Tablet Applications

All the applications listed here have the following features:

  1. All of them are actually databases that store and organize music
  2. They are all searchable
  3. They all organize songs into Libraries, Collections, and Set Lists (under various individualized names)
  4. All of them have some method of using a full size computer for data input (Console functionality)
  5. They all have some mechanism to scroll the page
  6. They are all compatible with current Bluetooth pedals

From there, they vary widely with their user interface (UI), which page formats they work with, which platform they run on, and any additional features that they have available.

There are four apps that we consider ‘best in class’ for the purposes of PDF or ChordPro formatted music. These are:


Cost: 15-21**

This app is available for iPad, iPhone, and M-series Macs (non-Intel).

This is the best music notation reading application available. It is blazingly fast at rendering PDF pages, and the annotation technology is extremely smooth and easy to use.

In fact, I use this app for more than just music. It’s become a part of my regular tools to use in my work. Contracts, resumes, etc- I use them all in ForScore for the ability to quickly read them, keep them organized, and keep handwritten notes and feedback.

For using as a choir songbook, it is unparalleled. I sing with three different choirs, and I always have my music organized and accessible. Songs from one choir never get mixed in with songs from another choir- and I never have to squint at my music in a dim church (due to the backlight on the iPad).

They also never stop innovating. They also have an app called Cue (cost 2-3); which is a companion app to ForScore. It allows remote control of ForScore from another device. Or, should you happen to have a second, older iPad lying around (as one does); Cue will allow you to display PDFs in dual page mode- so you can view and turn pages as if you had the paper book on your music stand!

Lastly, the capability to easily annotate (write on) and re-export PDFs is extremely useful for forms, contracts, suggesting edits for written manuscripts (such as convention program books), etc. This one app has severely reduced my need to print on paper.

Console access works the same as OnSong, making your tablet act as a web server; so edits from your desktop are done through a web browser. The best news of all, though, is that this function is bundled with the native app at no extra cost.


Android & iOS

 MobileSheets Pro
Cost: 10-18**

This app is available for Android, iPad, iPhone, and M-series Macs (non-Intel).

MobileSheets Pro was one of the first Android-based music reader applications. It started as solely a PDF reader, and the Android version of ForScore.

Recently they have really upped their game and entered the iOS market; offering a similar set of features to ForScore. For example, you can display 2 pages across 2 tablets as ForScore- but you don’t have to purchase an additional app for it.

Console capability is via their free Companion application available on their website. While the native application is PC- only, the iOS application will run on M-series (non Intel) Macs.



Basic Cost: 25-50 (annual subscription!!)**

This app is available for iPad, iPhone, and M-series Macs (non-Intel).

This is the Cadillac (or Audi, if you’re German) of the songbook applications. It will read ChordPro, text, PDF, HTML, as well as Word files. It also has its own song format; which is actually a stripped down and slightly altered version of ChordPro.

Obviously, all of this comes with a Cadillac price. But you definitely get your money’s worth.

While OnSong can be used to store and view PDFs, its heart and soul (and speed!) is text-based. I perform from stage with my guitar using OnSong. When I’m in a filk circle, I use primarily OnSong; but occasionally will dip into ForScore for the songbook PDF archives I keep there.

Before an open music weekend, I usually create a Setlist of songs that I would like to play. I use the Setlist as a reminder; sort of as a closet of selected clothes I plan to wear sometime over that weekend.

If you purchased this app before they went to a subscription model, you’re lucky and you’re saving a lot of wampum. As much as I love this app, I cannot recommend it for occasional / non-full time musicians- it’s simply too expensive. For some, it is also a disadvantage that the developer is very strongly Christian; and he markets this app primarily to churches (so if you sign up for their support mail, you get messages about  how to expand its use in your church, give deals for downloading Christian music into the app, etc).

Console capability is an add-on available in the pro-level subscription. Once installed, it will turn your iPad into a web server; and you are able to edit and update your OnSong database from a web browser on your computer; giving you ability to edit your songs on both PCs and Intel-based Macs.


Android & iOS

 SongBook (Android) / SongBook ChordPro (iOS)
Basic Cost: 11-15**
Total Cost: (with Console add-on): 29-40**

This appears to be the definitive ChordPro application for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. It strictly adheres to the ChordPro specification, and can read text files and display PDFs.

This is the app that I recommend for all occasional musicians. While I personally don’t like it as much as OnSong; the app is almost as feature rich as its competitor, for a fraction of the price.

Due to the number of platforms that this app is written for, the UI is extremely basic (you can’t use custom menus designed for an iPad on an Android device, for example). This leads to a slightly steeper learning curve to figure out the settings; but it is still a powerful app that is feature-rich.

This is the only app that can display lyrics in multiple columns, if the desire is to see everything on a single page.

There is no built-in Console capability in the tablet apps; instead, full-featured Windows and macOS apps provide this function. File storage is synced to Dropbox; so songs that are edited on the desktop will be updated on the tablet when Dropbox synchronises.


**With prices, I’m stating units as a general number, rather than quoting in dollars, Euros, or pounds. So, if the cost is listed as 15-20; this means that the price will be within that range of numbers in the local currencies of the USA, Germany, UK, and Canada; e.g. $15-$20, or 15€-20€, or £15-£20. Ranges listed were current as of May, 2020.