Export PDFs that are compatible in the widest range of vector graphics packages possible

As a:
Contemporary classical composer

I need:
PDFs that can be imported into many different kinds of vector graphics programs

So that
I can chose the vector graphics program that suits me and my budget

I’ve come across a vector graphics app for my iPad called Vectornator:

It’s currently free and looks to have plenty of features I’ll need to make alternative forms of notation. It’s able to import PDFs, however it doesn’t import Dorico PDFs well.

These alternative forms of notation are important to CCM composers (at times almost required…). They help to notate extended techniques for instruments and help with indications for structured improvisation.

This seems down to something to do with fonts and how they work on iOS. I’ve tried using options to get Bravura and Academico imported via Fontinator:

This doesn’t work properly. There are some hints on the issue here:

Maybe there’s a way to do an export of the PDF with all the fonts required or all the symbols on the score rendered as paths (a bigger file size tickbox when exporting?). This is only me guessing at solutions.

I can learn about using Inkscape, but there’s no iOS version and the Mac version isn’t super great last time I checked. I’ve tested export from the Dorico 4 demo as well as the iOS version and neither work with Vectornator.

Maybe the Dorico team can connect with the Vectornator people - both based in Germany ; )

Have things changed with the PDF export since this time?

To be honest, it much more likely that the problem is at the importing end than the exporting end.

There isn’t really a ‘kind of PDF that works better with vector graphics than others’. Any vector drawing package should be able to import a PDF that conforms to the PDF specification.

However, there is a difficulty in the handling of font glyphs. For a drawing app to recreate the glyph of a given font (for editing), it has to have the font active on the system. If not, it does one of two things: it ‘outlines’ the shape of the glyph (i.e. turns it into a non-text vector object); or it represents the glyph using another font.

Font management on iOS is still in its infancy. I would not recommend installing Bravura ‘globally’ using a profile, as this can cause issues with Dorico’s own version – two of the same font!

If you’re looking for iOS apps, then you could try Affinity Designer. It now works well with PDFs from Dorico on MacOS, but I can’t speak about iOS.

Really, what you need to do is to ‘outline’ the entire PDF before importing. Then everything is just lines and curves, with no reference to text fonts at all. But I’m not sure how you would do that on an iPad.

1 Like

You could try importing the PDF into Affinity Designer first (on a desktop), creating outlines and re-exporting as PDF, then importing that into your iPad app. As @benwiggy says, that way no fonts are involved.

1 Like

Thanks for your response, @benwiggy . It’s correct that installing Bravura via Fontinator messed up Dorico.

There could be a way that the outlining is included within Dorico. I can try the outlining option you suggest via Inkscape @Dr_Scardo

The latest version of Inkscape is “actually quite good”. It has been created as a ‘proper’ Mac app, and doesn’t need any command-line installation, etc.

This remains unsolved since I was looking for an iOS-specific solution. Is there anyone that uses Affinity Designer on iOS that could test if PDFs can be successfully imported into it from Dorico?

The fundamental issues of importing font glyphs within PDFs into graphic applications – when the fonts are not available – remains.

1 Like

As a test to prove Ben’s point, you should try opening the same file on a desktop and again on the ipad. You’ll likely see issues crop up only on ipad, which proves it’s not an export issue on Dorico’s end. (I don’t have issues with Dorico exports, although I wouldn’t mind a native option to ‘outline’ pdfs directly from within Dorico’s export options dialogue.)

Alternatively, you could try exporting your pages as SVG’s from Dorico, and then edit them. It’s possible that more of the file would be outlined by default, although someone else would have to confirm this theory. This is, of course, a cumbersome way to go about it since you’d then have to stitch your document back together after the fact, which, tbh, doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

Thanks @benwiggy and @Romanos for your ideas and this may interest the Dorico team too @dspreadbury
Affinity Designer on the iPad has its own font import option in its preferences, so you can directly import OTF files without relying on the iOS system-wide option which breaks Dorico notation display and didn’t even work with Vectornator anyway.

(I didn’t want to buy Affinity Designer unless I knew the option worked and I followed the advice about installing fonts - but Affinity Designer had a summer special so I grabbed it)

So far it looks to be working fine! I needed just install the fonts like this

I’ll try doing some novel notation explorations and see if it keeps working good.

1 Like