Although designed to flip pages with notation and scoring software, a free companion app allows custom key assignments
Although you can load sheet music and scores on a computer, as well as mobile devices like a tablet or smartphone, there’s always the issue of needing to turn pages. This requires your hands off your instrument and pushing a key or swiping a touchscreen.
PageFlip’s products caught my attention for this review because of my narration work. Printing it out means paper rustling, which has to be edited out and can also interrupt the flow. Attaching an iPad to a mic stand (using something like IK Multimedia’s iKlip2 solves the paper noise problem, but with the iPad close to the mic, touching something connected to a mic stand can be a problem. Orchestras and pit musicians also need to turn pages noiselessly (and preferably, hands-free). For these applications and more, the PageFlip family of products provides a solution.
The PageFlip Product Trio
PageFlip Firefly ($109.95) is a pedal-controlled, Bluetooth page-turner that works wirelessly (or wired, via the included USB cable) with Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. You can add two optional, external pedals to the Firefly for four-pedal operation.
Because PageFlip emulates keyboard presses, the sheet music or text app needs to respond to page up/page down, arrow left/right, arrow up/down, mouse click left/right, or space/enter. Not only does this range of options mean you can control some DAW functions, what’s even cooler is PageFlip’s free software app (Windows 64-bit, 7+ or MacOS 10.9+) that lets you program custom keyboard assignments, including keypress combinations and hotkey functions (Fig. 1).
For $20 more, the PageFlip DragonFly has two additional, smaller pedals elevated above the existing pedals; for $20 less, the PageFlip Butterfly offers three preset pedal modes that can’t be reprogrammed, and can’t connect via USB (wireless only).
The user interface is super-simple: turn on power, and then select one of the five possible switching modes. An additional switch turns on an LED in each pedal so you can see them in the dark. And, connectivity is easy. Pairing via Bluetooth is painless; if you don’t have Bluetooth you can buy an optional Bluetooth USB dongle from Pageflip for $15, or with the Firefly and Dragonfly, also connect via USB.
The unit is made of rugged, high-impact plastic. The switches are reset, so even Bigfoot couldn’t break them.
The pedals use two AA batteries, but the batteries last a looong time—PageFlip estimates 200 hours of continuous operation. Get a couple rechargeables and you’re good to go. Also note that the Windows app for custom programming won’t work with 32-bit systems. But you already graduated to 64 bits a long time ago, right?
This is an extremely clever and useful device, not only because it does its intended function of changing pages, but because it’s a wireless or USB-wired remote control that’s handy for any computer program with keyboard shortcuts. (For example with Word, one pedal could turn bold on and off, while the other turns Italics on and off.) With five presets that trigger a pair of functions and another two optional pedals for five more function pairs, that’s a lot of control possibilities. (Note that if you re-program all the functions and don’t want to have to “go to the floor” every time you want to change presets, then use two external pedals, keep the Firefly on your desktop, and then change the presets manually.)
Overall, it seems like a lot of thought went into the PageFlip products. They’re durable, noiseless, battery-friendly, super-easy to set up and use, and do what they’re supposed to do (and more). The Firefly is the most popular of the line, but consider spending the extra $20 for the Dragonfly if you’re also interested in more general-purpose computer control. Either way, you can’t go wrong.