Dissenting opinions…GoodReader, forScore, UnrealBook, and DeepDish Gigbook

Many thanks to L.O., who brought my attention to a post at Jazz-Sax.com.  L.O. is creating an iPad 2 classroom for his wife, who is a music teacher.  In preparing the classroom, he is trying to ascertain what the best PDF music reader is for his wife to use.  He brought this article, from earlier in July, to my attention, in which forScore, UnrealBook and DeepDish Gigbook are compared to GoodReader.

Here’s the summary statement of the article (slightly edited):

“So, why is GoodReader for iPad better? It has DropBox support, annotations, you can open multiple PDFs at the same time, it remembers where you were in the PDF, you can sync an entire folder–such as from DropBox, it recognizes embedded PDF bookmarks, and the program is updated constantly.”

I have no qualms about any PDF reader that anyone wants to use to read music.  For the record, GoodReader is $4.99, and it is on my iPad, although I don’t use it very often.  It turns pages fast, many people use it (beyond the musical field), and it is designed for reading and annotating PDF files.  It does lack many features of the PDF music readers, such as music stamps (UnrealBook), recording (forScore), metronomes (forScore and UnrealBook), music linking (forScore and UnrealBook), hotspots (forScore and UnrealBook), foot pedal operation (e.g. AirTurn or PageFlip Cicada), ability to create a PDF within the app itself (camera or note), and so on.

If I’m recommending an app specifically for music reading with PDF files, I’m still going to say UnrealBook or forScore.  Depending on who you are, you might choose either app.  As I’ve mentioned many times, but continue to do so for transparency, I am a beta tester for UnrealBook, and I have the privilege to see upcoming features in the app before they are released.  Specifically, UnrealBook still offers better control of set lists in the app (very useful when managing music for four to six choirs in a day), recording, a pitch pipe, and better overall integration with the iPad audio player (These are features that have been available to the public for some time).  All this means that I don’t need to leave the app to do certain things, which saves me time.  Without a doubt, forScore is excellent and has some features UnrealBook doesn’t, and there are some things that forScore does better than UnrealBook.  But for now, UnrealBook still has specific features that I use daily in class–that I need daily in class–that forScore doesn’t have (yet).  forScore recently added DropBox support and picture-to-PDF, two features that have been a part of UnrealBook for some time.  That’s okay–features are features, and they are added to programs as time goes on.  As a side note, forScore has been updated more than forty times since April of 2010, and UnrealBook, while not updated in the AppStore until a beta is extraordinarily stable, is under constant revision by the developer.  GoodReader is updated frequently, but I can attest that the other apps are “continuously improved” as well.

And as I’ve mentioned many times, any music reader that doesn’t have annotation isn’t of great use to me as a musician and as music teacher.  I apologize to those apps that don’t offer annotation, but that’s how I feel.  I know annotation is coming for DeepDish Gigbook–it just isn’t here yet.  DeepDish Gigbook does have one of the best organization systems I’ve seen for a PDF music reader–it just lacks other features.

In summary, I have no problem with Eric at Jazz-Sax.com preferring GoodReader as his primary reader of PDF music files.  I’d recommend GoodReader to anyone–it’s a fantastic program.  But in my opinion, as a musician, you’re better off going with UnrealBook or forScore.  All of them are $4.99 in the App Store (DeepDish Gigbook has been temporarily pulled to address a bug, so I am unable to verify the price of Gigbook this evening).

Look for an updated comparison of PDF Music Readers soon.

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