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!
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.
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.
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.
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.