feature of the week

10.2: Dropbox

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Applications like forScore communicate with services like Dropbox through an API (which defines how to talk to their servers and understand its responses), and a framework (prepackaged code that can be reused by developers so they don’t all have to write their own, very similar code).

Dropbox provides several frameworks for different types of services that they provide, and over the years these services have changed and evolved. In order to provide new functionality, Dropbox has since created a new API, version 2, and later this year they’ll be turning off the original version. In other words, their servers will no longer respond to the kinds of messages that they used to.

Since we introduced Dropbox support in forScore 3, we’ve been using their framework based on this older API. Last year they told developers about these upcoming changes, so we sat down to upgrade from that older framework to the newer version. As we did, it became increasingly clear that the tradeoffs were too high. We were including code in our app that could support every conceivable aspect of Dropbox’s service, even though we were only using a portion of it.

Just because a company provides a framework, however, doesn’t mean that you have to use it. The API itself is public, so if you choose to you can write your own version that does just what you need and nothing more. That’s exactly what we did in forScore 10.2, and the results are striking. With code that’s orders of magnitude simpler, we can provide the same functionality as before, based on the new API, that protects your security and privacy.

But this isn’t Under The Hood Improvements of the Week, it’s Feature of the Week, and we’re not going to disappoint. New in forScore 10.2, you can monitor your Dropbox account’s available storage without leaving the app. Tap Edit, then tap “My Account” in the top left-hand corner of the Services panel to see this information.

Better, newer, simpler, and all without losing anything (except the baggage).

10.2: Downloads

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So much of our digital lives revolves around shared storage and documents, so it’s no wonder that forScore’s Services panel plays a big role in helping users work effectively. With forScore 7.1 we replaced the Dropbox panel with a much more powerful alternative that introduced support for additional services like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and more. We got a lot of things right with that significant rewrite, and most of the Services panel is the same today as it was back then, but we’re always looking for ways to improve and the biggest one is the ability to download items and add them to a setlist in one step.

We added this ability in forScore 9.4, allowing users to tap “Edit” and select one or more compatible files, then tap and hold the download button to choose to download them, download them to the current setlist (if applicable), or download them to a specific setlist. This worked well, but wasn’t very discoverable, so in forScore 10.2 we’ve removed the long press altogether and now show these options any time the download button is tapped. Downloading a single file is as simple as it has ever been, since you don’t need to use Edit mode at all: just tap an item and it downloads. Downloading several items at once takes an extra step, but on the whole we think this change strikes a better balance between efficiency and functionality.

Another thing people often do in the Services panel is download everything in a folder at once. You can go through the list tapping every item individually, but the easier method is to enter Edit mode, use the circled check mark to select everything, then tap the Download button. The second step isn’t always obvious to everyone, however, so in forScore 10.2 we removed that requirement. If you’re in edit mode and tap the Download button with nothing selected, forScore selects everything for you automatically and then asks you what you’d like to do with those files. It’s a little thing, but it can be a big help for new users.

10.2: Setlist Creator Sorting

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When we design a panel or a menu, we spend a lot of time thinking about the way it’s organized. We want to put the most important information and functions in the most visible or easily accessible places, and work our way out from there. This can be a difficult balance to strike, but it becomes even more troublesome when adding features to an existing interface. Maintaining familiar positioning of all existing elements while adding new elements that don’t feel out of place can be tricky, and the Setlist Editor is a good example of this.

For the Setlist Editor, we created two columns: your setlist on the left, and a score browser on the right. That score browser was essentially a duplicate of forScore’s main menu, showing all of your categories like specific composers and genres, and allowing you to select one to see its scores.

Consistent feedback from customers told us that this didn’t go far enough, however, and that more people expected to see the complete list of scores from the start. The ability to browse by category was still essential, so we blended these ideas together to try and get the best of both worlds. The main menu shows all of your scores by default, and it can show a list of your composers, genres, tags, or labels—just like you’d expect.

Things got a little more complicated because, unlike most score lists which use the sort bar at the top to let you change how the list is ordered, the sort bar in this case was already used to switch between the “All Scores” list and the different types of categories. So in forScore 10.2 we worked around this awkward limitation by adding sort options as a button in the top left-hand corner of the menu instead. When the “All Scores” list is visible in this root menu, tap this button to change the list’s sort order. It looks a little different, but it works the same way.

10.2: Dual Page Mode

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One of our absolute favorite new features in forScore 10.2 and forScore mini 3.2 is Dual Page Mode. This new mode works exclusively with our Cue app (version 1.4 or newer required), allowing you to see two pages side-by-side on two separate devices.

Using forScore on your primary device, tap the Cue icon and select “Dual Page Mode” and launch the standalone Cue app on your secondary device. Choose “Connect” once the prompt appears, and after a few moments you’ll see the next page appear, complete with any annotations you’ve added. Pages turn two at a time while using Dual Page mode, so you’ll go from pages 1-2 to 3-4, then 5-6, etc. If you start on page 2, you’d see 2-3, then 4-5, etc.

Centuries of precedent mean that you’ll instinctively want to turn the page by reaching for the right side of the secondary device, so we extended page turning gestures to both screens. That way, no matter which side you reach for, things will work just like you’d expect. No re-training necessary.

Since forScore is so much more than a PDF reader, there are interactive elements that we just couldn’t live without. With Dual Page mode, Links and Buttons work across devices, so you can tap a link on page 1 to see it flash on page 2, or tap a link or button on the secondary device to use it just like you would on your primary device. It’s very cool to use, and we think it’s one of those incredibly important details that really transform this nifty proof of concept into a real tool that musicians with an extra device can leverage to full effect.

10.2: Cue Panel

| feature of the week

Cue is one of the best examples of the kinds of things you can do with a digital sheet music reader that are simply not possible with paper. Our remote control system lets one forScore act as a leader, navigating to scores and turning pages as needed, and other users follow along automatically.

Setting up a Cue session has always been very straightforward: tap the Cue icon, choose your role, and then wait. Apple’s frameworks begin searching for nearby devices, connecting to other available forScore users as soon as possible. From there, we use these connections to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Unfortunately, wireless networking is never foolproof and sometimes connections simply fail. Even when things work perfectly, it can be helpful to see which devices are connected and perhaps even disconnect a specific one. In forScore 10.2, we added a new Cue panel that helps in these situations. It shows your device’s current status, any—if you’re leading—lists nearby devices and their current status (you can manually connect to any available device or disconnect from a connected device).

Best of all, it’s still just as easy to set up a new Cue session: tap the Cue icon once to choose your role and the system will begin browsing. Tap the icon a second time and you’ll see the new Cue panel, allowing you to change roles, manage connections, or disconnect entirely. Power when you need it, simplicity when you don’t.

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