Abcmus 2.0 Henrik's Home Page

The History of AbcMus

See also things fixed since last version, plans for the future, special thanks.

I first discovered the ABC format when surfing around in February 1996. It immediately appealed to me, partly because I had invented a similar format many years ago (in 1987), and used it to transcribe tunes, keep an index of tunes, and write programs to analyse tunes. This format was essentially built on the same principles as the ABC format, but slightly different.

I quickly discovered that I didn't like the output of any of the available player programs (it simply didn't sound like Irish music), so I adapted my player program for my own format to read abc files, and converted my old files. This first player program was a DOS program that played through the PC speaker (this program is scrapped long ago, because it wasn't very user-friendly anyway).

I also started typing in my whole collection of tunes in ABC format. When I learn a tune, I nearly always write down the "dots" for it, so I can go back and refresh my memory in a few years' time. So, I had over 1000 tunes that I started typing in (I'm quite a fast typist, by the way). This collection is available on the web and now contains more than 1600 tunes.

When I bought a sound card for my computer in April 1996, I decided to write a proper player program. I hadn't done very much Windows programming before, so this was also an opportunity to learn that.

I also decided to include my automatic chordsetting utility, which was a funny thing that came out as a by-product of my experiments at analyzing tunes. I wrote this chordsetting algorithm before I had studied any musicology, so it's all built on my way of setting chords, not on any classical rules.

A few principles that went into the design of Abcmus:

  • The playback should be good enough to be enjoyable as music. I don't like a tune if I don't hear a good version of it.
  • It should be easy to use and useful.
  • There should be easy-to-use keyboard shortcuts for most things in the program. I prefer using a keyboard to using a mouse. Intensive mouse use also puts you in danger of developing "mouse arm" (like tennis arm). I find that far too many programs nowadays are totally mouse-dependent, and no real effort has been made to design a good keyboard interface for them.
  • It should be fast. There are too many badly designed and slow programs around.
I worked on Abcmus during my spare time for nearly a year, and at the end of March 1997, I decided I had a good enough program to release.

On the 31st of March, I released the first beta version. During some weeks of beta testing, I received lots of useful input from the beta testers, and added lots of features, and reworked some parts of the program.

Then, on the 10th of May, I decided that Abcmus 1.0 was ready for public release, and if you're reading this, you've probably downloaded it already, or are thinking of doing it.

I kept on working on new features and improvements for Abcmus, and in February 1998 I had a beta release of version 1.1 ready. Unfortunately I got very busy with other projects, so the final 1.1 release was not made until the 12th of January 1999. On the 8th of March 1999 I released a version 1.1b, which contained some minor bug fixes.

In the spring of 1999 I started a new job and was bogged down with work for a while. I took up work on a new version of AbcMus again during the summer of 2001. Other work and my first baby took a lot of time, so the first beta release of version 2.0 was not until July 2002. The final release of version 2.0 was on 16 October 2002.

For a complete list of improvements and fixes in AbcMus, see things fixed since last version.

What are the plans for the future?

I will have a version 2.1 out later, but there's no date planned yet. Here are some things that I've planned on including:
  • Transformation of tunes: Merge voices into [ ] chords, split [ ] chords into separate voices. Sort notes in [ ] chords.
  • Import more file formats: MIDI, Finale. I might include other formats too, but I don't have specifications or descriptions for any other useful formats at the moment.
  • Choice of sorting the tune list by title, key, meter, rhythm, etc.
  • ABC jukebox. Make a list of tunes to play, or choose random play, etc.
See also the wish list.
Some time in the future, I might also include printing and viewing of abc tunes as sheet music, but that's a version 3.0, which is quite far into the future.

Thanks to...

All those who have helped me in beta testing, and suggested improvements.

Thanks to (in no special order)...
John Walsh, Verner Blindheim, Les Taylor, Robert Blakeley, Michael Hogan, Dan Leonard, Harry Warner, Philippe Varlet, Dan McMullen, Jim Vint, Bob Hodgson, Jeffrey Myers, Eric Forgeot, John Lynch, Don Whitener, Dave McGlade.

The AbcMus Home Page / © 1997-2002 Henrik Norbeck /