MakeMusic announced in August, 2008 that beginning with Finale NotePad 2009, which is the current version, it will not be free and will cost $9.95 per copy. The price is certainly reasonable, but it is no longer free. NotePad 2009 can import/export MusicXML files so it can save files that can be opened in earlier versions of Finale. I also means that Finale NotePad files, when exported in XML format, can be opened by other applications that read Music XML such as Sibelius. See my post on Music XML
Also, MakeMusic is no longer making earlier versions of Finale NotePad available. They are now shipping a new product, Finale Reader. Finale Reader can open, play, and print (but not edit) any Finale family file – as well as MusicXML files – and it is a free download.
So, if you have an install disk for Finale NotePad 2008 or earlier, hold on to it. But you will need to find a new source for free notation software, or go with one of the light, student editions such as Finale NotePad, Finale PrintMusic, orSibelius Student. Do be aware that there are liberal education discounts for students, church musicians and educators. I usually purchase these from resellers such as www.soundtree.com or www.lentines.com.
Since Finale NotePad is no longer free (it costs $9.95 per copy), there are two options I know of for a totally free music notation solution. For Windows and Linux users consider Musescore from www.musescore.org. You can read a comparison of Musescore and Finale NotePad at:http://www.musescore.org/en/node/111. There is no Mac version of this software available.
There is also a new offering that is web based notation software callednoteflight. This is a web based music notation application. You may remember back in 2000 when the GVOX Company introduced Notation Station, a similar web based notation solution. The company when bankrupt back in 2001 and Notation Station went down with it. GVOX is still selling Encore notation software, however, Noteflight is a new offering that certainly looks promising.
I have experimented with this web-based application and find that it uses many of the same commands and keystrokes as Sibelius. You can enter notes by typing in the letter names, shift octaves using CTRL and the up and down arrows, add voices, articulations, and much more. As of the current version, you can input ties, but no slurs, there is no lyric option nor is MIDI input supported. I am sure these features will be integrated as this web based application progresses. The latest release notes are available at
http://www.noteflight.com/info/release_notes. Noteflight looks like a good starting place for students and people who want to dabble in music notation and price is a main concern.