What are the free programs available to typeset music?

  • 2
    If you're going to add answers in to your question maybe it should be rephrased and made a wiki? "What are all the free music notation programs?" – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 0:42
  • Yes, since "the best" is very subjective. – Turion Feb 11 '11 at 10:48
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    So one program per answer then gang. Thanks @Turion. I did some heavy edits to make this work. – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 14:37
  • Alright, have at those answers now and mark them up so their more complete. Thanks! – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 14:43


Handles big scores with a lot of instruments, has many layout options and some bugs. Much of the user interface resembles Sibelius. You can export/import in numerous formats, too (MusicXML, MIDI, ...). Runs on Linux, Windows, Mac. It is being updated and developed regularly.

  • This is what I use. – muntoo Feb 13 '11 at 23:47
  • I can wholeheartedly recommend this one, amazing community and nice piece of software! – Sander Versluys Feb 14 '12 at 8:56


A notation typesetting library built on top of TeX. For editors there is always Denemo which lacks a few features but gets the job done.

  • No it doesn't, there is always denemo which lacks a few features but gets the job done. – Pelle ten Cate Mar 19 '11 at 22:54
  • @Pelle ten Cate: this is a community wiki answer. You can always just edit the answer to add/correct/reduce it to something better. I edited already. – Ian C. Mar 20 '11 at 0:00
  • Lilypond produces really nice music sheets but from a usability view of point it lacks a feature complete UI. But maybe lilypond source files are more future proof then any other UI based piece of software... – Sander Versluys Feb 14 '12 at 8:58


GPL Notation program built on lilypond.



Online and there's a free level that's quite good. I've been using this to swap ideas with writing partners across the continent for about a year now and it's great. The interface has undergone a few revisions now and every time come out better and better. I can move pretty quickly with it now and it's nice to be able to access and work with my lead sheets from any place I can get a browser connection.

  • The only real advantages appearing to me is that you can share music with other people very easily (Of course you could do the same with every other program by just sending the file via eMail.) and can use it without installing it from every place with internet. (Which seems not so important to me since I have a fast laptop where installing a programm takes very short time.) A downside is that it is only the free lightweight version of an unfree version with more features. So making Noteflight free is obviously only for marketing reasons. – Turion Feb 10 '11 at 22:08
  • Have you used the free version? As feature completeness goes it's not lacking anything. – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 0:40
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    The number of scores and the undo history is limited. There is no appoggiatura, mordent or gruppetto. I don't know if they are included in Crescendo (the "premium" version) but I would expect it. It seems to be lacking the "repeat" keyboard shortcut of Sibelius and Musescore, which is very handy. There is no keyboard shortcut for adding intervals to a note, also very handy when writing out chords. I didn't find a way to adjust the distance between staves, which can cause layout problems. All these are not random features, but features I needed when I wrote my last piano piece with MuseScore. – Turion Feb 11 '11 at 10:25
  • @Turion: you obviously score things far more complex than I do! :) – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 14:43


Very fast to write in, and very powerful!! I use it to write piano and percussion music - it's fantastic. You can download it for free from http://musink.net. No open-source, though, and only runs on Windows.



More like a sequencer. One shouldn't expect too fancy layout options from it.



Seems to be rather limited in score layout as well.


ABC Notation: not really a software in itself (even if some software encode and decode ABC Notation) -- comes with a free software toolset, and can be for example exported to Latex.

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