Feature of the Week

10.3: MIDI Playback

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MIDI, the eponymous digital musical language, is a bit of a chameleon. It’s a way of describing musical activity, but in practice that can take several different forms: it can be used to send keystrokes from a keyboard to software that responds almost immediately by producing sound, or it can be used to communicate tempo changes and setup information—like telling that software to use a different sound bank.

It can also be used to save and recreate songs at a later date, much like an audio track such as an MP3 file. Instead of including actual sound information, however, MIDI songs are a record of musical events—this note was pressed with this velocity, this pedal was released, and so on. When software is asked to “play” that information back, it reproduces those actions faithfully but can use any of the sound banks at its disposal to produce results that may sound like they were played on an entirely different instrument. Certain kinds of software can even try to represent that information visually, as sheet music.

With forScore 10.3.4, we added the ability to import, link, and play back MIDI files just like you’ve already been able to do with other audio tracks. You can play them back, add automatic track turns, loop sections, and adjust their playback speed. The first time you try to play a MIDI file you’ll be prompted to download a small sound bank from our servers, then you’ll be ready to go.

Whether you’re using a MIDI device to control forScore’s features and page turns, using score-specific commands, sending messages with buttons, reusing common commands with presets, or using forScore to produce piano sounds as you play, there’s something for everyone in this diverse language. And now, we can add one more: MIDI file playback.

10.3: PDF Annotations

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For several years now forScore has had the ability to display embedded PDF annotations. These additional pieces of information are stored within PDF files, but they’re generally added later—after the file has already been created. Some are pixel-perfect, like images, and others are more symbolic: it’s up to each app to decide how to reproduce them faithfully on your screen.

Our presentation of these annotations has always accommodated page adjustments like margin reduction and cropping, but with forScore ten’s ability to skew pages these annotations were left out due to the complexity of rotating and repositioning them accurately. With forScore 10.3 we made the necessary layout changes to allow these kinds of annotations to be appropriately placed even atop skewed pages, so now you can adjust your pages without sacrificing anything.

For users running iOS 9 or 10, that’s pretty much the end of the story. With iOS 11 and the introduction of PDFKit, however, our support for these annotations was largely made redundant—now we simply let iOS do all of that work for us, providing you with broader support for annotation types and renditions that are more in line with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem.

We never know what Apple is planning and it’s always a risk to develop new features or to build out support for something only to have them come along with something better, but that’s the cost of progress. In the end, our customers get better results and we have less code to maintain. That’s obsolescence we can live with.

10.3: Item Pickers

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Whether you’re adding scores to batch edit them in the Metadata panel, choosing a specific song or setlist to track with Dashboard goals or reports, or appending their pages with the Rearrange tool, the item picker is the tool you use. This picker is a list view that’s similar to the Scores menu but more specific and narrowly focused. There are no arrow buttons and no edit mode or any of its related functions, but things that help you find what you’re looking for quickly—the search bar and filters—are ready should you need them.

It’s a small thing, but in 10.3 we made the item picker a little better by showing additional information such as rating, difficulty, key, and duration for any score that has such metadata. It’s not game-changing, but now when you’re looking for a specific version of a piece you won’t have to rely on its title alone to make sure it’s the right one.

10.3: Importing

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Sharing files between apps is one of the most essential and fundamental parts of working on an iPad. A device focused so heavily on single-purpose tasks needs to play well with others, so almost from the start iOS has offered the “open in…” feature that lets you share your content in a variety of ways. You might, for example, open a PDF in Safari and then choose to send a copy of it to forScore.

These days Drag and Drop is all the rage, and it works very similarly under the hood (even if the way you use it seems entirely different). Drag one or more compatible files from an app right into forScore and drop them onto the page or into a setlist to add a copy to your library. Unlike the old “open in…” method, Drag and Drop lets you import multiple files at once, which leads us to this week’s feature: conflict management.

Sure, it’s not a big front-of-the-box feature, but conflict management is an important part of any file-based app. When you import a file and another file already exists in your forScore library with that name, you’re now prompted to overwrite, duplicate, or skip files with conflicting names. This works just like it always has with the Services panel, but now it’s built right into forScore’s main view and many of its menus. Whether it’s just one file or a set of three with two conflicts, you’ll only be prompted once so you can pick what you need and let forScore do the rest.

10.3: Unlinking Recordings

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forScore’s audio file picker—available from within the Metadata panel’s Audio tab—lets you view and manage audio tracks you’ve imported into your library and allows you to link them to any of your scores or bookmarks, giving you automatic queueing and easier playback control. When you create a recording, however, things work a little differently.

Recordings are automatically linked to the current score or bookmark the moment they’re created. They’re only available to that same piece, and they’re deleted once you remove them from that piece. If you open the audio file picker while viewing that same score or bookmark you’ll see it listed at the top under “recordings,” but as soon as you navigate to any other piece it’ll disappear.

If you prefer to work with recordings just as you would with imported audio files, just swipe from right to left over the recording in the audio file picker and choose “unlink.” You’ll still be able to access the recording and control playback from the piece you created it with, but you’ll also be able to add it to other scores or bookmarks in your library and, if you remove it from any one piece, the file will remain in your library instead of being deleted.

10.3: Quick Peek

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When we started this series over two-and-a-half years ago (has it really been that long?), we picked one of our favorite features, Quick Peek. Built into most of forScore’s menus, it’s an easy way to preview a score before opening it by tapping and holding the item until the preview appears. Tap the thumbnail image to open the score or bookmark, or tap the + button in the bottom right-hand corner to open it in a new tab.

A few things were changed in iOS 11, though, and that tap and hold gesture is now used by iOS for Drag and Drop, so we had to come up with a new way of invoking this helpful feature. Now, instead of tapping and holding the item with one finger, do the same thing with two fingers instead.

Since that’s not the most obvious gesture (these days all the good ones are taken), we added a second way to preview your items. Just as you’ve always been able to swipe from right to left over a table cell to show the “delete” action, forScore 10.3 features a similar “peek” action on the other side that you’ll see when swiping from left to right. You can use a short swipe to show this item and then tap it to see the preview, or you can just swipe all the way across the cell to invoke Quick Peek with one quick motion.

Times change, conventions evolve, but have no fear—Quick Peek hasn’t gone anywhere. We use it all the time and, judging by how many people wrote to us to ask us about this change, so do you!

10.3: Links & Buttons

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Two kinds of controls, links and buttons, provide a lot of power and flexibility in how you work with your scores. The Links feature, which allows you to easily handle repeats, is one of forScore’s oldest and most beloved features. Buttons, which were added later, look similar but can do all sorts of things like start and stop an audio track, send MIDI commands, or control the metronome.

If you’ve used either of these features before, you may have found that their control size isn’t exactly to your liking. Whether you find them a little too small or bigger than you’d prefer, with forScore 10.3 you can adjust their diameter by choosing from four options in the Accessibility section of forScore’s settings panel (in the “Link/Button size” submenu).

These controls are incredibly handy and powerful, and we don’t want a lack of usability to stand in the way of everything they can help you do. If you ever found them too hard to tap, tweak this setting and give them another shot.

10.3: Search Settings

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As we’ve discussed over the past several weeks, forScore’s global search panel has gained quite a few new abilities in version 10.3. With all of these new ways of finding things, though, it’s more important than ever that the search panel remains the best and fastest way to find exactly what you’re looking for.

With that in mind, we added a new “Search” section to forScore’s settings panel that lets you control which sorts of results appear, how they’re prioritized, and more. When you open the search panel but haven’t typed any characters into the search bar, you’ll see the five scores or bookmarks you most recently viewed. That number is now customizable, so you can see as many as you like (or even none, if you prefer).

The next section in this new settings panel lets you decide how forScore finds things and which sorts of characteristics or results are most important to you. By default, forScore prioritizes score and bookmark titles, then their text (page notes or text annotations), and then their metadata. Finally, forScore presents other kinds of results such as setlists and common actions and tools. You can disable any of these things here, or you can drag them up and down to prioritize them so they show up higher in the list of results.

A new feature in 10.3 that we haven’t explored yet is related to searching, although it’s not actually found within the Search panel. When you create a new bookmark within a text-based PDF file in your library, forScore can search that PDF’s contents to see if the text you’re supplying in the Title field occurs anywhere. If it does, it lets you see each page where that text is present so you can find the right spot and set your start page with just a tap. The third section in the new search section in the settings panel lets you disable this feature if you like.

There are a lot of ways forScore can help you find what you’re looking for, but only you can decide what’s important and what isn’t based on your content and how you use forScore. These new settings help ensure that the advanced and powerful searching capabilities we’ve developed are put to good use so that you can get in, find your content as quickly as possible, and get to playing.

10.3: Search PDF Text

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The Search panel’s new text results in forScore 10.3 include page notes and text annotations, as we’ve seen, but there’s a third and final source: your PDF file’s actual content.

Unlike text annotations or page notes, which are stored independently of your scores within forScore’s database, a PDF’s text is embedded within that file. Up until now, forScore hasn’t been able to peer inside files to reliably find words and phrases, but with iOS 11 it’s now possible.

There are two important caveats, however. First, PDF text searching only works for files that were created using fonts and text, not for PDFs that use images instead (like scans). Also, since forScore has to load your file into memory to look through its contents, PDF text search is limited to the file you’re currently viewing and doesn’t work across your entire library in the way that page notes and text annotations do.

Those two concerns aside, PDF text searching is a great way to find a specific page quickly and easily. No more squinting at thumbnails or jumping back to a table of contents page, just type in a few characters and you’re on your way.

10.3: Search Text Annotations

| Feature of the Week

Last week we saw how you can use forScore’s global search panel to find notes you’ve made per page—across your entire library—in just a few seconds. That’s not all, though, because version 10.3 also adds the ability to search the content of any text annotations you’ve made on each page. Just like with page notes, text annotation results are listed by title and page number, with your query highlighted and a bit of text surrounding it so you can get some context and make sure you’re selecting the right thing. That’s all for this week’s quick feature (those new versions don’t create themselves, you know!) but we’ll be back next Friday with even more.

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