Indexing Real Books On iPad

Last updated:

by Alec


A Music Toolbox

iPad has become a great music tool to use for music creation, performance, practicing, and teaching. Its mobility, beautiful screen display, touch-screen, and pencil drawing features make it perfect for reading music, taking notes, and scanning scores. Even the budget models have very powerful hardware and all the features you need for storing, editing, and reading your music books.

I started working with PDF files of sheet music and music books on iPad since my first iPad in 2017. I have discovered more efficient ways to use PDF files of sheet music and music books using indexes in forScore and other similar apps. I have decided to create indexes by myself to be able to bookmark the multipage PDF properly.

I update this article regularly according to my own experience and user feedback.

Music Library – Sheet Music, Scores, and Music Books

iPad is a very handy tool for storing and reading music scores. It can save you a huge amount of space (and weight in your bag :) by going completely paperless. Just scan your music or load your sheet music into it.
There are several apps for it, like Newzik, unrealBook, iGigBook, Deep Dish GigBook, forScore, and others. In my opinion, the best app would be forScore because of its great features, ease of use, and beautiful design.

forScore, the sheet music reader, is the no. 1-ranked music app on the Apple Store with good reason. Justin Bianco, its creator and developer, relentlessly refines the vision that he had when the iPad was first introduced: to make a simple yet powerful music reader for Apple’s revolutionary platform

Scoring Notes’ Philip Rothman February 4, 2023 Podcast

forScore, the sheet music reader, is the no. 1-ranked music app on the Apple Store with good reason. Justin Bianco, its creator, and developer, relentlessly refined the vision that he had when the iPad was first introduced: to make a simple yet powerful music reader for Apple’s revolutionary platform (from Scoring Notes Podcast

forScore App for iPad, iPhone (and Mac)

I’ve been using the forScore app since I bought my iPad Pro 10.5 in 2017. It is a really powerful app. Besides storing and opening PDF files with sheet music it does annotation, sharing, scanning, syncing with audio files creating bookmarks, organizing and reordering music, set lists, and more. All of this works fast in a beautiful elegant interface.

forScore is been great not only for single scores and parts. You can also load Real Books and Fake Books which have hundreds of songs in one giant PDF file. 

forScore version 10 adds a great feature that allows you to add indexes to large scores by uploading a CSV file that links the song titles to specific page numbers of the PDF. You can now search for a specific song and open it in seconds within a huge book.

Understanding indexes and bookmarks


Page bookmarks are like table of contents entries that simply take you to a specific page, while Item bookmarks work like virtual items in your forScore library.

📖 Understanding foScore Bookmarks

📖 Using Indexes to create bookmarks

📖 Working with bookmarks inside the forScore app

Real Book 6th Edition Index File

Upload the CVS index to your iOS device and try applying the settings the way it is described in the above video. It should work fine. I did succeed in managing it after a couple of trials. The best thing is that upon successful application of the CSV index file, you will be able to manage your Real Book 6th edition finding and opening the songs within seconds in the forScore app.

An Updated index for Real Book I 6th edition and new indexes for more Real Books

I have created the index files (.CSV) for Real Book I (6th edition), Real Book II (second edition), Real Book III (second edition), and Real Book Volume VI.

A new updated version of the indexes contains the Start Page, End Page, and Composer name – the metadata important for making the “complete bookmark” match the PDF file exactly. It makes it possible to search, share, and add to setlists the tunes in the book.

The indexes are available here

How to install the Real Book index in forScore (#)

1. Click on the CSV Index file to open it in the Safari browser or download the Index and open it in the Files app. Then click on the share icon to open in forScore.

2. Open the PDF file of the Real Book in forScore and tap on the bookmark icon.


3. Click on Indexes and select the Real Book I (6th edition) Index. This will open the index properties page.

Your Index settings will look like this:

3. Use the arrows < and > at the bottom of the settings window to display and set the first page in your PDF.

4. VALUES section – You need to set the correct value for each corresponding field:

Title – this would refer to the title of the first song (look at the image above ☝🏻)

The next field will display the name of the PDF.
Start Page – for the page of the first tune in the book.
End Page for the next field (some tunes have two pages) – to” close” the bookmark.

Most of the Indexes that I have found have only the Start page field and don’t have the End page so if the tune has a two-page layout, forScore will make a bookmark of the first page only, and to make the tune shareable you’ll need to add the last page of the tune manually to make it a “complete bookmark”. So In the CSV Indexes, I have created, I added the End Page field as well. I also have added a Composer field to add it to metadata so the tunes can be grouped and searchable by their composers.

That is because some of the tunes have a two-page layout so the whole tune of the two pages will be bookmarked.

You can see the differences between the existing format CSV Indexes and the custom CSV Indexes I have made. Here are the screenshots of both the Old and New CSV Indexes opened in the spreadsheet program:

5. SETTINGS section – set the Page number offset to the desired value, so the page number will be set to the corresponding page in the PDF. If, for example, the first tune in the Real Book Vol I 6th edition (“African Flower”) is on page 10 and page 9 in your PDF, then the Page number offset should be set to “-1”.

Skip header rows – in my Indexes, I have added the header row (see the image above ☝🏻) so Skip header rows should be set to”1″.

6. Click on Save at the top right corner.


Delete the Bookmarks to reset the index

If the Index settings are not applied correctly, the Index will not work properly. In this case, you will need to reset the Index settings and delete all bookmarks. The deletion of “old” bookmarks is needed for new settings to make the effect.

Here are the steps:
Edit => select All => delete => click to confirm the deletion.
Also deleting or reinstalling the Index itself and the PDF file might be helpful.

The following images show how to delete bookmarks in forScore.

Add/insert blank page(s) to the PDF to fit the page numbers (#)

Another simple solution to set your PDF to correspond to the page numbers of the contents of the book is to insert a blank page(s) or to duplicate the existing page (i.e. the cover page).

If you already created the bookmarks in the PDF you need to delete them.

You can do this right in the forScore. Here is how:

1. Click on the File icon (the icon on the right next to the Metronome icon in the upper panel) => Rearrange. 

2. In the Rearrange window click on the “+” at the bottom to open the “insert” window.

3. Click on “Templates” at the bottom and choose the empty page.

It will add an empty page to your PDF. 

4. Click and drag it to the beginning of your PDF, to place it right after the cover page for instance.

5. Click on “Save” to save it (or “Save As” to save it as a new PDF).

You can also duplicate any page at the beginning to add an extra one to the PDF. In the Rearrange window (step 2) click the little circled “+” on the page you want to duplicate. It will create a duplicate of this page.


Here is a forScore reference on how to rearrange the pages in the PDF

You can also add an empty page in the PDF on your computer using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

Here is how

More resources

  • The best iPad score reader for most people [2023 update] by David MacDonald – review on iPad score reader apps
  • How to transfer your forScore library to a new iPad by David MacDonald (scoring notes article)
  • Using Indexes to create bookmarks (forScore Knowlege Base)
  • forScore user guide: Metadata (forScore user guide)
  • YouTube video on forScore Indexes (YouTube video)
  • Adding Bookmarks to forScore for multi-page PDF & add that page to a Setlist (this YouTube video and this YouTube video)
  • A Pro Musicians Guide To Using forScore (In-Depth Walk Through) (YouTube video)
  • Amazing iPad Feature for Musicians | Hands-Free Page Turning Demo | ForScore Pro Face Gestures (YouTube video)

forScore App

The forScore app for iOS is an amazing tool. I use it daily as my main score and sheet music reader app for iPad and iPhone in my teaching, practicing, or performing. I (almost) say “goodbye” to those heavy music books and printed PDF scans that I used to carry with me in my bag :) Thanks to a nice screen on today’s digital devices, reading music becomes easy in a dark room or on stages with poor lighting.

There is much more to discover with forScore – the variety of annotation tools, tuner, metronome, scanner, setlist maker, audio file player with a speed changer (good for transcribing music), page editor, cropper, and more. The developers are very active in improving the app and working on new features. At the time of reviewing this post, the current version of forScore is version 13 which is available for iPhone (since v.12) and has an iCloud backup for your scores and full iOS 15 compatibilities among numerous other new features.

*** *** ***

I hope that the information in this post was helpful. If you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know in the comments area.

Share this article!

Alec is a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and educator from Tel Aviv. He likes sharing his experience, knowledge, and ideas.

More articles

30 thoughts on “Indexing Real Books On iPad”

  1. This is a nice tutorial.

    One question, though.

    Once the bookmarks are in forScore, how do you make those bookmarks available to be used in the Setlist section?

      • When I try to save a song in the setlist, the entire pdf file saves as the song. Not sure if I did the values incorrectly?

        • Make sure you configure both the Start Page and the End Page so your bookmark will become an “item”. Page bookmarks are like table of contents entries that simply take you to a specific page, while Item bookmarks work like virtual items in your forScore library:
          A quick way to make an item in the is to enter numbers for start page and end page in the score properties.

  2. In the latest version of the Real Book Sixth Edition index, “Upper Manhattan Medical Group (UMMG)” imports with a different spelling of Billy Strayhorn as composer. “Billie Strayhorn” although the actual imported field misspelled Strayhorn as well. Easy to fix one entry after importing, but thought I would point it out.

    Otherwise worked fine and saved a lot of time.

    FWIW, the indexes are keyed to the scanned pdfs of the Hal Leonard books.

    If one managed to convert the Amazon ebook files directly, they did not work because the conversion separated the title from the music for a couple tunes, which threw the subsequent page numbers off. “C’est Is Bon” was the first one; the title and composer lines are both two lines long which changes the spacing. This problem changed the offset from a fixed value for the whole book to one that varied so that later songs (after the first conversion problem) needed a larger offset.

    Not really your problem to fix. I suppose I could have edited the relevant pages in the CSV index file to account for this. It’s an anomaly with the original Amazon conversion of the book into an Amazon ebook file, especially when the title or composer lines take up more space than the ebook designers expected. The Miles Davis omnibook is another example; in that case the problem is visible in the Amazon ebook even before conversion.

    • Thank you, Phillip, for taking the time to write the comment. Of course, the name Billy Strayhorn was misspelled and I fixed it. The updated index is uploaded.
      I have never used the Real Book index files with PDFs converted from Amazon ebooks. It is good to learn about the issue that raises with the conversion. There should be a workaround for this. Do you think shortening the names of the long Song Title / Composer Name fields would save the problem for the Amazon ebook PDF files?

      • It’s not a problem with the index, it has to do with the coding when Amazon converts the files they get from Hal Leonard into an ebook. Their conversion doesn’t work well with multiple composers or long song titles, which causes the music to flow onto a second page. Very annoying.

        I’ve tried editing the ebook file directly, but haven’t been able to fix the problem. The best solution I found was to export to Word, fix the problem there, and save as a pdf.

  3. Alec,
    Just got the index for Real Book 6th Edition. Unfortunately, after following your instructions, it does not let me save. For some reason the “save” is ‘grayed out’. Everything else went just as instructed. I have to cancel out and then there is no index or TOC…. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Rich,
      It happens sometimes depending on the PDF file you have. Please try to click on the arrows at the bottom of the index settings window to activate the Save link.
      Let me know if it works for you.

  4. Hello,
    Great tutorial but I am stuck. I have uploaded all my realbooks into ForScore and I have the DIYStompboxes URL in Safari on my 2021 IPAD Pro. I do not see the ‘open in’ or copy to ForScore option. Stuck on opening the index csv files in ForScore.


    • Hi, Jay
      Click on one of the links on the URL you’ve mentioned and save the CSV on your iPad or open it directly in forScore.

  5. Thank you for this. I have one challenge though – how to add bookmarks to a setlist? When I search and open a page and add it to setlist, it actually adds the whole PDF instead and not that one page/bookmark. I wonder if anyone has figured a way.

    • You need to configure your bookmark’s first and last page to turn it into a separate item. When a bookmark points to the first page of a tune it is not shareable as a separate page. Tap on a bookmark and then tap on “Layout” below. You’ll see the first and last page fields. Enter the last page number (it might be the same page number for a one-paged tune). Click :Done: to save the changes.
      Now your page is a separate bookmark or an “Item” as they call it at forScore.
      Here is a screenshot I’ve made:

      Read on forScore bookmarks:

        • Yes, right. But if you have have a PDF of a Real Book you can apply an Index file which is a CSV file consisting the page numbers and ither info. When I figured out about the last page numbers lacking in the bookmarks, I created a few Real Book indexes and added the first and last page numbers plus composer names (an important meta).
          You can Install and configure the index in forScore with a few taps and save a lot of time to bookmark the pages.

          There are some screenshots of the Indexes.
          Check out them here:

  6. Longtime Real Book user, brand new ForScore user here. These indexes look like just what I need, so thanks for this page! But the $64 question… where can the PDFs of Real Books be found? I own paper copies, but am willing to pay again to be legit for a PDF copy that looks great in ForScore. It looks like Hal Leonard offers Kindle versions, but converting those to PDFs involves some shady steps too…

  7. You should set the exact page number of the first tune in the Start Page field (third from the top) of your PDF of the book. To do this use the left/right arrows at the bottom.

  8. Hi Alex, You helped me once already and big thanks for that! And now I’ve got another question re: getting the The Real Book sixth edition index to work. I have downloaded the Real Book Sixth edition, and purchased your csv file. I followed your directions exactly multiple times for installing the index and it works, but, it is always one page off, i.e African Flower search comes up with Afro Blue. I’ve tried using the offset page -1, and many other options and can’t seem to get it to work. Do you have any advice?

    • I have exactly the same issue – I haven’t tried this yet, but instead of setting the data on page 9 so that is the first song (which is correct), I’ll set page 8 as African Flower even though it’s blank.

      Other tips?

  9. Hi Alec, I really appreciate the work you’ve done to help jazz musicians to use real books. I’m using a 3rd generation iPad Pro (2018) and using version of forScore 13.04. I’ve been able to successfully load 5th version real books 1,2,3 and have added the indexes.

    The problem I see is the difficulty creating setlists from the the indexed real book pages. I watched your instructional video, and it looked like about 10 steps to load one song into a setlist? It seems like there should be a simpler way to do it.

    • Thank you, Paul!
      Yes, it takes some steps to turn the indexed pages into real bookmarks (or “Virtual Scores”, as it calls this in forScore) but not with all the PDFs!
      Some indexed PDFs are just fine. I will post the solution when I’ll find it.

    • Hello Joseph, actually I don’t if there are such books. There are Volumes 2 and 3 of the old real books and you can find links to the indexes in my blog post. I have checked the Hal Leonard website for the Sixth Edition books, and there is only Vol. one available. You can have a look here:

      Please correct me if I am missing something.

      • You are correct…..I meant Vol II and Vol III of the 2nd Edition Hal Leonard Real Books. These nominally align in content with Vol II and Vol III of the old books (Edition 5) with similar additions and subtractions for copyright purposes, but the higher quality, accuracy etc. I don’t understand why they are not called “6th Edition” like “Vol 1”. The indexes for these can be created by modifying the corresponding CSV files you have linked like you probably did for the original book. I appreciated not having to create that index, so thank you.

  10. I followed the Robby Burns video numerous times, watching it on my iMac and working on my new iPad Pro. I only got blank pages every time. Maybe the instructions have changed. I hope there is an update somewhere.

    • Make sure you install the Real book index file properly in the forScore app on the iPad.
      Then you should make the settings. I have updated the post with some images explaining the installation.


Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00