Storing PDF Sheet Music


I’ve been trying to tidy up my files (yes, I’m procrastinating - how did you guess?) and realised I have folders of sheet music in PDF form. The formatting of names is all over the place, as is the music itself (some is in iCloud, some is in Dropbox, some is on external hard drives with no backup).

Those of you who have sheet music how are you organising and storing it? I need a solution where I can keep it on both my iPad and my Mac (Mac for review, iPad for actual playing). My first thought was to create a Calibre library for it (stored in Dropbox) and the second thought was a DevonThink database. However this is likely a solved problem - so for those of you who have sheet music running around, how do you wrangle it?

I believe @macsparky has mentioned using the iOS app forScore for sheet music.

Unfortunately I’m looking for something that works on my Mac too, which ForScore doesn’t. :slight_smile:

I think you could combine the two. Your data in DEVONthink synced between macOS and iOS. And open the PDFs on iOS into ForScore for playing. Because the PDF reading features of DEVONthink to Go are not as controllable as the performance features of ForScore are.


I am storing about 1,500 pieces of sheet music in a folder system on my Synology NAS.

In those PDFs I curate:

  • title = title of the piece of music

  • author = composer of the piece

  • subject = genre of the piece

On top of that, I could also use the PDF specification’s keyword field to use it for tags. Those pieces are being indexed by the Synology’s Drive application and because of this index, I am able to use an app on my Mac to browse through it. For search I use Houdah Spot on my Mac.

Those pieces are being imported into ForScore on my iPad. ForScore has a setting to read the metadata from the file so that the database stuff is being done automatically when importing the already curated PDFs with their metadata:

More on ForScore and PDF metadata:

So, my workflow for a new piece of music is:

  1. Scan music / buy music

  2. Make sure that the PDF metadata is how I want it to be.

  3. Save the PDF to my dedicated folder system on my NAS.

  4. Import the PDF in ForScore.

  5. Done.

ForScore is amazing, I do not know of anything else that comes close to this app on the iPad. I have been using ForScore for about 10 years.

Yes, there is no Mac counterpart. But I do not need one: When I perform or conduct music, I do it on my iPad and when I prepare pieces for ForScore, I do that in PDFPen or PDFExpert on my Mac. And I like to have my stuff in a dedicated folder system because that way, I will end up with a nice and tidy folder system that is independent from any app, if I will decide to switch the app in the future.

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You made me think about this. My partner is a music teacher and I think we are getting him an iPad Pro once we get back to Australia, so I think I have this problem in my near future…on a reasonably large scale…

I’ve been using forScore on my own iPad and really like it, but since my usage is pretty minimal I just left it organised using a system that could best be described as “a disorderly mess”.

They do have a “console” option which might do what you (and I!) need, since you mention you just need the Mac for reviewing?

Or, if you’re doing all the organising in one go, maybe you could save the archive (in the backup options) and get the PDFs out of that? It’s not something I’ve played with much so I have zero idea if that would lead anywhere useful, though.

Just had to report back here as I saw this at a concert yesterday:

All the more amusing as it was an original fortepiano from around 1815. Nice juxtaposition.

You can’t see it in the photo but there is a double Bluetooth pedal. I couldn’t help but think the set-up must have been relatively complicated to get all the pages lined up between the two devices, though…


Brilliantly, forScore has a companion app Cue that allows 2 iPads to be used in double page mode.


Ahhhh, genius! I wondered if there was something like that! Thanks!

Yes, it works “just out of the box”. The app is amazing.

There is even a mode that enables a band leader to control up to 15 iPads to display the next music piece.



This response won’t fully address the original post, but there is a program called MusicReader 4.0 (for the Mac and Windows) at, and it has a companion iOS app. PDFs are managed within the desktop app, but you can store the PDFs in any folder on your computer. I organized my filenames by composer last name, first name, and title, and then put them into one folder which can be selected within MusicReader. MR’s GUI is quite dated, not very polished, and a bit klunky, but it works—well, at least it worked when I used it pretty extensively 7-8 years ago (practice, regular gigs, and recitals).

I’ll also note that I used MR primarily on a MacBook mirrored to a thin, 24" TV so that I could have two very readable portrait letter-sized sheets up side-by-side. You can set it up so that when you turn a page, page 1 becomes page 3, then the subsequent turn makes page 2 go to page 4, etc. This means that, while you’re reading page 2, you can turn the page at any point and page 3 will be up and ready to go. That ability to turn the page at some point before you run out of notes really provided a seamless experience that, as far as I’m aware, ForScore’s Cue app can’t match. Many musicians probably wouldn’t absolutely need this particular capability, but it is rather essential for someone like me who’s an organist, and it makes getting to the end of a page a much less stressful experience.

The setup required for my situation became too cumbersome & technical to continue using MR, so I tend to use ForScore now, even though I wish the page turning experience could be better customized to match the capabilities MR provided.

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Since about two weeks, there also is a Forescore version for Mac.
regards, Eef


Thanks so much for posting this.

It’s even a Universal App, so whilst it requires Big Sur, it will be free for me once I upgrade as I bought the iPad version.
This is such brilliant news :slight_smile: