As regular readers here will know, while I’m a huge fan of iOS-based music making, I also run a desktop music production system. However, that’s something that iOS is now also an integral part of. This can just be as a source of sounds or effects but I also use my iOS hardware as a ‘tool’ to make my desktop system workflow more efficient.
In that roll, apps such as Cubase iC Pro (Steinberg’s iOS remote control app for Cubase and which I use all the time) or Duet Display (which allows you to extend your desktop display onto an iOS screen and which I also find very useful) come in very handy. However, there is another app that I also use regularly in this kind of function – Metagrid – and which I reviewed back on the blog when it was first released about 12 months ago.
Metagrid, from developer Przemek Mieszkowski, is currently priced at UK£14.99/US$14.99, is a 45MB download and requires and iPad running iOS9.3 or later. You can find the app in the ‘productivity’ section of the App Store rather than the ‘music’ section. And, while the ‘productivity’ tag is most certainly correct, this is an app that is most certainly aimed at musicians who run desktop software and happen to also own an iPad….
As I commented in my original review, I think Metagrid actually deserves the title tagline of a ‘generic touchscreen controller’. Once you have installed the tiny server application on your desktop computer (you can download this for free from the Metagrid website), and you launch the app on your iPad, it can use any shared WiFi system between the desktop and iPad to establish a connection and then allows you to control almost any desktop software via the touchscreen providing you have a Metagrid template (either pre-supplied or one you have designed yourself). In addition, Metagrid can automatically responds to whatever app is currently in focus and active on your desktop and, as you move between multiple desktop software packages, the Metagrid display will automatically change to show you a control set for that software.
And, if you are into desktop music production, if you happen to be a Cubase, Logic, Digital Performer or Studio One user, you can also download detailed, and fully customisable, control screensets designed for your favourite DAW/sequencer. However, Metagrid isn’t limited to just these DAWs… the whole grid system is fully customisable by the user and, even if you switch to a desktop application that Metagrid doesn’t offer some default commands for, you can always create your own.
Anyway, the app has received a number of very useful updates since I did my original review adding plenty of features that have broadened it’s appeal even further. While it was originally for OSX only, Windows support has since been added. Equally, the original WiFi connectivity has new been complemented by USB-based connectivity for those that prefer the wired route.
Indeed, USB for Windows was what prompted be to comment on the latest update (which actually appeared a few weeks ago but I’ve only just had occasion to try it out using a Windows-based desktop system). However, that’s not the only addition in the recent 1.3.1 update as support for Cubase users has been updated to reflect changes introduced in Steinberg’s recent Cubase v.9 release. The Studio One template has also been updated.
Usefully, compared to the original release, Metagrid now allows you to choose whether it shifts focus as you switch between your different desktop applications. Equally, under OSX at least, Metagrid’s various MIDI ports stay installed on your computer (i.e. they are no longer volatile) and this means much less faffing about on setup. Oh, and the app is not just about music software as you can create templates for other common applications such as Photoshop, Final Cut and Illustrator as Metagrid includes button icons suited to all these sorts of applications.
As a powerful and flexible touchscreen ‘remote controller’ for almost any OSX desktop software application, at UK£10.99/US$14.99, Metagrid strikes me as a very good deal. Developer Przemek has also done an excellent job of providing video tutorials for the app (I’ve embedded a couple of examples below)…. Metagrid is well worth a look….