feature of the week

Radio Silence

| feature of the week

We’re more connected every day, it seems, with our devices knowing more about us, helping us more, and vying for our attention with banners and sounds. For a musician performing with forScore, they can be a big problem, so today we’re taking a break from forScore features to look at a few iOS settings that can help you block out distractions while you’re on stage.

First, muting your device is always a good idea. On an iPhone, that’s as simple as flipping the silent switch. On an iPad, that same switch might control orientation lock instead of silent/vibrate mode, and if you’ve got an iPad Air 2 there’s no switch at all! If your switch doesn’t control silent/vibrate mode, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap the silent button (the bell with the line through it).

That panel along the bottom of the screen, Control Center, also gives you quick access to a pair of other tools which every musician should be aware of: Airplane Mode and Do Not Disturb. There are subtle differences between these two, so figuring out which one to use can be tricky.

Airplane Mode, like it sounds, is used to turn off all of the radios in your device so as not to interfere with an aircraft’s instruments. With no radios, however, you’ll have no internet access so be sure you have everything downloaded ahead of time. There is another subtle caveat here though. Most people think that Airplane Mode stops all notifications, but that’s not the case: any notifications scheduled locally by an app will still come through, including calendar alerts. Only incoming information will be blocked, like text messages or phone calls.

Do Not Disturb, on the other hand, is meant to help minimize distractions when appropriate, like overnight when you’re asleep. It stops your device from making sounds, vibrating, and turning on the screen when you get a notification. That last part isn’t as helpful if you’re using your device, but it brings up an important detail of Do Not Disturb. In the settings app, in the Do Not Disturb section, you’ll see a Silence setting at the bottom of the list. By default, notifications and sounds will only be blocked if you aren’t already using your device. That may make sense for many situations, but for musicians the “Always” option is essential.

Of course, your best option is to use all three: mute your device, turn on Do Not Disturb, and turn on Airplane Mode as well. You’ve got little to lose by being overly cautious, and nothing should be more important than your music when you’re on stage.

Performance Mode

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When you’re on stage, predictability is key. You need your pages to turn at exactly the right moment, and virtually everything else needs to just stay out of the way. That’s why we introduced performance mode with forScore 3.5.

Once activated, performance mode restricts most of forScore’s features and makes page turning much simpler: tap or swipe gestures activate the moment your finger touches the screen, so it doesn’t matter how long you press, how many fingers you use, or which direction you swipe. Simply touch the left-hand fifth of the screen to turn to the previous page, or touch anywhere else to turn to the next page. Links still work, of course, so you can still handle repeats easily.

Performance mode can be found in the tools menu, or in the second page of the main navigation bar’s title view. If you use it frequently, you can even move it over to the first page for instant access. Once activated, you can exit performance mode by tapping the blue circular “x” button in the top right-hand corner of the page.

Bonus tip: If you’re headed into a performance, be sure to activate your device’s airplane mode as well since app developers can’t prevent distracting notifications and alerts from popping up along the top of the screen.


| feature of the week

While an iPad is better than paper in many ways, its biggest disadvantage is that the device’s screen is smaller than a standard page of paper. Fortunately, a lot of things about paper become obsolete when going digital, like large white margins around the edges to ensure that your music is readable even near the binding where the pages curve inward.

Cropping is hardly a forScore-specific feature, and most people already know about it, so with today’s feature of the week we wanted to take a moment to explain a more subtle aspect of forScore’s implementation called auto-crop. When you choose “crop” from the tools menu, the first thing forScore does is try to find the margins on your page for you. It simplifies the image data and looks for light and dark areas to figure out what’s important and what’s not. Once that’s done, forScore zooms in and repositions your page to its best guess. If it’s correct, all you have to do is hit the “Crop” button and you’re done. Otherwise, you can still adjust the zoom and position of your page as needed.

We’ve done a lot of work to make this feature as accurate and quick as possible, but it’s still a best guess. Pages that are darker overall can produce false positives and auto-cropping may seem to never kick in at all, and processing this information is still too intensive to crop every page for you automatically. That’s why we do our best to get you 90% of the way there, and let you make any final adjustments as needed.

Setlist Time

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With forScore’s metadata panel, you can add all sorts of useful information to your scores and bookmarks. You may already be familiar with the Time field, which lets you specify roughly how long a piece takes to play and shows that information in most of forScore’s menus, but there’s a little more to it than that.

In the Setlists menu, you can always see how many items each of your setlists contain, but if any of a setlist’s items have their play time set it’ll add them up and also show you the total play time for that setlist. Of course, you’ll need to add in some time for applause (hopefully quite a lot!) and breaks.


| feature of the week

We’ve updated forScore a lot over the past five years. Over a hundred updates have tackled everything from minor bug fixes to major releases with dozens of new features, and we’re not stopping any time soon!

Updating apps is easy: you can download newer versions through iTunes on your Mac or PC and install them automatically the next time you sync your iPad, you can update them with the App Store app right from your device, or they can even update themselves automatically if your iPad is set up to do so.

Some people update immediately, but others prefer to wait until their performance schedules calm down so they can have some time to familiarize themselves with any changes. For those pragmatic holdouts, the Support section of the tools menu gives you an easy way to check if you’re using the latest version or not. Open it, and if your copy of forScore is outdated, an item will let you know that there’s an update available. Tap it to go right to the app store page, where you can learn more about it and install it if you’re ready.

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