This update to the leading guitar-tablature editing software adds a realistic sound engine, improved imports from other formats, and a slew of minor enhancements throughout. Guitar Pro 5 is smooth both when composing new pieces and transcribing existing ones. It can display both tablature and standard music notation on the same page, and it also supports bass, banjo, drums, and other instruments. It performs two-way conversions between tablature and standard notation and can export in multiple formats, including ASCII tabs, WAV, and MIDI.
Guitar Pro 5's great strength, though, is convenience. Compared with the pricier Cakewalk Pro Audio, Guitar Pro offers a more accessible interface without sacrificing features. Unlike most ASCII-tab-editing programs, such a[/img]s TabMaster 1.3, Guitar Pro formats printed output so that no line of music gets cut between two pages. Other useful features include a metronome and a built-in digital tuner. The program gives easy control over tempo, vibrato, articulation, harmonics, bends, and virtually all other techniques used in notation. However, there's no option to include bends on standard notation. If you don't want to use the tablature (which can display bends), you can end up playing the wrong note; for example, if there's a note bent up from C, the program will list it as a standard C.
Guitar Pro 5 also gets high marks sonically. A new playback system called the Realistic Sound Engine (RSE) is based on recorded samples and digital modeling. I could add effects and equalize the various RSE instruments in order to create a better and more realistic sound. The system is a massive improvement over the program's older (though still present in this build) MIDI sound. It's not perfect, though. I occasionally encountered odd changes in volume between notes, especially when there was a large change in pitch, and this produces an unnatural sound. Also, when I combined RSE sounds with MIDI sounds, they sometimes seemed slightly out of synch.
As an all-purpose composition program, Guitar Pro is outclassed by more expensive software such as Cakewalk and Sibelius. For guitarists, however, the program has no serious competition. Guitar Pro's closest guitar-specific competitor is the freeware Power Tabs, which was last updated in 2000. Power Tabs lacks the RSE engine and sounds weak even for a MIDI-based program. Guitar Pro also outputs a much better track to use when you want a WAV file with every instrument except the one being played. Tab Editor matches the main features in Guitar Pro, such as the tablature, staff notation, and playback, but misses a lot of the important details; it exports fewer file types and can't import many types of tabs, including Guitar Pro tabs. Guitar Pro, on the other hand, can import Power Tab files.
Power Tab files are also more difficult to find on the Web than those created with Guitar Pro. The tabs posted by Guitar Pro users also tend to be of higher quality than the alternatives.
Overall, Guitar Pro 5 is a worthy update to the best guitar-tablature editing software around. The realistic sounds aren't perfect, but they're a huge improvement over the MIDI sounds of past builds, and the program's printed output looks great. If you're a guitar player ready to make the step up from freeware, this is the program to get.