forScore 11 release further refines the best-in-class iOS score reader

Reviews

forScore has released forScore 11, the first major update to the iOS score reader since 2016. In our recent comparison of score readers for iPad I picked forScore as the best one for most people, and that’s still the case with forScore 11. It’s largely an evolutionary update; current users may not notice much different on the surface apart from the slightly flatter icon style. However, the improvements are thoughtful, practical, and welcome. Best of all for current users, the update is free!

Universal app

Long-time forScore users may have had to download different apps for iPad and iPhone (forScore and forScore Mini, respectively). The separation predates changes Apple made to allow developers to list “Universal Apps” in the App Store that adapted dynamically to various device classes.

With version 11, forScore is a Universal app, so new users won’t have to make separate purchases for phones and tablets. This is likely a feature that will be more compelling to new users comparing forScore to its competitors than existing forScore users. The user interface has been tweaked subtly to make the typography and icons clearer as well, one of several welcome changes to make the app more flexible for supporting screens ranging from 4.7 to 12.9 inches.

Rehearsal tool updates

One of the reasons I picked forScore as the best app in its category was the easy-to-access rehearsal tools: tuner, pitch pipe, metronome, and piano keyboard. These also got some minor but very handy updates.

Users can now set tunings for these tools, quickly from inside each. It would be nice to see the tuning synchronized across the various tools (currently changing the piano to A442 Hz leaves the pitch pipe at A440 Hz), but it’s nice to have the control. Users can also now change the on-screen size of the piano keyboard, which will be very handy for adapting to those different screen sizes.

piano keyboard customization tools in forScore 11
forScore 11 allows for more customizable rehearsal tools, including setting the tuning and size of the on-screen piano keyboard.

Score-wide annotation layers

One of my biggest frustrations with annotation layers has been resolved with the new score-wide annotation layers. Layers are a powerful feature for separating different versions of markups from one another; a violinist might have one set of bowings for playing in one orchestra and a different set for another, or a collaborative pianist might have different tempo or style markings for accompanying different singers. In previous versions of forScore, these layers were created and toggled on a per-page basis, making the scenarios I described above cumbersome at best. With forScore 11, each new annotation layer covers an entire score, and toggling it on or off works for the entire score as well.

New storefront and Noteflight Marketplace integration

The “store” in forScore has long felt a bit neglected, and it has gotten a lot of attention in this update.

The new “forStore” (yes, they really use the pun) is designed in the style of the new App Store with single works, collections, and even editorial content, such as tutorials on app features and overviews of compatible hardware devices. It’s too early to say if this will continue to be fresh and useful in the months and years after launch, but it seems to lay the groundwork for a nice differentiating feature for forScore.

The works for sale include works from the Mutopia Project, which publishes public domain and Creative Commons-licensed editions. Some of these are offered free in forScore, while others are paid. Presumably, this is to support ongoing development costs of forScore, but it feels odd to charge for something that can also be downloaded directly on the web. I would personally be more interested in a store that featured offerings from a variety of major and independent publishers. Though this might be a bit redundant considering the current integration of Musicnotes as a content provider and certainly would involve a revenue split with Apple, it would be a nicer browsing experience to shop within the forScore Store rather than the Musicnotes website.

forScore 11 store
forScore’s newly redesigned store includes a handful of Public Domain scores, collections, and editorial content.

As of forScore 11.0.2, Noteflight’s content has been added to forScore’s Services panel. If you’ve already purchased music on Noteflight Marketplace, you can download your purchases directly into your library as standard PDF files.

Optional forScore Pro subscription

In another in-app purchase update, forScore 11 adds a new, optional subscription called forScore Pro. The subscription rate is $9.99 per year and includes mostly cosmetic features, including a new set of annotation stamps and custom app icons. There are two more functional benefits to forScore Pro subscribers: contextual pop-up menus that allow quicker navigation of forScore’s tools and priority customer support. I imagine that the Pro service will continue to grow more bonus features in the future.

There is an App Store policy stating that newly added app subscriptions cannot place previously free functionality behind the subscription paywall, so existing forScore users won’t be penalized for opting out. Having said that, I think it is an app that is certainly worth more than a one-time $9.99 purchase. For the value it has provided users over the last decade without paid upgrades, it certainly seems to be a small price to pay for its ongoing development, especially considering that it is a daily-use, professional tool for many of those users.

Conclusion

There are a handful of other features that you can read about in the extensive release notes from forScore. In general, these are exactly the kinds of features I would expect from a mature, professional app: not something all users need, but will quickly become essential to those who do. Overall, this is a worthy update to an already excellent piece of software that has become an integral tool for many professional and hobbyist musicians.

Updated 8:27 am with information about Noteflight Marketplace integration.

Comments

  1. Jim

    I’ve just recently purchased forScore for my new iPad Pro — a device I bought largely for the purpose of digitising my music. I’m enjoying it, but finding some irritating limitations. I don’t suppose you would know if these are things I’m missing, or if they really are absent?

    1. Half-page turns seem to be either on or off. Either every page turns half a page at a time, or none do. In my time with paper, I would typically get most pages just fine with a standard turn, and then *occasionally* have to cut for half-page turns. Is this possible in forScore?

    2. I haven’t played around a lot with how it does repeats, but they seem rather finicky. Is there a way to programme in a specific sequence of pages to travel between, or do dal segnos and repeat bars really *need* to be done with specific hotspots?

    3. I have unfortunately found the minimum pen size for annotations to be frustratingly thick, especially when annotating smaller scores.

    4. Entering annotation mode is quick and simple, which I love. But you then have to manually exit it each time to continue with rehearsal, which is frustrating. I wish it could detect taps trying to turn a page, or even better detect the Pencil has been docked and go back into normal viewing mode.

    One other point that might be worth noting is that the app’s one-off price seems to have increased. I paid equivalent of US $15, not the $10 that your previous review (and also a throwaway line in this review update) claim.

    1. David MacDonald

      Hi Jim, Thanks for reading.

      First, you’re correct that half-page turn is an app-wide setting. It’s not designed to mimic the half-cut pages you may have used on paper. It’s designed as a way of _always_ being able to see what is in the next measure. I don’t know if you’re using a page-turning pedal, but I would guess it’s only useful for those who are. Otherwise, you’re having to reach up twice as much for the same number of page turns!

      Second, do you mean links? That’s the way to handle the repeat and DS/DC markings you’re talking about. Once you get the hang of them, they’re pretty fast and easy. The alternative (which is the best way to do it for pedal-turners) is to use the “rearrange” feature of forScore to copy the page and place it in the right order, so a repeat that goes from page 3 back to page 2 might mean that you have two copies of those pages, and you’re just always turning to the right no matter what. Give it a shot; this may behave closer to what you’re expecting.

      Third, this might be the result of the size of scan you’re using? forScore scales pages to the size of the screen you’re on, so a small page size on your PDF file (which may not a problem for your printer) might make result in the behavior you’re seeing. If you’re using the default pens, you can use the slider to make the smallest one even smaller, which is pretty narrow for me on a letter-sized (8.5×11-in) scan.

      Fourth, if you’re using the regular pen all the time like me, you don’t actually have to go into Annotation mode at all. Just touch the screen with the Pencil and you’re writing with the last-used pen style. Unfortunately, you can’t erase or undo in this mode, but it’s pretty handy to make a quick mark while rehearsal is still going fast and furious.

      You’re absolutely right, that the price of the app seems to have changed since I last checked. We’ll have to update the article to reflect that.

      1. Jim

        Ah that’s a shame. I wonder how responsive the devs would be to possibly adding in the ability to use half-page turns in this way?

        Yes, I did mean links. I found them really intuitive and logical to use. The issue is mostly with the size of the target being so small that when trying to accomplish a fast page turn it’s a little finicky. Especially compared with the convenience of a tap anywhere on the right side of the screen, or a swipe anywhere at all.

        On the third point, that slider is what I was talking about. It’s not *terrible* in terms of thickness, but with how much easier it is to see a really thin red line on a screen than an equivalently thin pencil mark on paper, it’d be nice to be able to be a little more precise. This especially since even on the largest iPad, the screen is still a touch smaller than standard A4 paper. Still, this is by far the least of the issues I had.

        On the fourth point, I can’t really replicate the behaviour you describe. I pick up the Pencil and start writing on the screen, and it’s great for starting writing quickly. But that *puts it* in to annotation mode for me. I can erase by double-tapping the Pencil, but I can’t go to the next page without either tapping tiny “done” to exit annotation mode, or using the equally small “next page” button at the top.

        Thanks for the response!

        1. David MacDonald

          For what it’s worth, I’ve found the developers to be pretty responsive when I explain my use case. For example, one of my big annoyances with fS previously was the fact that annotation layers were only per-page, rather than per-score. This is changed for the latest release, and I only brought the issue up less than a year ago.

          You can actually change the size of the link bubble, though it’s not very obvious. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Link/Button Size. There are two options larger than the default. The only downsize to making them bigger is that they may be distracting.

          On the document size, I meant the size of the page being smaller than the iPad screen, not larger. If you have a “pocket score” size of PDF, the pen might be a bit small.

          On the last, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s not what happens for me. What I would like to see is the ability to have a touch gesture dismiss the menu (like a two-finger double-tap or something). There are configurable gestures, but dismissing the menu isn’t an option for one of the gesture actions.

          1. Jim

            I found out what the issue was with the last point. By default, the “Default Tool” under annotation tools is set to “None”. In this case, it seems to go by default into Annotation mode. By changing that setting to my preferred pen type, it now behaves in the way you describe.

            Thanks for the help, and the excellent reviews.

          2. Sergei

            Hello David,
            “What I would like to see is the ability to have a touch gesture dismiss the menu (like a two-finger double-tap or something). There are configurable gestures, but dismissing the menu isn’t an option for one of the gesture actions”.

            I didn’t quite understand what menu do you mean. List of items (scores)? If so, how about just tap anywhere outside of the menu?

            I like gestures. I use Two finger single tap to Open Menu. Tap and hold with two fingers to open Metadata panel.

            Unfortunately I don’t have access to three finger gestures (tap and tap and hold) because in iOS Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom I have active Zoom option, which uses taps with three fingers. So this gesture is reserved for the system, and it’s important for me because I very often want to zoom something, where pinch to zoom gesture doesn’t work. So, forScore had to mention about this moment (in Manuals, on website etc.), if some people will think why these three-finger gestures don’t work in forScore. But they didn’t.

          3. David MacDonald

            Hi Sergei,

            I meant dismissing the Annotation toolbar and returning to the score without having to find the done button. This would be particularly useful because the Done button is attached to the Annotation toolbar, which can move.

    2. Sergei

      Jim: “Half-page turns seem to be either on or off. Either every page turns half a page at a time, or none do. In my time with paper, I would typically get most pages just fine with a standard turn, and then *occasionally* have to cut for half-page turns. Is this possible in forScore?”

      Jim, it is absolutely possible in forScore (I’m surprised David didn’t offer solution). So, do this:
      1) Open the necessary page, which has to be half turned;
      2) Go to Tools > Buttons > Action > Navigation > Half-Turn;
      3) Tap on the left page location, where you want to put button. You can tap many times until to put exactly, where you want button to be placed.
      4) Tap “Save” in the upper right corner of the screen.

      Enjoy.

      You can delete buttons this way. Go to annotation mode, choose Eraser tool. Button will change its appearance to red circle. Now you can tap it to delete. Done.

    3. Sergei

      Jim: “Entering annotation mode is quick and simple, which I love. But you then have to manually exit it each time to continue with rehearsal, which is frustrating”.

      Tools > Settings > Apple Pencil > Automatically exit annotation mode

  2. Sergei

    I am surprised that they still have not added to their stamps set (available in annotation mode) quarter note heads without stems. How to make/correct chords then? Only to use eraser for extra stems. Piascore for instance has quarter note head without stem in their stamp’s kit. But forScore doesn’t, despite they have half note head without stem stamp! This is nonsense, and, of course, they are wrong.

    And I drew their attention to this problem. They even answered something, but still do not consider it necessary to add. It’s good, that it’s possible to create and add your own stamps, but not every user is skilled enough for that.

    So, I’ve created some of my own stamps based on Sibelius font style. Quarter note head without stem, Ledger lines and sharp stamp (I don’t like, how sharp stamp looks in forScore’s stamp set – narrow etc.). Here’s screenshot:
    https://i.imgur.com/a5wO9ab.jpg
    My own stamps look perfect, they are indistinguishable from Sibelius scores, thus look better, than if forScore had those stamps with their font style.

    In general I like forScore 11 update. For example all icons (their lines) are now thicker, and fonts are also bolder. I hope this fashion on extremely thin cutting-eye lines and fonts in interfaces will go away soon.

    1. David MacDonald

      Hi Sergei,

      It’s true that there are no stemless noteheads in forScore’s stamp set. I actually don’t see one for a half note either. And in fact, they _did_ include a larger set of stamps for forScore Pro subscribers, these are largely for analysis. (There are a full complement of Roman numerals, for example.) I agree that it would be great to see an easier way to import stamps, especially a bulk import. I could imagine some kind person making a set for various particular uses, like harp pedalings, figured bass, etc.

      1. Sergei

        Hello David,
        “I actually don’t see one for a half note either”.

        Oh yes. Probably that stemless half note also made and imported in forScore by me… :)

  3. Sharon Davis

    This might be slightly off topic, but in 2 up landscape mode on an Ipad Pro, is is possible to display two DIFFERENT pdfs side by side. I have a set list which includes several single page charts As some multipage ones too), and I’d like to be able to see what’s coming up next while I’m playing. I’m not keep to turn them into one giant pdf, as there will no doubt be changes to be made to individual songs, and I like the flexibility of just updating individual songs in Sibelius and replacing them in Forscore as required.

    1. Sergei

      I think now it’s not possible. But Apple just announced iOS 13 and iPadOS, which will be available in September. And it will be possible to use the same app in Split View mode. From Apple’s website:
      “Multiple windows from the same app
      You can now open multiple windows from the app in Split View. Perfect for working on two notes or Pages documents, viewing two maps, or organizing files in the Files app.”

  4. Sharon Davis

    Thanks Sergei

    1. Sergei

      You’re welcome. By the way, I wrote the answer, keeping in mind that you know about the function of tabs in forScore. Maybe it could be an alternative for now? Plus, it would allow using full-screen in portrait orientation for scores.

      http://forscore.co/kb/using-tabs-to-view-multiple-files-in-forscore/

      http://forscore.co/kb/using-tabs/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *