I have been trying to find a good program for managing my PDF sheet music library. I need a program with easy scrolling using PgUp and PgDn (for use with a USB foot pedal) and good inking for making notations in the music. The closer to free the better. I have tried several programs and finally settled on one that I think will work well for my personal performance and practice library.
First, the things that didn’t work:
OneNote is great for inking, making clear and smooth notations in the music. The problem is that it is terrible for scrolling. It doesn’t seem to see the jog dial on the side at all for smooth scrolling through an imported PDF. It will see commands from PgUp and PgDn, but it seems to want to move through imaginary text fields to the side of the music and keeps pushing the actual sheet music part of the document off center. OneNote just leaves too much space around an imported document. Great for taking notes, but terrible for keeping the music front and center. OneNote will be spectacular for taking notes on the imported Suzuki books when I’m at the institute, but it will not work for real world playback.
Foxit is a fabulous lightweight and free PDF reader. It has a great full screen mode which lets the music fill all the available screen space. The jog dial can then be used to turn pages forwards and backwards really easily. It could also be easily controlled by a foot pedal sending PgUp and PgDn. Where Foxit falls short is in the notation department. It has annotation tools, which is great for a free program. The problems come in the way it handles smoothing the inked input. For some reason, it seems to want to cut off the first chunk of any line I draw. An up bow V turns into more of a check mark. A tiny 1 for a fingering disappears almost entirely. There is little customization for the pencil tool also. I was able to change the color and thickness, but no matter what I tried, it cut off the first part of any stroke. This rules it out for being a useful tool to track markings for performance.
My favorite program for Linux on a Tablet, xournal is great for marking up PDFs. Sadly it is out for the simple fact that PDF rendering in Windows is terrible. The staff lines are jagged making it harder to read. If I were running linux on the tablet, it would be my program of choice. But as it is, the SSD is only big enough for one OS right now, and Windows is needed for some of the hardware functions.
And the winner is:
Surprise! The free program that is included in all the tablet accessories turns out to be ideal. When you first open it, it offers to install a printer for importing anything you can print into Journal. It’s the only way to get a PDF in. I open the PDF in Foxit, choose print, then choose the Journal Printer. That creates a very nice file in Windows journal that fills the screen while being only the size of the music. That means navigation is as easy as telling it to fit to width and then using PgUp and PgDn. The inking is on par with OneNote as this is also a Microsoft product geared towards the active pen input of a tablet. As a nice bonus, Windows Journal comes with many templates, one of which is staff paper! Now I can draw out scales or new little exercises for my students without having to remember to bring my own staff paper! I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted to write out a little exercise or a new scale, but I didn’t have blank staff paper with me.
The only drawback I found to Windows Journal, is that it doesn’t export to PDF. I found a neat free Print to PDF program, called doPDF, that just installs itself as a printer and allows you to create a PDF through the print dialogue. Now I’m wondering if Windows Journal and some good folder organization would be enough to keep my student notes in addition to keeping a music library.