Tag Archives: pdfs

Best Manager for PDFs…..and Stuff

I have a LOT of music, digital music. I recently pretty much completed scanning all my physical books into PDF. It has been worth it. I can now have them on my iPad, or if I want to copy a page for a student, it is there. Or email a page to them. Boom, its right there.

However, managing PDFs is a real problem now. iTunes absolutely SUCKS at managing PDFs and EPUB books. It throws everything into iTunes Music/Books and then maybe if there is an author (with ePUBs) it will put it into a folder with the author’s name (I generally tag all the say saxophone book PDFs as “Saxophone Books” in the Album Artist field). It generally has resulted in a HUGE MESS to manage. Plus, they are all stored on my Synology unit.

I finally found something that will not only manage my PDFs and ePubs, but also Movies. iDocument 2.

Now, I had been using iDocument (1.0), for a while. It sorta worked for me. It provided a iTunes like interface to view my PDFs. It worked alright, but the new version is heads and tails better. First, it does ePubs and Movies. And it will “Index” the folder if you want, meaning it won’t try to grab all these things and stick them into a library format (most all these “manager programs” want to do that). AND it will automatically reindex when it reopens. Pretty cool.

You can tag items in iDocument, or do searches, including searches of searchable PDFs (so like the word “Coltrane” that appears IN a PDF as well as the title). Searchable PDFs on a REMOTE drive. That is something nothing else seems to do (other than DevonThink Pro, but the indexing in that program is GOD AWFUL SLOW). Huge win. You can also set up Filters, so if you want to just find the “Aebersold” books you have, you can have a little hot link to them.

Two issues with the program. 1, it doesn’t currently do the covers of ePub books, and 2. I wish there was a way to have the program send stuff to your iPad or iPhone (I hate using iTunes for that).

Great program though. If you are having Media management issues (too many Movies, or PDFs, or whatever) and don’t want to use iTunes, OR have them stored on something other than your Mac (like a NAS, or removable HD), then look into this program, $30 well spent.

Going All Digital

If you’ve noticed, there have been a lack of new posts lately? “Oh no, he’s losing interest in the site. Where are we going to get our latest Katy Perry sheets?” you might say. Fear not, there are a lot of things in the pipeline. So where have I been? Busy. Actual high paying gigs, working on CDs for my students, and…..finally going paperless.

Since getting an iPad in 2010, well, actually, before that, when I decided in 2007 to get a second monitor attached to my computer in my teaching studio, I have wanted to abandon all my physical books. Actually, probably iTunes ushered in this era, where you could have ALL your teaching materials (Aebersold, other play-alongs) available instantly on your computer. When I first started teaching full time in 1999, I bought a 300 disc CD player to hold all the Aebersold volumes I had, then other play-alongs I had. I had books strewn all over the place. I had printed sheets, which some of the kids called the “Reject pile”, on the floor (songs that I had made on Finale and printed to try, but then for various reasons it wasn’t going to work for them). It was a mess. But iTunes started to change that. Spending a few months ripping my mass collection of CDs into iTunes, it was amazing. All of a sudden I could instantly pull up a Aebersold blues in F, or in C on separate volumes. Gradually the CD player was being used less and less. Now, it is still in my studio (above the DAT recorder I have). It hasn’t been plugged in for well over a year, probably two. I really don’t know.

When I put a second monitor on my teaching computer, partly to use SmartMusic (which started to put sheet music play-alongs in the program), and partly to see the songs/exercises/arrangements I did in Finale, I was stunned by how it changes your teaching. Finding stuff is simple. In the case of having something in Finale, does it need to be in a different key? Click….done. Transposed down an octave? Click…..done. And no more piles of paper. 

But, I still had a huge collection of books. Aebersolds, Fishman, Snidero, more flute books that I care to count, clarinet books, oboe books, jazz books. Books books books! Great stuff in the books, but it was and still is a PAIN IN THE ASS to find something. Maybe there was an exercise in flute book X…..now where is flute book X…….oh, I can’t find it…..did I lend it out to someone never to get it back? So, sometime in 2008 I decided to scan some of my books that I use a lot. 

Scanning a book though is a pain. Mainly, because they are double sided. It takes a lot of time to scan, even if you break the binding or cut the binding off. I had been using a Brother All-in-one to scan one side, then I’d have to scan the other side, and then go through and number them, then assemble them into a PDF…….it was a lot of work….but I did it for a lot of books I used a lot. It made finding them instant now, and copying a page as simple as a Command-P now. But there are still hundreds of books left…….

ScansnapEnter my Christmas gift…..a Fujitsu Scansnap 1500M. How do I explain this…..it is like maybe being Christopher Colombus and getting GPS and a modern boat at the same time? No…..maybe getting an iPhone in 1970? That is closer to what it is. This machine was not cheap ($430 or so), but it is worth it. It does well over 20 pages a minute, double sided, high resolution. Puts them into a PDF, OCRs them…..it is amazing. In the week and a half I’ve had it (it came Jan 2), I have blown through 2 boxes of old music magazines, and probably a hundred books (a lot of them are drum books for a drum teacher….who’s paying me to do the scanning). And now I have easily tripled the number of books in my digital collection. I’m using stuff out of books I had totally forgotten about. It’s great.

The ONE downside is that I still have NOT found a good organizer of PDFs. The big issue is that I have all my digital stuff on a NAS (RAID5). I mean, it would be STUPID not to have some sort of digital insurance like that (plus Crashplan). But all the cool PDF like organizers either don’t find the OCRed text in the files on a network share (iDocument) or what to put all the PDFs into a tome (Devonthink Pro). I don’t want to put them into one tome/database file because I still want to have them in iTunes (I have playlists with the PDF and the tracks on ones that have audio tracks). So, that is the only weak link right now. Like if Devonthink would just symbolically link to a PDF and still be able to search the text there…….that would be great. Supposedly iDocument is going to add this. 

So, that is what I’ve been up to. No more paper or paper books. I’m digitalizing all of the stuff I have that I use or want to use. Things seem like they are getting less cluttered in my studio as the books disappear (they go into the recycle bin once I am happy with the scan). It’s great. I’d HIGHLY recommend this scanner to everyone. It EATS paper. 

How Aebersold Needs To Embrace Technology

A while ago, I wrote a post/rant about Aebersold pushing the Superscope Elevation software. Enough said about that. But I get these mailings from jazz books.com about sales, and they are still pushing these Superscope CD things that are like $999. Insane.

It makes me wonder WHY Jazzbooks/Aebersold has not embraced the digital age yet. The writing has been on the wall for about 2 years now that print media is a dying business. As is the making of CDs. Aebersold is running the risk of becoming like Kodak.

So, how to change this? Here is what I would propose if I was in charge. First, offer digital versions of the catalog. The play-alongs, put them in Amazon and iTunes for $.99. When someone buys the them that way, they also get the lead sheet in C/Eb/Bb/Bass clef. Would I put them out as tomes like they are now? No. What I would do is fully embrace technology and develop an App that would allow purchases of new songs within it. So, if someone ends up buying 100 songs that Aebersold produces, then they will be within the app, easily searchable, indexed, etc. You could just display the Eb versions, or whatever. And allow annotations of the lead sheets (i.e. let people mark up the sheets if they want).

The App would also have a slowdown function, and the ability to loop sections. Heck, some of the FREE slowdown things on the iPhone/iPad do this already. The ability to change the pitch would also be included, as would the ability to record what you are playing and the ability to hear just what you did, or you with the track. And you can mix it when you are playing back. And send it to like Garageband if you wanted. Or get it out of the App. The annotations that you did you could send via email, or print, or make a PDF.

So, the base App would be free and include maybe a couple of freebee tracks to entice people. Then in-App purchases would be $.99 for a new song complete with Eb/Bb/C/Bass lead sheet.

Ok, that takes care of the legacy Play-Alongs, but what about all the books that they publish. I’m not sure how they would do as EPUBs like in the iBook store. They might do better as a Textbook created with iAuthor. I would think that most of these could be make into PDFs fairly easily. Regardless, they need to be digital. PDF would be great, EPUB if possible, or maybe even an App for each book (like Greg Fishman’s stuff). Though, I would think that if they went the App per book route, they could use the engine that the play-alongs use. Then everything would be all together and you don’t end up with 30 apps for everything.

I don’t know if Aebersold is planning this sort of thing, but they need to. All these sales emails has me concerned, and it just makes more sense. With the iPad continuing to be a huge hit……who wants to carry around huge books or Superscope devices when an iPad can all that and more….


I tend to gather stuff while online. Pictures, articles, PDFs, this, that, the other thing. It’s really hard to keep track of stuff. Perhaps it was a website where you read this great article about taking care of your reeds. Or maybe it was that PDF of a solo you downloaded, but what was the file name again? Mac OS X’s Spotlight can only help so much in finding stuff. And on Windows…..you’ll have to wait for Vista for anything like Spotlight.

Fear not. There are a number of solutions for this information overload, and the one I picked was DEVONThink Pro. It’s a great program that can keep track of all the STUFF you gather. All the PDFs I’ve collected. Articles out of FluteTalk, or the Double Reed Society. Or out of Downbeat. I have something like 16 gigabytes in DEVONThink right now. PDFs of songs. I can organize them. Categorize them. Type in some good descriptions. Plus, if I want to find a Beach Boys song, but I don’t remember the title…..I can search on it….instantly.

I don’t really know of anything like this for Windows, but if you have a Mac, you should check it out.