expect to be in the final release of MuseScore 4, with the exception of optional plugins, such as the new MuseSampler library or MuseScore Drumline. At this point, we expect the alpha to have reached functional parity with MuseScore 3 (except where we are delaying features until a later release or replacing them altogether). We will be announcing a feature freeze and string freeze (to encourage early translations) during this stage.
This will proceed as beta releases normally do. Our focus will be on overall stability, refining usability problems and making sure there are no issues with opening older scores or uploading them to MuseScore.com. It is likely that this beta will be a long one to ensure that the transition (for users) from MuseScore 3 to MuseScore 4 is as smooth as possible. We will be extensively user-testing this release.
4. Release Candidate
We will be exposing the release candidate to a large number of users to ensure quality and stability. Due to the size and scope of MuseScore 4, it is likely that we will need multiple release candidates before we are satisfied that it is ready for prime time.
The thing itself!
About future releases
MuseScore 4 is a gargantuan release. It includes an entirely new (and much more powerful) audio engine. It has a new architecture, a new interface and has been relicensed to GPL3 too. All of this has taken a lot of time and we are painfully aware that many members of our community have (until recently) largely been forced to sit by, waiting for us to lay these foundations. We know this has been a frustrating wait and we're sorry about that. However, we only needed to do this type of overhaul once and we never intend to do it again! After 4.0 is officially released to the public, we will be aiming for a more regular release schedule of around 3-4 months.
About VST & NotePerformer
Some users have been asking whether the initial release of MuseScore 4 will support NotePerformer. Although it is true that we initially intended to support NotePerformer for 4.0, we have instead decided to focus our efforts on our own orchestral playback plugin (codenamed 'MuseSampler') which will be available to download and install for free. We will be releasing more information about this plugin soon. Please note that the MuseSampler will likely not be available until late in beta testing.
Thanks a lot!