EZ PDF Reader Pro (for Android!)

Although I'm an iPad user, I teach at a school that is not iPad 1-to-1, and I have students in my choirs (and in our fall musical) that would like to tap into digital resources on other devices–usually the Amazon Kindle Fire. I would imagine that we'll only see more of these devices when the HD Kindles are released in the coming weeks (both the 7″ and 9″ versions)–and eventually some Android manufacturer is going to make a mainstream Android tablet that students want to buy and start bringing to school. I still maintain that widescreen tablets (whether Android or the upcoming Windows 8 models) are an oddity as tablets are meant to bridge the world between paper and computing.

The number one use for a digital device in a music setting is as a music reader–choir, band, orchestra, guitar, or general music. The iPad is blessed with many PDF music readers (including the stellar forScore and unrealBook offerings) as well as notation-software specific apps (Finale Songbook, Avid Scorch, MuseScore) and sheet music store offerings. Unfortunately, these resources don't exist for the Android platform. It is unknown if they will exist on Windows 8 tablets.

In the past, I've reviewed MobileSheets, a PDF music reader for Android. The only problem with MobileSheets is that it does not allow for annotation. I'm very vocal about the idea that the ONE thing a digital music reader needs–other than the ability to display content–is annotation. Technology for the Classical Singer recently recommended EZ PDF Reader, so I decided to buy the app ($2.99 on sale) on my HP TouchPad which is running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (v. 4.0.4), and to give it a try.

What you get is with EZ PDF Reader Pro a PDF reader with notation capability and bookmarking capability. The annotation works quite well, and the bookmarks also work well–to a point (you can't edit them, only add or delete them). There is no way to add a “hot spot” or “link” on a page, so a piece with a D.S. or repeated section might require some rearrangement on a desktop/notebook computer before being brought to the app. The app also includes Dropbox integration, which is a nice feature. The annotation bar stays on the screen at all times (and is frighteningly small on an Amazon Kindle Fire), but can be made larger, and more importantly, nearly transparent. You can scroll quickly through a piece with a scroll bar on the bottom of the screen (above the preexisting, ever-present Android bar) if you are not in “bookmark” mode (although bookmarks do appear in this mode with a “ribbon”). As far as I can tell, there is no way to create a playlist or set list, or to attach audio files to a score.

Page turns in EZ PDF Reader Pro are generally fast…if you give each page the time to “cache” the next page. If you want to turn a lot of pages at a time, EZ PDF Reader can't keep up–a very different experience than forScore or unrealBook on the iPad. In comparison, MobileSheets seemed to be able to handle multiple page turns with a faster draw. Again, this is on my HP TouchPad, which was never truly “designed” to run Android, and the experience on a “real” Android tablet might be better.

The obvious missing component of EZ PDF Reader Pro, other than “hotspots” and playing audio, is a manual. I was able to search and find a manual, but the manual was sparse and didn't go into details. The manual does not seem to be at the developer's website, nor is it embedded in the program. I think that is a major oversight on the part of the developers. You find the manual for forScore and unrealBook embedded in the program, and both companies/developers take great care to make sure that the manual explains all the aspects of the app.

If you have an Android-based device and you want to use it for sheet music (and annotate), EZ PDF Reader may be one of your only options. It is worth a look, along with MobileSheets (I am not sure if MobileSheets is on the Amazon Kindle Fire Store). At $2.99, it is a possible solution that won't break the bank if it doesn't work out for you.


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