New ABC software for Mac

New ABC software for Mac

A number of people have asked me for a desktop version of my iPhone/IPad Tunebook app. I wasn’t going to do this due to laziness but it appears that recent events in the Mac world have conspired to reduce the ABC software available to Mac users, so I’m stepping in. I’ve hacked up a new app this weekend and I’m looking for people to give it a go and give some feedback.

Tunebook for Mac is a version of the iPhone/iPad app Tunebook which runs on the desktop Mac. It lets you view, edit, play and print your library of tunes in ABC format. It’s a bit bit like iTunes in that it maintains a library of tunes and you import tunes into the library from ABC files. It never edits your source ABC files.

You can download an alpha version here: (800Kb)

It’s currently very basic but I hope to improve it as time goes on and if I get encouragement. Eventually it might appear on the App Store for an extortionate fee of about £1 (Guinness is not available as a payment currency), but for now it’s free. If you want to give it a go, there’s no help, but it should be fairly self-explanatory. Just drag some ABC files into the bar on the left under where it says “Tunebooks”. You’ll need to be running at least Mac OS X Leopard, and I’m quietly confident that it’ll run on Lion, but I’ve not had a chance to test this yet.

Its tune database files are compatible with the iPhone/iPad versions so you can sync between them if you want.

No, there is no Windows versions, and there won’t be unless big Trad wants to give me a huge payoff - the whole thing is written in Objective-C and it would be a massive task.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Hi, I am trying to test this with Lion but it doesn’t seem to want to drop anywhere. I also tried copy pasting. Any suggestions? Thanks for doing this.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

You should be able to drop ABC files from the Finder anywhere in the left bar under the word “Tunebooks” (you can’t drop ABC text from a text editor yet). You should see a line appearing under “Tunebooks” indicating that you can drop there. Do you not see the line, or does the line appear but nothing happen when you drop? If this fails, try creating a new tunebook by pressing the “+” button at the bottom left and then dragging an ABC file onto the world “New Tunebook” that appears.

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this is cool, i am eager to give it a try on leopard. will advise on my success, and thanks for posting it.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Thanks for working on this! Here’s what I have found so far:

Leopard (10.5.8) - App will not run. (Says that it won’t work under that version of OSX)

Snow Leopard (!0.6.8) - App runs, and the limited functionality seems like it’s all working, except that if you select a second tune, after having played another one, they both play. And this continues, so if you select a third tune, it plays all three…

Lion (10.7) - App runs. Other than the same issue with playing multiple tunes, the only glaring issue I see is with the tune list. If you load in a tunebook with enough tunes so that the list needs to scroll, you have no way of scrolling the list. They got rid of the old style scroll bars in Lion, and now a transparent scrollbar appears when you’re scrolling. The standard mouse gestures don’t work for scrolling the list.

Some features I’d like to see: Preferences for changing playback instrument and playback tempo. Keyboard control for play/stop. Ability to loop playback. Ability to select a good sampled instrument (like BarFly’s concertina sound font). And ultimately, I’d like to see some implementation of “stress programs”, like BarFly, which will put a bit of swing into the playback, and make it sound much less robotic.

I have communicated with both Phil, who wrote BarFly, and Nils, who wrote EasyABC. BarFly is not going to be supported in Lion, or future OS releases, unfortunately, because it relies exclusively on PowerPC software architectures that are no longer supported. I do have a (mostly) working version of EasyABC on Lion, that Nils has helped me get working. (He re-compiled the abc and midi libraries for Intel support). I understand that he is preparing a new release of EasyABC that will function under Lion, and include some new features.

Feel free to PM me, if you need me to test anything else out on any of the OSX versions!

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ok, i’m deferring to Reverend, JerryH. I’m using OSX 10.6.8 and having trouble getting tunes to add. my ambitions seem to outrun my skills, and my language to describe what’s happening. but i second his requests, with the addition of being able to handle crooked tunes with partial measures or uneven numbers of measures, so i can fool with quebecois tunes too.

i can play the tunes you have put in there, but can’t control speed of playback or pick out measures to loop. is that still going to be left to amazing slowdowner? fair enough.

i can get new tunebooks to come in the menu bar to the left, but i can’t get anything to add, neither by copy/paste nor by dragging.

i hope you can get it going. i’ll keep trying, and i’ll keep being grateful for your efforts, both of you.


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Tunebook doesn’t run on my Mac (PPC running Tiger).

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Doesn’t work on a Mac 10.5.5! 🙁

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Good work guys! This is all good stuff. I’m baffled by the drag‘n’drop and scrolling problems, but I’ll get them fixed.

It’s early days yet, but I intend to add all the features I have in the iPhone version, such as changing playback speed, different voices, searching and smart tunebooks. Some tools like transposition would be useful too. This is only the result of a couple of days work - I was goaded into it by the sudden demise of BarFly, and I posted here to gauge the level of interest in a new app.

I’ve uploaded a new version which should run on Leopard, but I don’t have a Leopard system to test on so it may not. This may also help with the drag‘n’drop - you can now drag ABC files into the tune list as well as the library bar.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Is it intended to run on older systems like mine?

What system are you developing it on?

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Thanks for the work you’re doing on this.
I’m on OSX 10.6.8
I have used, and liked iPod ‘tunebook’ a lot, though was disappointed that it could only load abc files wirelessly -rather through iTunes /usb link (maybe you have now added this ? -I must do an update & look again!)

The ability to load desktop ‘tunebook’ abc files with iPod simply in this way will give it the edge over ‘easyABC’. - which is currently much more usable +stable. However -the ‘desktop’ tunebook shows a lot of potential.

My experience : Similar to ‘Reverend’ - plays first file fine -then if selecting another -plays multiple files simultaneously. Printing (to PDF; then if necessary to paper) works fine -but if selecting ‘all’ , only prints first 129 pages. I have a big tunebook !

Printing to PDF is a great way to carry around a large tune collection on a laptop PC or iPad etc.

This still beats ‘easyabc’ which only prints the first 30. If selecting batches to ‘print’ (PDF) - it often randomly crashes. Workaround -to create smaller sections of ‘new tunebooks’, e.g. by alphabetic index.

Also agree with Reverend re playback - tempo control. By some ‘magic’, some apps (such as barfly‘) do also seem to make midi file playback sound almost reasonable. ’Easyabc has tempo control -but only basic ‘robot’ playback.

I understand why midi is so hated by some -but for those who don’t read music its a useful way to learn a tune. i.e. to ‘learn the basic notes of the tune’ - Not to be confused with ‘learning how to play the tune’.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Cannot load files as well. Mac 10.6.8

When I drag an ABC file it just list a new tunebook with that file name ( e.g. “The”) but does not actually import the file, only starts an empty new tunebook with that file name.

I also experience the multiple playing tunes.

Thanks for starting some great software!


Re: New ABC software for Mac


Importing my tunebook from The Session worked fine in 10.6.7, and the scrolling worked fine. I did have the problem of new tunes playing over the top of previously played tunes that others have reported.

I look forward to seeing the features from the other versions of the software in the Mac version, but it’s off to a good start!

I was going to ask if would possible to implement some sort of indexing when scrolling through tunes on the iPad version. My tunebooks are fairly large, and it take s long time to finger scroll from the beginning down to the later letters in the alphabet. A way to jump to a letter in the list (e.g., “T”) would be very handy.

Thanks for all your work on this,


Re: New ABC software for Mac

Right. To avoid creating a long thread, I’ll be getting in touch with some of you individually, and I’ll email whe I have new alpha versions. Anyone else can email me to get added to the list.

To answer some specific questions:

I don’t ever expect to support either PowerPC Macs or systems older than 10.5 (leopard). It’s getting harder and harder to support these older systems and they lack some of the features I need, such as MIDI playback.

For the iPad version, I’ve been experimenting with the A-Z index thing you get on long tables, but I have some unresolved technical issues with that. when I sort it out, it will happen.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

“they lack some of the features I need, such as MIDI playback”

I play MIDIs all the time. I’ve been doing it since System 7. What’s the problem?

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This still beats ‘easyabc’ which only prints the first 30. If selecting batches to ‘print’ (PDF) - it often randomly crashes. Workaround -to create smaller sections of ‘new tunebooks’, e.g. by alphabetic index.

Also agree with Reverend re playback - tempo control. By some ‘magic’, some apps (such as barfly‘) do also seem to make midi file playback sound almost reasonable. ’Easyabc has tempo control -but only basic ‘robot’ playback."

1) I print 150+ item files to pdf with no problem, and it has never crashed.

2) EasyABC uses abc2MIDI for playback. Stress programming is being implemented in abc2MIDI though it is not yet ready for prime time.

The main objection to learning from MIDI files is the robotic quality. Humans imitate what they hear and will imitate that robotic quality.

Delighted to see the beginnings of Tunebook here Jerry. As you may recall I’ve been using it for a long time on iPhone and iPad. It’ll be good to see it develop on the Mac.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

BTW: Count me in on helping any way I can.

Re: New ABC software for Mac

OK. There’s a new version up. This fixes scrolling and the playback problem. It adds the ability to create new tunes, choose an instrument for payback and change playback tempo.

“I play MIDIs all the time. I’ve been doing it since System 7. What’s the problem?”

I phrased this badly: You can play MIDIs on older systems but only via QuickTime whereas the newer systems have Core MIDI which is more flexible and has the huge advantage that it isn’t QuickTime. I value my sanity too much to go the QuickTime route (I do that for my day job). Also, the QuickTime API is not available to 64 bit applications so it’s only a matter of time before it will be obsolete.

Leopard was released in 2007. I’m not going to fry my brain trying to support ancient systems, and that’s that! 🙂

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I only have my Lion machine here at work, so I can’t test it all, but here’s what I see with the new version:

* Scrolling works!
* Tempo and Instrument selection works!
* Space Bar start/stop sort of works, but only on the first tune, and only apparently when I have the Settings modal open.
* Selecting a second tune doesn’t seem to play both (other than a couple times, where it seemed to play a chorus of notes to start off). But it always seems to play the originally selected tune, not the currently selected tune!

Thanks for your continued work on this! 🙂

Re: New ABC software for Mac

Col Arco wrote:
> This still beats ‘easyabc’ which only prints the first 30.
> If selecting batches to ‘print’ (PDF) - it often randomly
> crashes. Workaround -to create smaller sections of
> ‘new tunebooks’, e.g. by alphabetic index.

If you want to generate a PDF with EasyABC the preferred way is to select File->Export all->as PDF. I have never experienced any crash when doing that. Btw. if anyone has suggestions for how EasyABC could be improved, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

EasyABC works on Lion, it’s just that one needs intel or universal binary versions of abc2midi and abcm2ps in order to use it. Hopefully the files published on the abcplus page will be universal binaries soon and then I will include those in the EasyABC package.

Anyway, glad to see more alternatives for mac users. And it’s interesting to see fluidsynth being used for midi playback. I have considered using that too.

-- Nils L (author of EasyABC)

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Thank you for Tunebook! And please will you add me to any list for letting know updates!

I was a Barfly user - but hadn’t been on the session for a while, and after upgrading to Lion, Barfly is the only one of my apps that no longer works. I’ve been in touch with Phil, and it sounds like he may one day get it working again, but it’s not trivial.

I’ve also tried easyabc and skink - but both of them give the same error (PowerPC applications are no longer supported).

Tunebook is great - but I wish it would open abc tune collections directly, rather than loading them into the left pane… with a big collection, or when I’m using multiple collections, it’s cumbersome.

Any other abc apps that WILL work on Lion?



Re: New ABC software for Mac

Great app have it on MacBook (snow leopard)and iPad2
Is it possible to transfer tunes from my macbook tunebook to my iPad tunebook?
I would like to put in harmonica tab below the music score in the iPad app. It has the following form:
454|654|765 hole on the harmonica
+++ +-- +-+ +=blow - = draw

Many thanks


Re: New ABC software for Mac

Yes, you can transfer the Tunebook database form the Mac to the iPad via iTunes. On the Mac, it’s in your Music folder and called “Tunebook Database”. You need to make a copy and rename it “tunedb.sql”, then use iTunes to transfer it to the iPad: Drag it into the Tunebook part of “Apps which can transfer documents” after you’ve plugged in the iPad. But first BACK UP THE iPad database just in case - this is still alpha software!

I can’t see harmonica tab arriving very soon to be honest. I’d like to add a general tab mechanism, but that’s in the long term.

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Thanks JH

I didi not explain myself well. Is it possible to inset text below the music score.
If so,I could easily put in the harmonica tab below the score

Many thanks

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Hi Jerry

Could you please let me know when there are updates to the software.
I would particularly like to play from an insertion point and be able to repeat sections of the tunes which is really useful if there is a difficult passage in the music

Many thanks


Re: New ABC software for Mac

Thank you very much.
Seems to work fine on my MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard 10.6.8


Re: New ABC software for Mac

I just love how Tunebook looks and feels… a short learning curve for anyone already familiar with iTunes. Being able to have the same tune in various Tunebooks is a huge plus.
Well done! And THANK YOU!

I am using Mac OX10.6.8. The only glitch for me has been that for multi-voice tunes which include a bass clef, the bass line is showing up on a treble clef, with all the extra lines below “E”. The tunes show up correctly in Barfly and EasyABC. Any advice?

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Re: New ABC software for Mac

Just wondering if there’s been any more development on Tunebook and what people’s thoughts are of it running on Mac OSX Lion.

I’m using version 1.0 on Snow Leopard and it’s not too bad… just seems a bit clunky. And I just can’t figure out how to write my own tune… The “new tune” option is greyed out in the menu… Hmm

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Dear JerryH

Thank you very much for making your TuneBook available. It will be a great help as I make the transition from 10.6.8 to OS 10.7. A great public service.

Thomas Green

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I’ve just downloaded Tunebook 0.4 and I’ve been playing around with it. I’m still using OS 10.6.8, and it seems to work fine. Can it be that after all these years, I’ve found something to rival the mighty Barfly?

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Hi Jerry - is this project still alive? It’s neat stuff. And wouldn’t it be cool if TuneBook for MacOS could share a database with TuneBook for iOS via the cloud? yeah…

Also, does it make sense to migrate TuneBook to abcM2ps ?


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Hi, is there anybody out there who know a working abc software for MacOS ElCapitan and later. I’ve used EasyABC up to now but it doesn’t work anymore… I like to type abc and get written music.
Gjert M

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Re: New ABC software for Mac

This didn’t work well. Most of the features of the version 0.7 that I downloaded from
Were missing (forget all, but new tune was not there).

I’m running Catalina. 0.7 works, although buggy. Sometimes it plays chords, other times not. Sometimes I can edit the abc (e.g. to add. Chord symbols) sometimes I cannot. Tried to change the tempo, crashed. Have to delete the entire tempo line and re-enter.

Would be nice to play from somewhere other than the beginning.

Not an abc expert, but is there a what to hide a voice in abc ( it still have it play).