Dorico for iPad 2.0 brings over many desktop features, plus annotations

Reviews

Steinberg has released Dorico 2.0 for iPad, a major update to the app that shares many features with its desktop counterpart.

When Dorico launched on the iPad at the end of July last year, we were told that the new touch-based version of the app was being developed in parallel with the desktop version. We saw the results of this just a few weeks ago when “Big Dorico” 4 was released, including many features and workflows from the iPad version. With today’s release of Dorico for iPad 2.0, it’s clear that this is a two-way street. Many of the additions in Dorico 4 are now available on the mobile platform, as well as a bonus surprise: freehand annotation for marking up scores in Read mode.

From the desktop

I won’t mention all of the features that have made there way over to the iPad, but here are a few highlights that are particularly welcome. (For a detailed description of these features and how they work, please read our review of desktop Dorico 4.)

Insert mode and stop position: Just as on Windows and Mac, Insert mode on the iPad now allows users to set the “scope” of the score that is impacted. This allows inserting material in one voice or player without affecting others. You can also set a Stop Position, after which no changes will be made.

Capo position on fretted instruments: Fretted instruments can also now take into account capo position when working with tablature and fingerings. This pairs really nicely with the fretboard note entry method, which is particularly well suited to the touch interface of the iPad. Interestingly, the fretboard entry was first introduced on Dorico for iPad last July, then brought over to the desktop in January where the capo tools were added, and now it is returning with those improvements to the iPad! This is a great example of each — Mac, Windows, and iPadOS — all benefiting from the development of the others.

Instrument filters: Another desktop improvement that will be particularly handy on the iPad is the ability to filter instruments in Galley View. Scores with lots of players can quickly become unwieldy in Galley View, which is compounded by the smaller display size of the iPad. I haven’t used Instrument Filters much on my 27-inch iMac, but I expect to find them quite handy on my smaller iPad screen.

Jump bar: The way of quickly searching for and commands and menus and triggering their actions in Dorico 4, known as the Jump bar, has also been ported to the portable platform. (Sibelius users will find it broadly similar to the way that app’s Command Search works.) One limitation here is that the Jump bar is a keyboard-centric feature, so it isn’t available on iPad unless you are connected to a hardware alphanumeric keyboard.

Jump Bar floating over the score.
The Jump Bar on the desktop and on the iPad are nearly identical.

The Jump bar is a powerful way of controlling Dorico, and for many desktop users, a favorite new feature in Dorico 4. It seems that with the addition of a button or gesture to access it, it could be made available even without a connected physical keyboard, simply by recalling the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. Perhaps if lots of users think this could be useful, such an accommodation could be made in the future.

Just for iPad: Annotations and Split View

There are a couple of new features that are specific to iPad hardware and software: Annotations and Split View.

Annotations

Now in Dorico for iPad, users can use an Apple Pencil to annotate a score or part in Read mode. Read mode was introduced with the launch of Dorico for iPad, and acts as a minimal score-reader built into Dorico (it’s accessed from a drop-down menu that appears when you tap or touch the hamburger menu at the top right of a Dorico project).

Currently, annotation tools are limited to a pencil tool and a highlighter (and an eraser). Each of these can be used to write or draw freely on top of a score. This could be performance annotations, analysis, or simply to mark corrections to be made in score later. These annotations are only visible in Read mode. Returning to Write or Engrave modes makes them invisible, and in my testing, annotations seem to be locked to the page, so editing a score that has annotations can lead to a bit of a mess when you return to Read mode.

The freehand annotations in Dorico’s Read mode are useful but limited.

As a user of many other iPad markup apps, I find the annotation tools to be a bit too simple to be useful in most cases. They are limited to just four predetermined colors, which would be OK if they weren’t also limited to just one stroke width, so if you want to highlight something smaller than the default highlighter size or write neatly in a margin with the pencil tool, you’re out of luck.

Palm rejection, which allows you to rest your hand on the screen as you would while writing on a sheet of paper, is also bit ham-fisted (ham-palmed?), in that you might trigger a page turn when resting your palm on the page before you start annotating, and in general is a bit jumpy, so this will need refinement to meet the expectations that users have with other score reading apps that are more sophisticated with this feature.

The annotations themselves have a relatively low pixel resolution compared to the beautiful hi-res notation symbols in the score and the Dorico UI, making them look chunky and jaggy by comparison.

The eraser only erases entire strokes, so if you accidentally draw a line too long, you have to erase and draw it all over again rather than just shortening it a bit with the eraser. Though, thankfully if you do accidentally erase something, there’s also an undo button in the annotations tools.

On balance, I’m glad to see the annotation tools here in Dorico, and I hope they continue to see improvement moving forward. In addition to my quibbles above, I hope there will eventually be a way to at least view them (if not add more) on the desktop. I can imagine a workflow of writing on my Mac, then marking up errors on my iPad, and returning to the Mac to make corrections. Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury acknowledged this in today’s announcement, so it’s on their radar: “At the moment, they only appear in Read view in Dorico for iPad, but we are considering whether and how to show these annotations in Dorico for macOS and Windows, as we know this could be useful not only for live performance use cases, but also for proof-reading and corrections.”

Split View

One more seemingly small but helpful iPad-specific improvement is the addition of Split View. This allows users to have Dorico open side-by-side with another app. This is a handy way to see reference material, like a scan of a manuscript, lyrics text, or an orchestration guide.

Split View in Dorico for iPad with a reference book on the left
Dorico for iPad on the left, in Split View with MarginNote, so that I can refer to Samuel Z. Solomon’s How to Write for Percussion while editing a timpani part.

Subscription updates

Some of the new features mentioned above, including instrument filters, the note transformation tool, and the new annotation features, all require a subscription (currently $3.99/mo. or $39.99/yr. in the U.S.). This rate is a good bargain for the features provided in Dorico for iPad, and with today’s release there are a couple of notable changes to the way the subscription works.

First, there is now an introductory period with new subscriptions before you’re charged (7 days for the monthly subscription; one month for the annual subscription). This allows you to test out the features before committing to spend money.

Second, subscriptions to Dorico now support Family Sharing. Previously, members of a family each had to purchase separate subscriptions to Dorico on iPad. Apple first introduced the option for developers to support subscriptions shared across families in late 2020, so this is a relatively new feature, and another welcome change to Dorico’s licensing.

Conclusions and what’s next

On the whole, this is a load of impressive features coming in a significant update just a few months after the initial iPad release and just a few weeks after the last major desktop release.

In the blog post announcing today’s update, Daniel Spreadbury writes a bit about what’s next for the iPad app, including “iCloud and ‘Open In Place’ support, to continue to refine the touch-based interactions, and more besides…”. This is good news, since as I mentioned in my initial review of Dorico for iPad, round-tripping files between Dorico on the iPad and on the desktop is usually more trouble than it’s really worth. And refining the way Dorico handles touch and the pointer would likely make it feel more at home on the iPad than it currently does.

If you’re using Dorico on iPad now, this is an update to be excited about, and of course, as a subscription product, there is no additional charge to obtain it if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re mostly a desktop Dorico user, some of these features might be worth taking for a spin on an iPad. And even if you’re not an iPad owner, this release following so close behind the Dorico 4.0 release — to say nothing of 4.0.10 just last week — is a clear demonstration that iPad isn’t holding back the desktop development as some users had feared. As the aphorism goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.


For the latest information about compatibility for Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, and MuseScore, as well as links to the latest news and reviews about product releases, please see the Scoring Notes Product Guide.

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