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Digital Sides via iPad and/or...

Jan McL

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On some kind of mythical, possibly Quixotic journey to get marked up sides onto the iPad.



  • Easiest way to highlight the sides from .pdf script and export to iPad app cable of interfacing with Bluetooth page-turning hardware pedal (PageFlip Firefly $109/two AA batteries is the hardware I chose).
  • ForScore is the first and only PageFlip-compatible app I've tried. Pretty good, but would prefer an app better suited for highlighting in many colors. This one requires I hand-build all the highlighter colors and is clunky when switching pages (you have to get out of highlighting mode first) and clunky to change colors. Moot if there's an app made specifically with highlighting with many colors in mind.

    Here are currently-listed compatible iPad apps:

    forScore, unrealBook, Deepdish GigBook, DrumSetlist Manager, Hymnals, iCue, iGigBook, iReal b, Loopy, Loopy HD, MuseScore Sheet Music Viewer, Music Binder, MusicReader, MusicPodium, My Lyric Book, NextPage, NextSong, OnSong, PiaScore HD, Play On Cue, Pocket Jamz Guitar Tabs, Pocket Jamz Piano Notes, PrompterPal, SampleWiz, Avid Scorch, Scorio Music Case, SeeScore, Finale SongBook, Sheet Music Direct, Scorecerer, Set List Maker, Setlists, Steinway Etude, TheGigEasy, Virtual Sheet Music, Teleprompt+, and Planning Center Online

    Here are the compatible Android apps:

Android: MobileSheets, MusicNotes, SongBook, Fakebook, Lyrics Flipper+, Moon+ Reader, EBookDroid, Cool Reader, ezPDF Reader, and any other keyboard-compatible app.

  • Tried GoodReader .pdf app for highlighting. As with most, it can import docs from Dropbox, email, etc., but again it's not so friendly when changing colors 'cause you have to 'save' the pink on the page before changing to green on the same page. One would benefit from doing all of the 'orange' for the whole script, then all the 'pink', then...

    A screenshot from GoodReader's highlight operation:


Tried PDFPen, a paid Mac application I got to digitally sign .pdf's and works OK, and easier for me to deal with on the laptop (as opposed to iPad). Imagine there's a better application for that OS.

Preview only offers a few highlighter colors but words very well otherwise.


Here's a video exploration of the above-referenced tools:


Typing out the issues helped; thanks :)


Anybody successfully doing this yet?

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Not sure if you could get it to work with your page turner, but recently, I've become a BIG fan of Notability (for iOS).

It will at least handle the highlighting for you in an elegant way.

I also use it for general note taking, sketching, etc. it's wonderful for scouts as you can snap photos from within the app, and easily add notes and captions.

I think it costs around $3, which is a total steal (in my opinion)

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Ditto on Wyatt's comments on Notability. Very easy interface and color coding is pretty simple. I know a sit com mixer who uses it regularly - he used to mark his printed script with boom hand off notations in pencil. i.e Boom 1, 2, 3, Greenbed, plant etc.

He's never looked back.


A foot pedal for page changes is interesting, although perhaps adding some complication.

I'd rather use a foot pedal the way Ed Greene does, as his audience microphone master.



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I use neu.annotate for ios. Sounds german, but it's not. You can draw with you hand or using the keyboard. And you can then export the annotated file. It's very simple to use. I have the same, or similar, foot pedal and it's not compatible. At the moment I mostly use neu.annotate, and just don't use the pedal. So basically, I'm on the same quest as you are, Jan

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On the way! Thanks, y'all. 


Seems like this is going to have to be a two-step process: one for marking up, another for foot-pedal turning.


Field test of NOTABILITY ipad markup app:


Here's a screen shot of a Notability markup viewed in ForScore. Decided to mark up an entire 30-page script to see how the hand-eye coordination would improve with use, going between two-fingered scrolling and single-finger highlighting. That went fine. Took about a minute per page coloring one character at a time. Went back and forth using / not using MovieSlate's nice stylus swag. Both good. Prefer stylus but know it's gonna disappear one day, so think it best to master both.


You can't change the page view in Notability; it is what it is, which is about half a page, scaled to the width of the screen.


What is less good for quick under-pressure reading is the difference between colors: they need to be more vibrant and there's no option I could find to change the 16 in stock, two of which (black and white) can't be used. There are two "blues" shown. Suppose with practice my eyes would eventually be able to see the differences...





So far, what I need are the following:

  • Good cropping options. Played a bit marking up on the MacBook Pro with open source Skim that auto-crops entire documents or single pages. Problem is, I've not figured out how to save/export a cropped document that keeps the highlights in place: they shift. Sigh.

  • The ability to bookmark and name scenes so they are indexed and findable later. Seems most of the apps can only bookmark a page as opposed to a spot within a page.
  • While I'm at being able to control stuff, it would be nice to be able to temporarily crop all the stuff before and after the scene we're shooting, but...not holding my breath.
  • 10-16 identifiable colors, easily changed without changing mode.

Just downloaded Neu Annotate, Constantin. Will let you know how that goes. Thanks for the suggestion.

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I've used the adobe PDF reader app to mark up scripts on the ipad, it's fairly fast, you can highlight whole sections.  You're limited to the number of colours you can use, though.


there's some stuff about people hacking bluetooth keyboards and putting them in new boxes to use for page turner apps

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Will let you know about reading size when I next work, Philip. My guess is the single page will provide optimum readability for these eyes anyway.


Fact is, I don't actually read the words, but rather become familiar with the rhythm of the scene and use the size of the colored sections to remind me of said rhythm. What my brain needs to get there using a different tool is TBD.


Thanks for the lead, Richard. Definitely need colors to make this work in the field :(


Have installed Pdf-notes, Notability and Annotate on the iPad so far.


Notability Update: Went back into Notability and tried doubling up on swipes and that yielded a more vibrant palate and made the two previously indistinguishable blues better. So far, this is the one I've gone back to.

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Some folks on our show showed me this IOS app a while ago called Rehearsal.

It's $20.

You can highlight sides from PDFs, scroll, record lines and do tons of things that you don't need but it could fill the bill for what you are trying to accomplish.




Hope this helps.



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Probably not technically possible with current voice recognition software but wouldn't it be cool if a script app could auto scroll (by sending an audio feed to the device). And auto annotate the ad libs would be the gravy on top.

None the less, an interesting thread, thanks for sharing.


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  • 3 months later...

The claim of "...next days," notwithstanding, have forgotten all and now -- with a job on the horizon -- revisit this workflow to approach the challenge afresh.


Here's where I land:

  • On MacBook Pro laptop used Preview -- with its 5 colors -- to mark up main characters. Easier if Preview had more color options dagnabbit.
  • Save to Dropbox.
  • In iPad's Dropbox, open script using "Open In" PDF Expert. Down side is one must change from "highlight" to "navigate" in order to turn pages. By holding the iPad in portrait mode with my left hand, can see a full page and with my left thumb am able to touch the green check mark that tells the app I'm finished highlighting and return me to navigation, turn the page w/right hand, engage highlight, mark up...round and round.
  • Save a "flattened copy".
  • "Open In" ForScore.



Took me the entire script to get smooth in the marking up. Mind-numbing. No, Zen. Accuracy is more important than speed. Requires frequent breaks and resisting the temptation to move too quickly lest time-consuming mistakes are made. Om.


Wonder whether it's worth doing whole-hog with even a locked script but for the practice since surely changes are forthcoming. For me it's not so much about the words, but the length of the sentences...the rhythm.


Really, really, really hope it works.


I am neither optimistic nor hopeless.


Happy 4th.

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Have actually spent time trying to figure such an automation out since the recent spate of Zen highlighting.


May have to reconstitute the original PDF through OCR since some (5-10%) of the original formatting appears to be borked and would break automation process. Were Preview a heftier app and allowed things like changing the search highlighting color and more colors, I think Preview could handle at least getting character names properly colored in, which would speed the process a lot, as could any app. Am going to try that next highlighting go-round with extant NeoOffice.

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A note re: Blue Pages.


Was able to drag and drop the various new pages from Blue Pages to Locked script, and delete the old pages.


The question remains, whether 'tis better to mark up a script sooner rather than later...or do it on the day.


I'm thinking restraint will prove the better part of valor at least in this instance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, nevermind.


First two days in the field yielded some kind of conflict somewhere that repeatedly disabled the iPad's in-house keyboard, solved only by reboot.


My guess is it was flipping apps as between MovieSlate, ForScore and PDF Expert.


The rig's been retired until next winter for further testing.


Not yet willing to admit defeat.

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