Feature of the Week

PDFKit Page Rendering

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There are millions of apps on the App Store and they share a lot of things in common, so Apple includes packages of shared code in iOS called Frameworks that let developers reuse features and components. Apple creates and maintains the code (making sure it’s secure and provides a consistent experience) so developers can adopt new features quickly and reliably.

PDFKit is the name of Apple’s framework for working with PDF files. It was introduced for the Mac all the way back in 2004, but it wasn’t until late last year with iOS 11 that they brought it to the iPhone and iPad. It helps apps display, search, and even edit PDF files in a variety of different ways. It reduces the amount of code we have to maintain and gives us instant access to functions we haven’t yet been able to write on our own.

It can also display pages and embedded annotations, which is something we’ve offered for some time now, but PDFKit was written by a much larger team and is constantly being updated and improved. Apple’s implementation is broader and produces results more like what you’d see in their other apps (on both iOS and macOS).

With forScore 10.3.5 we added the ability to use this new rendering code to display pages and thumbnails, but we disabled it by default until we knew for sure that there no unforeseen issues. We’ll be enabling it for all users with a future update, but you can see the difference for yourself by turning it on in forScore’s settings panel. It only affects the way pages are displayed within forScore, so if you don’t like it you can always turn it off again without any negative side effects.

If you don’t see any issues, leave it on! Apple’s engineers have put a lot of work into making PDFKit, and they know a lot more about how iOS is built than we possibly can.

Default Keyboard Shortcuts

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We’ve previously discussed the Page turners & shortcuts section of forScore’s settings panel, which allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for many of forScore’s features, but we only made a passing reference to some of the things you can do by default. So today we’re going to spell those out and show you what you can already do with forScore and a keyboard, even if you’ve never opened that section of the settings panel.

While viewing a score, you can use any of these default shortcuts (if the function is available in the current context):

Annotate cmd + a
Edit (open Metadata panel) cmd + e
Find (open Search panel) cmd + f
Share cmd + s
Open Menu (scores menu) cmd + o
Setlists cmd + l
New Tab cmd + t
Close Tab cmd + w
Next Tab tab
Previous Tab shift + tab
Metronome (start/stop) cmd + m

In annotation mode, a separate set of default commands is available:

Stamps cmd + 1
Shapes cmd + 2
Draw cmd + 3 (see additional notes below)
Ruler cmd + r
Lasso cmd + l
Text cmd + t
Eraser cmd + e
Clear cmd + x
Undo cmd + z
Redo cmd + shift + z

Press command and a number between 3 and 9 to select drawing presets based on their position from left to right.

In each of these cases, pressing and holding the command key will present an overlay that lists all of the available shortcuts, so you don’t have to memorize them all to take advantage of them. If any of those don’t work well for you, or if you want to add some, learn more about custom shortcuts here.

Drag and Drop: MIDI

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Over the past few weeks we’ve seen how iOS 11’s Drag and Drop gestures can really speed things up and make working with apps like forScore more natural and efficient than ever before. Our final topic today explores how these gestures help you work with MIDI commands.

In forScore, there’s no single place to access MIDI features—since MIDI is a language that can handle all sorts of musical tasks, we chose to weave support for it into forScore in many different contexts. You can play musical information stored in a MIDI file using the media box, use incoming MIDI signals to control some of forScore’s most popular functions, or play notes on your MIDI controller and hear them through forScore’s software piano keyboard.

Most importantly, you can use MIDI commands with scores to automate your workflow and quickly adjust your setup or call up specific songs with ease. Within the MIDI tab of forScore’s metadata panel, you can set up a single command as a shortcut—any time forScore receives that command it’ll open the corresponding score automatically. Or, you can set up specific commands that will be sent out to connected devices whenever that score or bookmark is opened. If you plan to reuse a set of sent commands, Presets help you package them up and apply them to multiple scores. Finally, you can send commands with the press of a Button placed on any page.

Drag and Drop helps by allowing you to drag specific commands between scores, bookmarks, buttons, or presets so you don’t have to type them in over and over again. You can even drag and drop one or more commands onto the page to create a new button with them, so you can send those commands with a single tap while playing.

We’ve covered a lot of ground with this series of posts, and we still haven’t explored the full depths of what these gestures allow you to do. Drag and Drop isn’t just a different way of working, it’s an entirely different approach: instead of pushing content through panels and options, just grab what you want and put it where you want it. For us, it’s how things should have always been and we’ll keep looking for new ways to bring the power of these gestures to the work you do every day.

Drag and Drop: Services

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When we started working with Drag and Drop ahead of iOS 11’s release, we took a big step back and identified virtually every way we could think of that these new gestures could be used in interesting and helpful ways throughout our app. The Services panel was no exception, and with a little bit of polishing we came up with a set of interactions that really help you work faster.

The first one was simple, allowing you to rearrange accounts in the main list of services with one easy gesture (just like rearranging items in many places throughout the app).

The next interaction—the one we were most excited about crafting—helps you move items between folders. By necessity, this took a lot of extra steps in the past: tap edit, select an item, tap the move icon, then navigate to the directory you want to move the item to and finally tap “Move” to finish the process. With drag and drop, you just tap and hold to pick up an item, tap additional items to add them to your drag stack, then drop them onto a folder to move those files into it or use your other fingers to navigate into and out of folders and drop the files into the right place.

Finally, we added the ability to upload scores, setlists, backups, and audio files by dragging them into the Services panel. This was an obvious thing to implement but it was a little more complicated because scores and setlists can be uploaded in several different formats. We could have just defaulted to the most common format for each, but we decided to provide a prompt instead so you can choose which one you need every time you drop files. Sometimes making things as streamlined as possible means knowing when to add a step.

Drag and Drop: Images

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We ended our last Feature of the Week by highlighting the ability to copy drawn annotations off of a page using the Selection tool and share them with other apps as an image. That’s perhaps not the most common use-case for musicians, but it gives you a hint of some of the really interesting ways you can work with images using iOS 11’s Drag and Drop gestures.

For years, the stamp creator has allowed you to access any images stored in the app’s Documents directory and place them on the canvas for further manipulation (if needed) before saving them as a new custom stamp. That process requires users to add their images using iTunes’ file sharing panel, leaving a pile of images within the app that either go unused or that you’d need to manually delete later when you’re done creating your stamps.

With Drag and Drop, though, there’s no need to save files anywhere—skip the whole process and just drag an image from any app that supports it directly onto the stamp creator’s canvas to place it there. Standard apps like Safari are fully supported, so it’s incredibly easy to find a shape you need online, drag it over, and tap save.

Stamps are really designed to be reusable, though, and sometimes you only need a specific type of marking in one particular case. Or, you may need to use something that’s bigger than the Stamp tool’s maximum size. For that, drag an image from any compatible app directly onto the page. forScore enters annotation mode (if you’re not already using it) and places a copy of the image over your score with adjustment handles so you can resize and reposition it as needed. When you’re done, simply tap outside of the image to finish placing it.

So whether you’re stocking up on reusable symbols or accommodating a special case, forScore’s image support with Drag and Drop is sure to make the whole process incredibly quick and easy.

Drag and Drop: Sharing

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Last week we saw how easy it is to use Drag and Drop to import files from other apps, and today we’ll see how it works the other way: when you copy files in forScore to other apps on your device.

You can drag any of your scores out from the main menu, setlist menu, or the search panel into any PDF-compatible app to send a copy of the original file (without annotations) to that app. If you need to send an annotated PDF or a 4SC file, continue using the standard sharing functions you’re used to.

You can also drag tracks out of the audio file picker, recordings browser, media box, or the metadata panel. Copy CSV files and forScore backups out of the Indexes and Backups panels, respectively. In each of these cases you can drag the associated file or files out to any other app that’s compatible with that particular file type. A new copy is sent to the other app, so your forScore library remains unchanged.

We’ll be talking more about annotations and images in a future post, but we can’t resist pointing out one last thing. While annotating, select some of your drawn annotations with the Selection tool, then tap and hold the highlighted area and drag it away to create a snapshot of that zone. Then just drop the resulting image into any image-compatible app. That’s just part of the story, though, so be sure to check back next week when we explore the rest.

Drag and Drop: Importing

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There are many ways that Drag and Drop helps you work within forScore, but on iPad the gestures don’t just stop there—they also allow you to drag items from one app into another, and today we’ll be looking at all of the ways that can help you with your musical workflow.

Lots of apps allow you to drag files out of them and into any other app that supports that particular file type. The best example is iOS 11’s new Files app, but it’s hardly the only one. Drag a compatible file from one of these apps and drop it into forScore to import it. Under the hood, this works similarly to iOS’ long-standing sharing functions, but with a simpler experience and one big improvement: you can drag multiple files into forScore at once (the old “open in” method only supports one file at a time).

So what can you drag in, and where can you drop it? PDF files, of course, are an obvious one—drag them onto the page to import them and open the last one–and you can do the same with 4SC or text files. You can also drag them into the main menu to import them without opening them, if you prefer. Drag items into the main setlist menu to import the items and create a new setlist with them, drag them onto a setlist to import them and add them to the end of that list, or drop them right into a setlist to import them and then add them to that setlist at that specific point.

It doesn’t stop there, though, because you can also import 4SS, 4SB, and CSV files by dragging them into the setlist menu, the backups panel, and the indexes list (respectively). You can even work with audio files by dragging them into the audio file picker, the recordings list, or right into the audio tab of the metadata panel to import them and associate them with the current score.

These gestures work with Split View and Slide Over, so you can move content between apps with just one easy gesture. Or, if you prefer, you can close apps and open others while still dragging content with one of your fingers and drop the file or files where you need to once it’s on screen. It’s an incredibly powerful way of working and blurs the lines between apps in a way that really puts you in charge of your content.

Drag and Drop: Setlists

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Our series on Drag and Drop continues today with Setlists, which are perhaps the best example of how these new interactions can speed up your workflow.

As we discussed last week, you can drag one or more items out of most of forScore’s menus, the search panel, and even out of the main view’s central title bar display. Once you’ve done that, you can drop those items into the main Setlist menu to create a new setlist with them, or you can drop them onto an existing setlist to add them to the bottom of that list. If you tap to navigate into a particular setlist, you can drop your items at a specific point to add them between the other items already in your list. And since the Setlist menu acts as both a drag source and a drop target, you can even drag one or more items from one setlist and copy them to another setlist or create a brand new setlist with them.

Drag and Drop also really helps when it comes to organizing your setlists: when you’re viewing a setlist in Manual sort order, use these gestures to reorder items in the list. Just tap and hold any one item, drag upward or downward, and let go when it’s in the right spot. There’s no need to use Edit mode (though you still can if you prefer to), just use these gestures at any time. The same goes for rearranging setlists in the main Setlist menu; drag them up or down to reorder them, or drag them into and out of folders.

If you use Setlists, creating and reordering them can be something you do frequently. These gestures open up a slew of new ways to work, so it just takes a little bit of exploration to find the methods that feel most intuitive and helpful to you.

Drag and Drop: Items

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Today we begin our exploration of the many different ways you can use the Drag and Drop gestures we outlined last week, and the most obvious place to start is with Items (scores and bookmarks in your forScore library).

As you may recall, Drag and Drop lets you drag a single object or a collection of similar objects at once to do things with them. So when it comes to explaining what exactly can be done with these new capabilities, it’s easier (and more concise) to talk in terms of sources and destinations. Just remember that you can drag one item from a single source, or drag multiple items from one or more sources.

Items can be dragged from most of the places you’re used to seeing them: the score, bookmark, and setlist menus, as well as the global search panel. You can drag items from multiple menus, but you can even drag them from different lists within the same menu: grab a score from a certain composer, then another one in a certain genre, add a few scores from one of your favorite setlists, then pick a bookmark from the Search panel’s results. You can even drag the current item out of the main view’s central title bar display.

Once you’re dragging your item(s), you can do a lot with them like drop them into the main Setlists menu to create a new setlist, into an existing setlist to add them at a specific point, or into the Services panel to upload them to your preferred cloud storage provider. We’ll be exploring some of these uses in future Feature of the Week articles, but for now let’s focus on two simpler tasks to get you started: Drag an item onto the page and the tab bar will slide out (if it’s not already visible), allowing you to drop the item there to open it in a new tab. You can also drop an item onto the main view’s central title bar display to open it in the current tab. If you haven’t tried out Drag and Drop yet, these are great places to begin.

There’s a lot more to Drag and Drop, so stay tuned in the coming weeks as we continue to unpack the impressive number of interactions these new gestures enable. By the end, you’ll be wondering how anyone ever did any of this the old way!

Drag and Drop: Basics

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With this year’s iOS 11 update, Apple introduced Drag and Drop, opening up completely new ways of working with information using gestures that couldn’t be more natural. Instead of tapping “Edit” and selecting your items, then tapping another button to do something with those items, Drag and Drop lets you directly manipulate objects on screen: drag something from one spot to another spot to move it, open it, share it, and more. It simplifies the most obvious tasks by taking almost all of the intermediate steps away.

If an app has been updated to support Drag and Drop (forScore was on day one), some of its interface elements can be dragged—most commonly, this includes items in a list like scores, bookmarks, and setlists in the menus and search panel. Tap and hold one of them until it animates up and out of its list, then drag your finger around on screen to move it.

Crucially, you can leave your first finger on the screen and use your other fingers to continue navigating and working just as you always do. Close menus, open other panels, turn pages—everything is still available to you. Most importantly, this allows you to drag multiple items at once (when appropriate). After tapping and holding to begin dragging one item, use another finger to tap other similar items one at a time to add them to your drag stack.

When you drag your items over a compatible view or portion of the screen, you’ll see the interface change to indicate that an action can be performed there. When rearranging items in a list (scores within a setlist, for example), other items move out of the way and create a gap to show that you dropping your item there will move it to that spot. In other cases, a green “+” symbol may appear indicating that your items will be added or copied instead of moved. Different situations use different symbols, and it takes just a few minutes of exploration to understand what each of them means and how they work.

These gestures are easy to pick up but far more capable than they may seem at first. You can drag an item and tap others to drag them all at once, but you can even pull similar items from different sources—grab a score from the main menu, a bookmark from your most recent setlist, and the currently visible score out of the main view’s title bar. On iPad, you can even close the app you’re working with and open another, or use Slide Over or Split Screen to move certain types of content between apps.

We’ll be exploring many of the uses for these gestures within forScore over the next several weeks, but if you haven’t had a chance to use Drag and Drop be sure to give it a try! It’s an incredible new tool that’s sure to turbocharge your workflow.

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