Software suggestion – Frescobaldi

I’ve already done a post about Lilypond, which is a text-based sheet music editor, but I have since discovered a handy piece of software that takes Lilypond to the next level.

Frescobaldi (here is the website) is an open-source editor specifically designed for Lilypond, and in my opinion it GREATLY enhances the experience. It provides a single window which contains the Lilypond text file you are working on, a preview of the PDF you are creating, and access to all of the help documentation your heart desires.

Without this software, you would have to have to work on your music code with a text editor, then run the code through Lilypond (via the terminal on Linux or by dragging the file onto the icon in Windows), which generates a PDF file that you have to re-open every time you want to check the changes you made. With Frescobaldi, everything is right there in one single window.

The built-in text editor is color coded and comes equipped with a library of Lilypond functions and variables that pop up as suggestions as you type your code. So rather than feeling like you’re typing a boring old notepad document, you feel like you’re using some fancy programming software, fit for programming the next huge operating system (or at least a sweet piano sonata). This feature is incredibly useful for keeping your text files organized and visually easy to navigate.

After making changes to the text file, all you have to do is click the Lilypond icon embedded in the top bar of the software, which compiles your code and instantly updates the PDF preview. No more closing and re-opening a PDF viewer each time you want to make any changes to your score.

As someone who considers himself far from fluent in the Lilypond language, I often have to search online for instructions on how to do certain things with Lilypond. Sometimes I forget how to add a double bar line, or how to include first and second endings, etc. The built in document view in Frescobaldi takes just about all the information I would ever need and plops it right in the window I’m already working in. Now I just tab to the documentation viewer and search keywords or navigate the contents of numerous manuals. This saves quite a bit of time and Google searches.

Along with everything I’ve mentioned here, Frescobaldi incorporates several helpful tools, including a page setup dialogue box, which allows you to fill in information about the piece, such as composer, arranger, title, etc. Once you hit the okay button, it converts your input into Lilypond code and includes it in your text file. There are several other handy features that I have not utilized, but everything is included to make your Lilypond experience as convenient as possible.

Did I mention it’s free, too? Gotta love open-source software. If you like Lilypond, download Frescobaldi…right now. In case you missed it, here is the link to their website again.

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