Philip's Music Writer (PMW)

Philip's Music Writer (PMW) is a computer program for high quality music typesetting. Originally written for Acorn RISC OS computers (where it was called PMS), there is now a version that runs on Unix and Unix-like systems. This can also be made to run on MacOS and on Windows in the Cygwin environment. PMW is distributed as a source tarball and licenced under the GNU GPL.

Download the source for the current release:   pmw-4.51.tar.gz   (released 06-January-2021)

The author of PMW is Philip Hazel, whose email address is in the README file in the PMW distribution.

Overview of PMW

PMW operates by reading an input file containing an encoded description of the music; such a file can be constructed using any text editor or word processor. The music encoding is very straightforward and compact, and quick to enter.

Although such an input method may not be considered as “user-friendly” as pointing and dragging on the screen, it is a much faster way of inputting music, once the format of the input files has been learned. In addition, the usual facilities of a word processor, such as cutting and pasting, can be used to speed up entry, and PMW is able to provide text-based features such as repetition, macros, and included files.

The output of PMW is a PostScript file that can be printed on a PostScript printer, or viewed on screen, printed on a non-PostScript printer, or turned into a PDF by the use of GhostScript.

PMW comes with a PostScript outline font that contains all the musical shapes (notes, rests, accidentals, bar lines, clefs, etc.) that it requires. There is a man page for the command line options, and a 200-page manual that is distributed as a PDF file.

The PMW input encoding is designed to be easy for a musician to remember. It makes use of as many familiar musical notations as possible within the limitations of the computer's character set. Normally it will be input by a human using any available word processor or text editor. However, PMW input could also be the output of another computer program that captures (or generates) music.

PMW has many features which enable it to typeset a wide variety of music using standard notation. A number of these are listed below. The extensive manual describes the input notation in detail.

Sample output pages

These pages are PostScript files. You should be able to view them using a PostScript viewer such as gv if your browser doesn’t automatically display them.

Some features of Philip's Music Writer

Philip Hazel
January 2021