feature of the week

Apple Pencil

| feature of the week

Many of our readers are just now getting their hands on an Apple Pencil, so today we wanted to do a recap of how this slick new device works with iPad Pro and forScore.

Unlike most of the other Bluetooth styluses (or styli, we don’t take sides) out there, Apple Pencil doesn’t feature any buttons or lights, so the experience of using it and setting it up can be a little opaque. Essentially, if its battery is charged then it’s ready to use—whether or not it’s connected is really more of a system-level detail than an explicit user action. You can charge it by removing the end where an eraser would be (we don’t know why there isn’t one either) and plugging the Lightning connector into the bottom of your iPad Pro. It’s a little precarious, but it works. You can also use the adapter that comes with it to connect it to any of the other Lightning cables you may have lying around.

To use Apple Pencil with forScore, just start drawing on the page. Annotation mode is activated automatically and kept on so you can switch tools, undo any accidental marks, and finalize your drawing before tapping the “Done” button. If you instead prefer to use the Pencil just like you use your finger, an option in the settings panel called “Automatically enter annotation mode” allows you to disable this functionality.

Behind the scenes, Apple Pencil adds a lot to the drawing experience. It works with iPad Pro to gather four times as many touch points as with older iPad models, so drawings are significantly more accurate (especially when drawing quickly). The Pencil also features a pressure sensitive tip, so your drawings will become more pronounced the harder you press.

One helpful tip regarding the Pencil’s tip: it will eventually wear out and need to be replaced, which you do by twisting it off counter-clockwise. If you’re using your Pencil vigorously or drawing lots of counter-clockwise spirals, the tip can start to unwind itself and you may start to experience sporadic drawing behavior. Just twist the tip back on tightly and you should be good to go.

The Apple Pencil is an incredible tool for anyone who uses forScore’s annotation capabilities, and we hope that iPad Pro is simply the first member of the iPad lineup to support it rather than the only. It’s a great experience, and there’s no reason we can see why it wouldn’t work just as well on smaller iPads once Apple builds in the necessary screen technologies.


| feature of the week

No matter how good the iPad gets, data entry can be a pain. The virtual keyboard covers up part of the screen and requires guessing or looking to find the right keys. External keyboards help a lot, as do forScore’s batch editing and PDF metadata importing features, but many people will still be more comfortable using their computer to do this kind of work (especially when starting out and categorizing their entire music collection).

Way back in 2010 we created a Mac application that allowed forScore users to edit files individually, but it was inadequate and we ended up having to scrap it so we could devote all of our time to improving forScore instead. The urge to find a better solution never left, though, so with forScore 6 we took another stab at it. We knew we wanted to add batch editing functionality, but our bigger goal was to create something that was cross-platform while also being relatively easy to maintain. The solution was a little out of the box but awesome: we realized we could embed a web server into forScore and use it to serve web pages to your browser over a local wi-fi network.

We called it Console (both the idea and the name have since been, ahem, appropriated by some less scrupulous apps) and it achieved all of our goals and then some. The layout splits your screen into three columns—categories on the left, scores and bookmarks in the middle, and a metadata panel on the right. Click to select a category on the left and the middle zone will reload to show you all of the pertinent pieces in your library. Click to select one and edit it, or use your system’s modifier keys to select multiple items and batch edit them.

From the metadata panel, you can edit fields like title, composers, genres, tags, label, rating, difficulty, key, time, or page number offset. You can also choose which setlists or libraries your piece is part of, and you can add, remove, or edit a score’s bookmarks. You can even view the original PDF file in your browser, download it, or delete it from forScore.

Use the toolbar along the top of the screen to choose which library you want to work with or to create a brand new one. The “upload” button even lets you add new PDF files to forScore from your computer wirelessly—definitely our favorite part.

So how can we allow you to make all of these changes without also letting those other, less scrupulous folks out there come along and appropriate your library? Well, forScore’s web server is only activated when you choose “Console” from the tools menu and any new computer or device that tries to connect to it will prompt you first on your iPad or iPhone. Until you explicitly allow that computer to access your library, it won’t be able to see or change anything. So pull up a chair, grab that keyboard and mouse (or trackpad), and get organized!

Two-up View

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Last week we discussed half-page turns, a feature that’s available when you’re using your device in portrait orientation. That feature is activated by tapping a button just to the left of the current score’s title in the main control bar, but this button changes when you’re using landscape orientation and serves a different purpose: toggling two-up view which allows you to see two pages at once, side by side.

Pages turn two at a time when you’re using this mode, so you’ll see pages 1-2, then 3-4, 5-6, etc. You can control this with the “two-up page advance” option in the settings panel—choose “1 page” and you’ll move through your files one page at a time starting with pages 1-2, then 2-3, 3-4, and so on.

Two-up view works not only with scores, but with bookmarks as well (pages beyond the scope of a bookmark appear faded out so you can clearly see what’s currently relevant). You can even use the tap-and-hold gesture on either page to annotate it!

Half-page Turns

| feature of the week

Since its introduction way back in forScore 2.0, half-page turns have been one of our app’s most popular features. It allows users to turn pages in two halves like a farmhouse door: tap once to see the bottom half of the current page along with the top half of the next page, and tap again to finish flipping over to the complete next page.

A blue horizontal divider shows you where the page is split so you don’t get lost, and you can reposition this divider vertically by dragging the three horizontal lines up or down. The divider’s position is saved per page of score, so you can set it once to the most convenient location for each turn and it’ll always split in that same spot.

This feature was originally available as an option in the settings panel, but many people wanted easier access to it so they could change it more frequently if needed. So we moved it to the central portion of the main control bar, just to the left of the current item’s title and composer:

Tap this ½ button and it’ll turn blue, meaning half-page turns are enabled. Tap it again to turn it gray, and pages will turn one at a time. One important thing to remember is that half turns are only available in portrait orientation (or in Split Screen views that can display an entire page). Otherwise, this button will allow you to switch between one- and two-page views. It’s not called “features of the week,” though, so that’s a topic for another day!

iPad Pro Control Bar

| feature of the week

The control bar along the top of forScore’s main view is the central hub for most of the app’s features. Six buttons—three on either side—give you quick access to scores, bookmarks, setlists, search, audio utilities, and just about everything else in the catch-all Tools menu.

If you’re using the new iPad Pro, however, you’ve got more room to work with and if you’ve installed our 9.2 update, we help you use that space more effectively by adding a fourth item to either side of the control bar. These items look and work a lot like the other control bar items, but they have a small arrow below them. That’s because they’re customizable: by default, the left side lets you access the Services panel and the right side lets you annotate, but if you tap and hold either of them you’ll be able to choose a different function or disable the button entirely. Most of the items in the tools menu are available here, so you can pick the one you use most often.

In many cases, there are several different ways you can access forScore’s features. Gestures, shortcuts, the search panel, the tools menu, the info zone in the center of the control bar, and now these two customizable items give you the flexibility you need to work quickly and efficiently. Find the way that works best for you, and ignore the rest.

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