Feature of the Week

Darkroom: Enhance

| Feature of the Week

Last week we began our discussion of the major improvements made to forScore’s Darkroom feature in 10 with the Crop tool (read more about that here if you haven’t had a chance to already). Today we’re looking at another new tool, Enhance.

The Enhance tool is easy to use: tap the magic wand icon in the toolbar at the bottom of Darkroom’s main view to use it for all of the photos in your workspace, or tap an image to show the full-screen preview and use it there to affect only that particular image. In short, it makes your images better.

Behind the scenes, iOS scans your photo and creates a customized set of filters that are designed to give you the best possible results by adjusting brightness, contrast, tone, and more. Then, since we know we’re working with images of printed paper rather than portraits or scenic landscapes, we remove color information and increase the contrast a little more (both of these changes are editable since they’re made using the Adjust tool, which we’ll be discussing next week).

Easy to use, and a little more complicated to explain, the end result is that your images generally look clearer and more like they were made on a flatbed scanner than with a point-and-shoot.

Darkroom: Crop

| Feature of the Week

When adding new music to your library, digitally-produced PDF files are certainly best. They feature the highest quality and lowest file sizes. For paper scores, a flatbed scanner is a decent option for archival digitization: you’ll get full control over color, resolution, and more.

But, like they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. If you need to digitize a score on the go, Darkroom is the way to do it. It lets you snap photos with your iPad’s camera or import images from your device’s Photos library, then turn them into a PDF in minutes. It’s a feature that’s been around for a while now, but with forScore 10 it takes a big leap forward with several major improvements. Today we’ll take a quick look at cropping, a feature that lets you remove the edges of a photo and get the best possible view of a page.

After adding a photo to your workspace, tap on it to see a larger preview, then tap the Crop icon at the bottom of the screen (the second-to-last icon). First, forScore will scan your image to try and find the edges of your page. If it can, it’ll set the crop box to the area it thinks you’ll want to keep. Otherwise, it’ll start you off with a 10% margin on each side. Drag the edges or corners of the crop box to fit your page, then tap “Crop” in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Anything outside of the selected area will be removed, accounting for shifted rotation and perspective if needed.

It’s a quick and easy way of getting great results, especially for files you’ll only be using temporarily. That’s just the start of what’s new in Darkroom in forScore 10, though, so be sure to check back next week for more!

Setlist Folders

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Setlists are a popular and flexible way for users to organize their music exactly how they need it, and we’ve often heard from people who keep those lists around so they can duplicate and tweak them as needed to suit their weekly events. After a few weeks, that list of setlists can grow and really start to get out of hand. That’s why we introduced setlist folders in forScore 10: they let you group and organize your setlists much like files on a computer, so you can separate them into groups as needed or archive them after each performance.

When you tap the “Edit” button in the Setlists menu, the “+” button that normally lets you create a new setlist changes to let you create a new folder instead (the icon changes to a folder with a plus symbol inside of it). Tap here and supply a name to create a new folder. All of the different ways you can sort your setlists work the same way with folders: use Manual mode to arrange them any way you like, sort them alphabetically, or sort them by least-recently played.

To move a setlist into your new folder, tap the circled “i” button to the right of the setlist to show the setlist panel. Select any folder in the “Folders” section to move your setlist into that folder, or tap the “New Folder…” item at the bottom of the list to create a new one (creating a folder here works exactly the same way as it does in the main Setlists menu, this way just saves you a few taps). Use the Setlist menu’s edit mode to select multiple items and move them all into a folder at once.

Now you don’t have to choose whether you want to keep your older setlists or sacrifice them to clean up a cluttered list—get the best of both worlds by organizing them into folders instead.

Selection Tool

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Since they were first introduced, forScore’s annotation tools have been largely static and cumulative: once you hit that save button the only option to change a specific drawing was to erase and redo it. In forScore 10, the new selection tool changes all of that.

Now you can use your finger or Apple Pencil to select a specific area of drawn annotations (including stamps and shapes) and then move, duplicate, or clear them without affecting any of your other annotations. There’s also an adjustment tool that lets you re-color annotations by adjusting their hue, saturation, brightness, and opacity. You can even copy and paste drawn annotations, and it works between pages or between completely different files. It’s a powerful tool that can save you a lot of time and effort, so be sure to check it out the next time your annotations need a little tweaking.

Ruler

| Feature of the Week

Some of the new features in forScore 10 are complex, but others—like the new ruler annotation tool—are very straightforward (pardon the pun). While annotating, tap the new ruler icon to show or hide it. It’s semi-transparent and, most importantly, straight.

Use two fingers to rotate it, or drag it around on the screen to place it exactly where you need it. It works with your drawing presets and the Stamp and Shape tools. Start drawing near either side and forScore will lock your input to the ruler’s edge. Or start drawing out in the open and the ruler will stop your drawings from going too far if needed.

And, well, that’s about it. You don’t always need precision, but when you do the new Ruler tool is there for you.

De-skew

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For an app designed to give you the best, clearest possible view of your music, cropping is an essential part of the equation. It helps you remove unnecessary margins, zooming and repositioning each page until it fits perfectly on the screen.

Now, with forScore 10, the Crop tool can do even more: it can now help you fix crooked scans by tilting the page up to twenty degrees in either direction. It’s not a separate function, it’s part of the cropping process so you can line up your page once and never have to think about it again. Just drag the slider at the top of the page left or right until everything looks good (if you’ve already cropped your page you’ll need to un-crop it first).

Your annotations, links, and buttons are all adjusted to line up properly with the page, but since things like text annotations need to stay horizontal there may be some subtle differences. For the best possible results, be sure to crop and de-skew any problem pages first.

Audio Pitch

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Last week we began our journey through all of the new features in forScore 10 and forScore mini 3 with a look at audio track playback speed adjustment. That’s just one half of what’s new in our newly upgraded audio system, and today we’ll check out the second half: pitch adjustment.

This feature lets you transpose an audio track up to an octave in either direction. It’s something we know a lot of our customers do, and previously they’ve had to rely on third-party apps, switching back and forth as needed. You can still do that, of course, but now there’s a fully integrated solution that’s much easier to use.

As we mentioned last time, the newest versions of forScore actually switch between three distinct audio engines on the fly to give you the best possible features at all times, even though your audio tracks might come from a number of different sources. The requirements for pitch adjustment are a little more stringent than playback speed, requiring iOS 8 or later and compatible only with non-DRMed, locally stored audio files (either added directly to forScore’s documents directory or from your iTunes music library but not stored in the cloud).

Tap the media box’s knob/dial icon to access the speed and pitch adjustment panel, and you’ll see two adjustment rows for semitones and cents. Each slider allows for quick adjustments, and the +/- buttons on the right let you make more precise adjustments. As with playback speed, these sliders may be disabled until you press play and forScore can access more of the track’s information. Like playback speed, pitch adjustments are saved automatically per track, so you can transpose one track without affecting the rest.

That’s what’s new in audio track playback with forScore 10 and forScore mini 3, but we’ll be back next week and onward with a whole lot more, so stay tuned!

Audio Track Speed

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This week’s big news is the release of forScore 10 and forScore mini 3, and we’ve got tons of fresh features to explore! Today we’ll start with one of our favorites, the ability to adjust the playback speed of an audio track while following along with the corresponding sheet music. It’s an especially great tool for learning, and we think its newly expanded flexibility will really make a difference.

Audio tracks can come from several different places, and some of the tools forScore uses are only available in newer versions of iOS, so we actually wrap three distinct audio engines into one unified interface. This lets us provide the best possible experience at all times, instead of just defaulting to the lowest common denominator. This is how it works:

  • External audio, DRMed audio tracks, or tracks stored in the cloud can be slowed down to roughly 50% or 75% of their original speed, just like in earlier versions of forScore
  • All other tracks, including recordings and files you’ve added to forScore’s Documents directory can be played anywhere from 25% to 200% of their original speed

When you load up a song, you’ll see forScore’s media box appear along the bottom of the screen. Tap the knob/dial icon to access the speed and pitch adjustment panel, and you’ll see which options are available to you based on the track’s source. You’ll see the half, three quarter, and full speed buttons, and a slider that gives you more fine-grained control over speed. By default, this slider is disabled until forScore can access the track’s information—in some cases, that can only happen once you’ve pressed play.

Drag the slider left to slow your track down, or right to speed it up. For precise adjustments, use the + and – buttons on the right-hand side of the panel. Speed is saved automatically per track, so you can leave your score and come back later with everything right where you left it.

Batch Editing

| Feature of the Week

When you’re ready to play some music, you may know exactly what you want or you might prefer to browse through your collection until something stands out. Either way, a well-organized library will get you there much quicker than one long list of filenames or a teetering stack of paper can.

Instead of locations, forScore gives you vectors—different ways of finding things, whether it’s a particular piece or a general category. These vectors are based on metadata, so properly tagging your music is key. This task may seem daunting at first, but a little bit of work up front really pays off. As long as you use the right tools for the job, it’s not as time consuming as it might seem.

For instance, forScore’s Batch Edit feature lets you apply common metadata to many different files at once. There are two ways to do this from the Scores menu, the Bookmarks menu, or while viewing the contents of a setlist in the Setlists menu:

  • Tap the circled arrow button next to any item to show the metadata panel, then tap the “+” button on the right-hand side of the menu’s navigation bar to select additional files to edit.
  • Tap the “Edit” button on the right-hand side of the menu’s navigation bar, then tap to select the files you want to change. Choose “edit” from the options at the top of the list to open the metadata panel with all of your selected items loaded up and ready to tag.

Now any changes you make will apply to all of the selected files, saving you lots of time and typing. The metadata panel works similarly whether you’re editing one piece or several, but since some fields let you enter multiple values (composers, genres, tags, and labels) these work a little differently in batch edit mode. Instead of switching between checked and unchecked, the blue boxes next to each field switch between a check mark or a plus icon. If checked, your changes will replace any existing values. If the box shows a plus symbol instead, the values you type in will be appended to each item’s existing values.

Whether you use one metadata field or all of them, forScore leverages a little bit of data entry to transform your list of files into a detailed, cross-referenced map of your entire collection, ready to help you find what you’re looking for no matter where you start from.

Metronome Adjustments

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A few weeks ago we took a look at several different aspects of forScore’s metronome, from the basics to much more advanced functions and everything in between. Things have changed a little since then, and with this week’s release of Beat Keeper 3.2 and the announcement of forScore 10 coming later this summer, there’s a new feature for us to briefly explore.

Changing the metronome’s BPM value is a common task, so we’ve long searched for a way to let users make small adjustments quickly and easily (tapping the center or dragging the dial can be less precise, and using the keypad requires a few extra taps). Although it’s technically a very easy problem to solve, figuring out how to design it and make it usable turned out to be a lot more difficult. We tried a few different ideas over the past year or so, and now we think we finally have a solid solution: new plus and minus buttons in the metronome’s circular track that let you increment or decrement the BPM value with just a tap.

Putting these buttons in the track keeps the rest of the metronome’s interface organized and clean, but the obvious downside is that the buttons move as you tap them (making repeated tapping more difficult). To solve this, we added a small delay to the animation—the BPM number in the top right-hand corner updates immediately, but the dial stays put until you’re done tapping. It’s a small thing, but we agonize over these details because we think all of the small things add up to make the experience notably better.

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