Wondering about tablet friendly layouts

What is the wisdom for best practice tablet friendly layouts?

There are self-evidently a number of choices to be made, such as landscape versus portrait, scale, margins. I would welcome some views on this.

There’s a good blog post about this at Scoring Notes, written by fellow Dorico user @davemacdo.


Thank you

The blog you mention provides an excellent introductory background of concerns about potentially publishing for tablets - especially iPads. It rather seems to conclude that the existence of diverse screen sizes and rivalry from xml viewer apps is challenging; seeming to conclude that targeting paper formats may remain the best option.

I am nevertheless still interested in developing layouts for tablets. I’ll focus on the 11” iPad Pro for small ensembles (up to quartet). I still wonder if anyone has practical advice on suitable layout settings.

My experience with classic iPad (9,7") is that A4 works very well. height x width ratio is really close (1,33 vs 1,41). I find it really legible if I make the same layout I would make for an A4 paper (even though the paper is bigger). The definition of the screen and its lighting makes it really efficient. I’ve been using my iPad air 2 for five years now, and no problems.

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What space size do you use, @MarcLarcher ? For something that functions as a part?

Between 6 and 7mm for staff size. But my usual use is vocal score, and 6mm (rastral 5?) is ok for me.
I’d say it depends on the instrument, as the distance to the iPad can be very different from one instrument to another…
My lyrics are usually written in Linus Libertine O 12pts.
Hope it helps!

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The good news is you can try it out (assuming you have a tablet) on a small-scale project. Try a number of different rastral sizes and margins; you aren’t wasting any paper by trying multiple groups of settings.

The responses so far are all interesting and helpful and I thank everyone who has contributed.

A couple of heuristics have been presented along with general advice about approach. I think a general summary might be: it is complicated; there may be better alternatives by technology (eg xml apps); the main thing is to concentrate on paper as apps (such as forescore) are evolving well; and finally, try experimenting as there is no cost in printed paper. In all of this there are some concrete ideas on staff proportions.

It may be the case that my question is not really answerable because of the diversity of tablet displays. Nevertheless I suspect that there is scope for more heuristics to be posited; so here are some questions that cross my mind and which might throw up useful guidelines…

  • Is there an optimum page dimension? (A4, B5, letter, custom etc). Maybe the question is neutralised by the flexibility over layout stave sizes.
  • Can there be a useful arithmetic study on optimising display in regard to physical size of display and its graphical screen resolution?
  • Would landscape or portrait be most effective?
  • As there is no paper make sure there are no back page moves. This concerns the write mode.
  • For an average tablet height how many staves per page would be most effective
  • Have the psychologists anything helpful to say ?

I will now investigate. When, and if, I have useful evidence based results (ie from fellow players) I will present my findings. They may or may not be useful to others - let’s see.

Just very briefly, as I’m practising:
In terms of aspect ratios, most iPads are pretty close to 1.33, so equivalent to 9x12. My own first gen iPad Pro is something like 7 3/4 x 10 1/2 (inches).

I tend to format for 9x12 but with narrow margins and generous staff sizes, and it works well. ForScore’s fine for landscape, and for some historic reason Piano Circus pretty much always work with landscape scores and parts, but for most music portrait seems to be preferred.

Back turns aren’t so much of a problem given many of us have (double) foot pedals for forward and back, but repeats involving multiple turns are more of a pain. Again, ForScore has useful functionality for adding an onscreen button that jumps to wherever, though, so this sort of situation is very much surmountable.

I have a template in Dorico with a layout for printing letter size paper and another for a tablet (Galaxy Tab A). I think the best approach (provided that your targeting just one tablet model and a standard pdf reader) is to prepare a page with the physical dimensions of the tablet and work from there. That way, you don’t have to worry about how is it going to scale or fit.

About the orientation, I think it should feel as natural as possible, so I go with portrait and very small margins.


Agreed, though I can’t say anything more than because I like Portrait much better… Something about landscape on an iPad just not making as efficient use of the space… maybe because a space between staves results in much more whitespace than Portrait?