New website is online

July 30, 2013

The new Zong! website is available at 🙂

It will be the central place to provide information about the project, present news in the blog and allow discussion in the forums. We will provide access to the Java source repository and to early builds. This is the last post in this blog. From now on, the blog on the new website is used, and this blog will be removed soon.

Currently, Zong! is under very active development. We are trying to release the source code to the public as soon as possible, making the further development much more transparent than it was up to now. At the moment, we are still refactoring our project, removing proprietary code, implementing build scripts, continuous integration and so on.

Why I don’t like online music notation apps

April 17, 2013

As I could see at Musikmesse 2013, the trend in music notation programs goes to online services like Noteflight and mobile apps like Scorio. From a developer’s point of view, especially Noteflight is an fascinating piece of software – a whole notation program written in pure HTML5 and JavaScript. However, as a user, I am not convinced of the idea behind online music notation. Here are my reasons:

  1. I have a fixed work area when writing music. This is not only because I need a large screen, a hardware keyboard, a mouse, a MIDI keyboard and a printer, but also because I need to have my peace at my own desktop. In 99% of the time, I write music on the same computer. Online notation programs allow to write music “everywhere”. I just don’t need that. I find it horrible to write music on a tablet PC or even a smartphone.
  2. I prefer printed sheet music. Online programs can also print your music, but their focus is much more on screen display and the viewer’s perspective. Maybe the musicians I know (including myself) are old-fashioned, but we like to play music from printed paper. We take notes with a pencil (without limitations which notes are possibe), and we need no internet connection (we have none in our rehearsal room) and no electric power. I like the idea of sharing files with others over the internet, but this is also possible with e-mail, dropbox and other services, and for sure also within desktop notation programs in the future. I need no web browser for that.
  3. Pay for the time. The price of the programs is currently at about 80$ per year. Suitable desktop notation programs cost about two or three times as much, but only once (bigger updates not included). Since I am happy with my desktop application, the subscription of the online program would be more expensive already in the third year.
  4. Dependency on the vendor. When the vendor closes its service, I can rescue the files by exporting to MusicXML, but I can not use the same notation program any more. This is different with offline desktop applications: When the vendor stops development, I can still install and use the software on my computer as long as I like it.
  5. A technical reason: Web technologies are limited. Although new standards like the Web MIDI API will follow, I think the web is not suitable for high-end multimedia applications. When running in the web browser, you always have an additional layer (the browser) between your application and the operating system, which makes everything slower, more limited and reduced to a compromise that works for all kinds of devices. When you want to fully exploit the power of your computer, there is no better option than running as low-level as possible (already choosing Java for Zong! was a hard decision).

New Java 2D engine, replacing JOGL/Swogl

January 9, 2013

JOGL and Swogl are both great libraries, bringing the power of OpenGL to the Java desktop. However, we have experienced problems when it comes to high quality text rendering. OpenGL does not support text rendering at all. But JOGL provides some experimental workarounds, some of them looking quite promising (like the GPU accelerated Text Demo). Nevertheless we wanted to switch to a much more stable graphics library to minimize the effort of graphics programming and spend more time for music notation issues.

We had a look on JavaFX, which also looks promising, but still has a long way to go to be ready for read world-applications. Qt is great, but the Qt Java binding is outdated and more or less dead. One evening when we tried Java 2D / AWT again, we were surprised by its speed. Back in the days when we began to work on Zong!, it was incredibly slow, but its performance has been greatly improved in Java 6 (and maybe 7). Now we are able to paint pages with about 1500 musical symbols (SVG paths) with about 30 frames per second! Welcome back, AWT 🙂

Here is a new screenshot of the Zong! Editor, showing some symbols and text, which are now rendered sharply at each zoom level:


Zong! Webviewer Server is online

September 27, 2012

A first version of our Zong! Webviewer Server is now online. It allows to open MusicXML files via the internet, renders them to PNG images, MP3 and OGG audio files and computes the cursor positions for playback visualization. There is a demo page which demonstrates the features for some given sample files, but also allows to open your own MusicXML files. The server is based on the Zong! libraries, Jetty and the H2 Database Engine.

As you can see, the server just provides a backend which can be controlled by sending JSON encoded commands. The next step is to create an HTML frontend (HTML 5 and JavaScript) that uses this backend to present a user-friendly online viewer for MusicXML files.

Xenoage Utils released under MIT license

September 7, 2012

As a first step to release the whole Zong! project under an open source license, I released the Xenoage Utils project under the MIT license today. I spent the last two days by cleaning up the project and separating it from the Zong! project, where it will now be included as a git submodule. Maybe it will also be useful for other projects, I especially recommend to have a look at the utils-pdlib project which includes persistent and functional data structures.

The next steps are to clean up the Zong! project itself, including the Editor, Webviewer and Android app, which were closed source so far. After that we will continue development on all modules.

Don’t let Sibelius die!

August 1, 2012

Sibelius is a great piece of software. It really hurts to hear that AVID wants to move its development to Ukraine instead of continuing with its spezialized team in Finsbury Park, UK. AVID has financial problems, but the better alternative would be to sell it back to the original authors. Please help to save Sibelius and sign this petition.

A note about the current state of Zong!: Currently I’m working on my first really big project as a freelance developer. When this is finished (late autumn), I plan to continue the development of Zong!. However, there is good news: We think about moving the whole project to a free software license, including the Android part and the Editor part. Stay tuned 🙂

Iteration 61 finished

November 21, 2011

Yesterday, we pushed Zong! p0.5.61 to our git server. Among the new features of this iteration are the support for 64bit operating systems, styled text for lyrics, directions and any other text elements, export as WAV, MP3 and OGG and text editing in the Editor. Furthermore, the Zong! Server was extended to support the generation of sampled audio files, which lays the foundation for playback in the HTML Web Viewer (coming soon). The next iteration already starts today 🙂

Why Zong! is currently paused

October 9, 2011

Sorry for not posting during the last months. There are mainly two reasons for that:

  • I’m currently finishing my final project for my computer science studies. It is called “SimView” and is a traffic visualization tool, which is part of the simTD project and which I’m developing for the chair of traffic engineering and control of Technische Universität München. See the screenshot below. Originally I wanted to work on this project in early 2012, but due to time constraints I had to do it now, so I could not work on Zong! as much as I wanted.
  • I’m preparing for my future life as a freelance software developer, which will basically start in November 2011, but finally in March 2012 when I’ve finished my very last lecture and when I’ve been awared a M.Sc. degree. Zong! is an important part of this plan, although I’m currently not expecting to earn money with the project in the near future 😉

So stay tuned, Zong! will be much more active again starting in the following month! I can hardly wait to continue with this fun project 🙂


USA West Coast Trip

May 12, 2011

Due to Anja‘s and my journey along the west coast of the USA the Zong! project is paused for a month. You can follow our tour on my facebook album 🙂

MusicXML export added

March 16, 2011

Yesterday we released version p0.5.58. The Zong! Editor (closed source) now allows writing notes using the keyboard, and we added basic MusicXML 2.0 export. Slurs, beams and directions are still missing, but will be added in version p0.5.64 (end of April).

Here is a screenshot that shows an exported MusicXML file opened with MuseScore: