Tag Archives: music scores

My iPad Journey – PDF Viewers

After getting my new-to-me iPad set up, I began searching for a solution to view my percussion scores. Since my scores are all saved as PDF’s, it just made sense that I should look for a good PDF viewer. I had a few basic requirements that a viewer would have to meet.

First, a useful PDF viewer for my intended purpose would have to include the option to scroll pages horizontally, like a book. Bonus if the scroll animation mimics an actual page turning. Secondly, the viewer would have to offer the ability to make notes right on the PDF score and save edits. This is commonly called annotating or markup. And finally, it must be able to access cloud storage. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Basic features right?

A search of the most popular/best PDF viewers for iPad yielded a starting point for apps to check out. Among those were Acrobat’s Adobe Reader and PDF Expert. Along the way, I also discovered PDF Viewer and decided to test Apple’s native Files app, as well.

The table below shows the main features I looked for and tested within each app. A few notes about the listed features: Intuitive 1 and 2 page view refers to the app displaying a single page in portrait mode and 2 consecutive pages in landscape mode automatically based on screen orientation; shapes refers to the apps ability to insert shapes, like a circle around a given count of a measure; arrows added to point out something specific in a measure, typically with a note attached to it; text – could a text note be added to the PDF; highlighter – freestyle like an actual highlighter to highlight specific musical notation and the ability to highlight printed text within the PDF.

PDF ViewerPDF ExpertAdobe ReaderFiles
Horizontal scrollingyesyesyesno
Intuitive 1 page view (portrait)yesno, must selectno, must selectno
Intuitive 2 page view (landscape)yesno, must selectno, must selectno
Page turn animationyesnonono
Score annotationyesyespaid upgradeyes
Apple pencil/fingeryesyesnoyes
Shapesyesyesnoyes
Arrowsyesyesnoyes
Textyesyesnoyes
Highlighter freestyleyesyesnoyes
Highlighter textyesyesnono
Cloud storageyesyesyesyes

As you can see, PDF Viewer checked all the boxes for me. And a bonus feature with this app is the ability to save a signature for signing documents, which most PDF apps charge for, but PDF Viewer includes with its free version. So if you’re looking for a reliable, feature-rich PDF reader that has a great free version, great for viewing and making notes on your sheet music and scores, you can’t go wrong with PDF Viewer.


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