When reading a PDF music score on a iPad/tablet, it’s beneficial to crop out the page margins so that the printed music will expand to fill as much screen space as possible and be easier to read. Some PDF score-reading apps like forScore for iPad have a sort of “virtual cropping” feature that displays the pages as if they had been cropped. Also, several PDF software tools will actually process a PDF document to crop the margins on either individual pages or the document as a whole.
I particularly like two tools, Briss and PDF Scissors, because they can do bulk margin cropping of all pages in a PDF file, and even better, they have a transparent stacked-page preview mode that lets you see at a glance whether your cropped document will include all the page numbers, rehearsal letters, bass clef notes/staff, and other important information that tends to live near the margins of the page (see screenshots below). If you’ve ever gone into a rehearsal with a cropped PDF score and realized too late that those pieces of information got cropped too, you’ll understand just how useful this is. And, both Briss and PDF Scissors are free.
Briss and PDF Scissors will work on Windows, Mac, or Linux. You’ll need to install Java on your computer as a prerequisite.
You can visit the Briss website for information or download it from this page. I like Briss a bit over PDF Scissors because it has an auto-cropping feature that computes the margin based on the page contents. Below is a screenshot of the stacked-page preview mode, with auto-cropping in action. The odd pages are stacked on the left side and the even pages on the right. That’s a nice feature, because in printed books, the margins are often slightly different between even and odd pages. Briss also has the option of stacking all pages together in the preview, stacking arbitrary page ranges, cropping pages individually, or a combination of stacked/individual cropping within the same document. The bluish-gray highlighted area is the cropping selection box, as set by the auto-cropping feature. If needed, you can adjust the box manually before proceeding with the crop, but here you can see that the auto-crop has actually done a pretty good job of including all of the information at the edge of the pages – page numbers, bass clef notes, footnote text, etc.
To use Briss, make sure you have Java installed, then download Briss from here and extract the zip file into a folder on your computer. Then open a command-line window and enter “java -jar /path/to/briss-0.9.jar” (substituting the appropriate path to your Briss jar file).
By the way, I had a little chuckle when I found out where the name Briss comes from.
PDFScissors works in a pretty similar fashion, minus the auto-crop. Assuming you have Java installed, you can run PDFScissors by going to their website and then clicking on the button. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go to the website every time and run it from there, you can download pdfscissors.jar directly, open a command-line window, and enter “java -jar /path/to/pdfscissors.jar” (substituting the appropriate path to your pdfscissors.jar file).
When you run it, you are presented with these options. This time, I stacked all of the pages in the document together:
Here is the stacked-page preview mode:
From here, you can click-and-drag to define the cropping selection box:
The creator of PDF Scissors has also posted a video on how to use it:
Some additional notes
I noticed that the PDF files were slightly larger after cropping with either Briss or PDF Scissors. At least in the case of PDF Scissors, the cropping operation does not actually remove information from the document; it only changes the visible display area.
Other tools are also capable of bulk margin cropping of PDF files, such as Acrobat Pro, Mac Preview, and Skim (which was mentioned in an earlier blog post). Skim in particular has an auto-crop feature, but since I don’t have any of these installed, I can’t comment on how well Skim or the others work. If you have comments on the other tools, let me know!
- Two new recommendations: Skim PDF software and DODOcase iPad folder [via Loren F.]
- When smaller means slower: performance of Acrobat-optimized PDF files in forScore
- Mixed results using PDF Shrink and PDF optimizer tools on sheet music
- Better PDF music score optimization methods for Adobe Acrobat [via Performing Arts Technology @ UNCG]
- Digital solutions for low-vision musicians [via Going Digital for Musicians]
- More posts tagged “scanning”
- More posts tagged “sheet music”