Noteworthy Composer is a simple, cheap, resource-light, MIDI-compatible, flexible music composing environment. Since its shareware version is pretty close to fully-functional, it can be used for years without bumping up against its limits. However, for $39, it's worth paying for. The only downside is that it is not available through software suppliers - it is only sold directly from Noteworthy's website. The limits to the shareware version include:
Noteworthy does not generate music for you - it gives you a staff or staffs, and you must place the notes on the staff, or use the MIDI recording feature to record from a MIDI keyboard. Placing time signatures, accidentals, tempo markings, repeats, and other performance signposts, is reflected in the playback. The dryness of MIDI playback can be improved through the use of direct MIDI controls, available through the software as "multi-point controllers" - but this feature is only for those who know something about MIDI, and what such settings will do.
The software allows the selection of any MIDI input or playback device available through Windows. All sound cards play back MIDI, usually poorly. Sound Blaster Live, and other premium sound cards do better, but the best of the cheap solutions is an external MIDI keyboard or synth module, several of which are available for less than $200, and sound quite good. See MIDI Music Setups for choices. But regardless, with most Windows machines, there should be both a "MIDI Synth" and a "MIDI Out" available. Only the former will work when no external MIDI keyboard or synth module is used.
After starting Noteworthy, open "Tools/Options," and click on the MIDI tab (you might have to click the little arrows at the top right of the dialog box to get it to appear). Select the device you want to use, and click the arrow pointing to the right to include it in your Noteworthy setup.
If you intend to record MIDI from an external keyboard, that device must be selected in the "Record" tab of tools.
Most of the other things available in "Tools" can be left to their defaults.