Feature of the Week

10.3: Search Notes

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Once you’ve digitized your sheet music collection and added metadata like composers and genres, finding things becomes a breeze. You can browse through forScore’s menus or use the global search panel to find scores by providing any combination of words that occur in its title or many of its metadata values.

Sometimes, though, you may remember making a note of something without remembering which score you were working with or how to get back to it. With forScore 10.3, the search panel now includes page notes (added by choosing “Notes” from the tools menu) so you can find what you’re looking for in seconds. Just type in a few characters or a phrase and you’ll see every page note that includes that query, highlighted within a larger selection of its text so you can get some context and make sure you’ve got the right thing. Tap on it to not just open the corresponding score, but to open it to that specific page.

No matter how organized your collection is, tracking down a particular page has always taken a little bit of work but now, if you’ve written something down, getting back to it is almost effortless.

10.3: Selection

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The eraser isn’t the only annotation tool that got an update last week with forScore 10.3 and forScore mini 3.3—the selection tool also gained a nice new feature: tap it once to make it the active tool, then tap again to see a detail view where you can choose whether to use the original, freeform selection method, or to use rectangular selection mode instead.

With this new mode, dragging your finger around on the screen will create a rectangle that’s formed between your starting point and current point. Lift your finger and forScore selects your drawn annotations, just like before. It’s a small thing, but it’s one more way we’ve made annotation more flexible and customizable.

10.3: Eraser

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This week we released forScore 10.3 and forScore mini 3.3, bringing full support for iOS 11 and adding some incredible new features that we’ll be talking about for weeks to come. So let’s dive in!

Annotation is a big deal for us, and we’ve spent the past seven years building, rebuilding, and expanding it to serve the needs of a wide range of musicians. We have all sorts of tools available in the annotation toolbar that let you add markings to your sheet music pages. Nobody’s perfect, of course, so there’s also an eraser tool that’s been there since the very beginning.

Speaking of imperfections, for reasons that are still a mystery to us here at forScore HQ, we never implemented eraser resizing. Well, with our latest update we have: tap to select the eraser, then tap again to show the detail panel that lets you adjust and preview the eraser’s size.

Sure, Drag and Drop may be stealing people’s hearts right now, but we know that the best apps balance big new features, tiny bug fixes, and enhancements like these to truly improve. So go on, get crazy with your annotations. When it’s time to clean up, the eraser tool has your back.

Renaming Categories

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With forScore, your menus are populated using metadata that you assign to each score. This allows scores and bookmarks to appear in multiple lists, as applicable, rather than being confined to one concrete location (as with files and folders).

If you make a spelling error or want to change a category later, however, you’ll need to change that metadata value for each of the scores or bookmarks that use them. Batch editing makes this process easier, but there’s another way to quickly rename a category: from the main menu, tap “Edit” and select the composer, genre, tag, or label you want to change and tap “rename.” Once you’ve edited the category’s name appropriately, just save it and that value will be replaced for every affected item in your library.

Metadata Auto-Completion

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Instead of relying on you to manually manage files and folders, forScore uses metadata like composers, genres, and tags to dynamically generate lists that organize your music and make your collection easily browsable. That means that in order to take full advantage of this system you’ll need to do a little bit of work up front, and features like batch editing make this process much simpler and faster.

The Metadata panel includes another set of tools that help you reuse existing values when typing in the Composers, Genres, Tags, or Labels fields. When you begin editing one of these fields, the virtual keyboard will appear with an input bar along the top that features a list button (the icon with three horizontal lines) and a “Fetch” button (learn more about this feature here). If you’re using a physical keyboard or certain page turning devices, the virtual keyboard may not show, but the input bar will still appear along the bottom of the screen.

Before you begin typing, or if you’ve added a comma to the end of the existing values to indicate that you’d like to add a new value, tapping the list button presents a popup that allows you to see all of the values that currently exist across all of the scores in your library. To use any of these values for the current score, just tap them—forScore automatically adds a comma at the end so you can tap multiple values and add them with just a few quick steps.

If you start typing, forScore checks all of the existing values for that field to see if any of them begin with the text you’ve supplied. If so, forScore filters that list to only show those results, and replaces the “Fetch” button with the highest ranking result, allowing you to use it with just one tap.

So the next time you’re adding metadata to a score in your library, don’t forget to look down at this bar as you type to see if you’ve already used that value before. If so, reusing it is quick and easy, and ensures that spelling mistakes don’t create multiple, similar items in forScore’s lists.

Permissions

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As technology grows and becomes more complex and pervasive, the need for security increases dramatically. What used to be little more than a few chat room conversations has quickly expanded to include everything from taxes and medical records to doorbell cameras and cars, so it’s no wonder Apple takes security very seriously.

Sometimes, apps like forScore can help you accomplish certain tasks more easily by accessing some information or hardware. To record yourself practicing a song and review it later, forScore needs to be able to access your microphone. To help you digitize your music on the go, Darkroom can use your device’s camera or import existing images from your Photos library. To allow you to link specific audio tracks from the Music app to pieces in your sheet music library, forScore requires access to your Music library.

The first time you use these features, iOS prompts you to decide whether or not you want to grant forScore permission to access the relevant information or hardware component. If you choose to, forScore can provide the full use of that feature. Otherwise, the feature may be limited or completely disabled.

If you accidentally make the wrong choice or change your mind later, these permissions can be controlled from within the Settings app, under “forScore.” The first three options, “Microphone,” “Camera,” and “Media & Apple Music,” each have a switch next to them that can be flipped on or off at any time to grant or revoke access, respectively.

In some ways, the magic of modern technology really comes from devices accurately predicting and responding to your needs and intentions without you even needing to express them, but when these devices can do so much there can be no “magic” when it comes to protecting your data and privacy. Sometimes, a good old fashioned on/off switch is the only way to provide the kind of explicit agreement needed to leverage these components responsibly.

Music: Settings

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As we’ve seen over the past several weeks, forScore allows you to combine sheet music and audio tracks to great effect. You can automatically queue up the right song, control playback without leaving the app, loop a specific section, and even adjust the playback pitch and speed as needed. There are a few other use cases, however, that require forScore to behave differently, and for those situations we complete our series with a look at two options in forScore’s settings panel.

By default, when you open forScore it asserts control over the device’s audio playback resources and stops any audio that’s currently playing (so it can queue up the right song, if you’ve set one up). If you prefer, forScore can defer to other audio sources and only assert control over the device’s audio system when you press the play button for a linked track. In some cases, depending on how the other app plays audio, forScore may be able to display that track’s artwork, metadata, and allow you to control playback. In this situation, you’ll see a round “x” button in the top right-hand corner of the media box that lets you interrupt playback and turn control back over to forScore.

Another option in forScore’s settings panel lets you choose to use the system’s audio engine. In order to provide advanced features like pitch and granular speed adjustments, forScore uses its own audio engine built using advanced iOS frameworks. A simpler, but less powerful way to play music works by letting iOS handle playback instead (using the “Music” app). Although the first option is more powerful, forScore’s audio engine relies on the limited resources that iOS provides the app, whereas the system engine gets priority status. In short, if you experience stuttering or audio glitches during periods of heavy activity and you don’t need the advanced adjustments provided by the in-app engine, this setting may help.

Audio playback is an essential part of the forScore experience for many people, and there’s a lot of variation in how musicians prefer to work. With these settings and all of the powerful tools available in forScore’s media box, there’s a lot of flexibility available to each customer to find their most natural way of working, listening, and playing.

Music: Replay

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When you’ve paired sheet music in your forScore library with an audio track or recording, you not only make it easier to manage playback as you practice or perform, you also unlock the ability to record page turns based on the track’s current time and allow forScore to flip pages for you during subsequent plays. We call this feature Replay.

To set it up, tap the Replay button in the media box (the page with an arrow in it) and then turn pages as the song progresses. Whenever you play that track again, as long as Replay is enabled, pages will turn themselves at the same point. While replay mode is on, small lines within the seek bar will show you where saved page turns are located, and an “x” button appears on the right-hand side of the seek bar allowing you to delete saved page turns and start from scratch.

With just a little bit of work up front, you can take advantage of this automation to save yourself time and effort every time you play that song.

Music: Adjustments

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Our exploration of forScore’s audio playback features continues today with a look at the ways you can adjust how a track is played. This can take two forms: speed adjustments (how slowly or quickly the song plays) and pitch adjustments (which key the song sounds like it’s in). Whether you can do either, and to what extent, depends a little bit on some of the nitty gritty details of iOS’ system APIs, but the rules are straightforward.

As we saw in previous posts in this series, audio can come from different sources. If you’ve linked the current score to an audio file that’s stored locally in the app’s Documents directory, or if you’re working with a recording, then forScore handles playback itself and you’ll have access to pitch adjustment as well as the complete range of speeds—from 25% up to 200% of the track’s original speed.

If you used the system’s shared Music library to pick a song, then how much control you’ll have depends on whether or not the system gives forScore read-only access to the audio file itself. This is usually the case, but if a track uses DRM or has not been downloaded to your device and playback is streamed, then forScore won’t be able to make pitch adjustments and your speed options will be limited to 50%, 75%, or 100% of the track’s original speed.

Pitch adjustments can transpose a track by up to an octave in either direction with granular control of both semitones and cents. Use the sliders to make quick changes to either, and tap the plus and minus buttons on the right-hand side of the adjustments panel to make smaller, precise changes.

These adjustments don’t change your audio tracks at all, they just change how you hear them when playing them with forScore. The adjustments can be reversed at any time, so feel free to use them as often as you like.

Music: Looping

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Continuing our series on forScore’s audio playback features, today we turn from music sources to actual usage. Once you’ve got your recordings or tracks associated with a score, you’ll want to work with them. The play, pause, and back buttons are fairly straightforward, as is the volume control slider, but there’s much more you can do.

One common example is looping: when you’re learning or practicing a specific portion of a song, it can be helpful to listen to that segment repeatedly rather than having to hear the whole track or manually seek backwards to the right spot each time. To do this, tap the loop button (two curved arrows) and you’ll see the loop points appear above and below the seek slider. The top/left loop indicator shows where your loop will begin, and the bottom/right indicator marks where it will end. Drag these indicators left or right as needed and press play. The track will begin at the beginning of your loop, and will restart back there once it reaches the end of the loop.

If you press play while the current time is set to before or after the loop points, forScore will start you off at the beginning of your loop. Otherwise, you can drag the seek slider to any time in between those points (and press play if not already) and forScore will play from that point. Press the back button while looping to return to the beginning of the loop instead of returning to the beginning of the song like it normally would.

When you’re ready to return to normal playback mode, tap the loop button again. Your loop points are saved automatically, so even though they disappear you’ll be able to reactivate loop mode at any time and pick up right where you left off.

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