What once was in the hands of a few early adopter Lemur owners and technologists is now available to the masses: most musicians own some kind of touch device, capable of spawning faders and X/Y controls and buttons and layouts for just about anything they can imagine.

And the app that is perhaps best known for that, TouchOSC, gets a major update this week. What it means depends on what you own.

Android owners, at last you have a proper touch app that’s more or less on par with what iPhone and iPad owners have. Sure, there have been a handful of Android apps for touch control, but none with stability or flexibility to match the iOS offerings. In fact, one of the worst was an experimental, hobbled Android port of TouchOSC. This isn’t that: it’s as close as you can get to feature parity with iOS. You miss out on Apple’s built-in support for MIDI (wired, wireless, and inter-app), as nothing in wide use exists on Android. But in exchange, you get the ability to run on the countless Android phones and tablets out there. And I can imagine even some iOS owners might grab an extra cheap tablet to add more control space.

New iOS owners will want to upgrade, as you’ll get expanded controller features (see below) and, if you own an iPhone 5, proper use of your phone’s elongated 4″ Retina Display.

Owners of legacy hardware will want to make sure they don’t upgrade. Back up, save, etc. TouchOSC, by necessity, drops support for older operating systems and devices, the victim of Apple mandates to keep up with the latest and greatest. Also lost is the old MIDIMobilizer Mk I. I would love to see a jailbreak version of the legacy app, somehow, unsupported.

On the fence about Lemur versus TouchOSC?

There are loads of iOS controllers out there, but for maximum control, TouchOSC and Lemur are the clear front-runners. I’m glad to have both on my devices, but if you’re trying to choose, here are some quick reflections, having used both over the years.

In TouchOSC’s favor:
TouchOSC is the clear value buy. In fact, even if you own Lemur, it’s worth grabbing TouchOSC now as it’s on sale in celebration of the release – half off the usual US$5, across all platforms. Lemur is US$50.

You also get more controller support via TouchOSC. Nothing else can match the number of templates for TouchOSC, covering everything from DIY creative code environments to VJ apps to plug-ins and everything in between.

Speaking of controller support, TouchOSC is a natural if you’re a user of Apple Logic. While many of us expected Apple to make its own Logic companion for iPad, they did quietly add native support for TouchOSC in the app. (Video below).

And you still get extensive MIDI support (networked, wired, wireless) and versatile control layouts, just as in Lemur.

Now, TouchOSC is also the clear winner if you run Android, as Lemur is still iOS-only.

In Lemur’s favor:

Lemur has controls that TouchOSC can’t match, with a wider selection of widgets and lots of nifty physics features and the like. To me, it’s still the only mobile controller app that really feels native and natural on a touch device, not only simulating real-world faders and knobs, but taking advantage of touch gestures. (In fact, it’s about time that we saw more innovation in this area, particularly with Windows touch gizmos on the horizon.)

Lemur also has extensive scriptability for advanced, interactive layouts.

You do still get loads of compelling controller layouts – enough that it’s worth spending the $55 bucks to get both apps so you can run all the intriguing user creations the community has created.

Lemur also has on-device control editing, so you can create controls without having to open up an editor app.

My feeling is this: if you’ve spend a couple hundred dollars or more on a tablet, odds are you won’t regret the additional, rather paltry investment in these two apps.

New in TouchOSC

+ Support for iPhone5
+ Support for custom layout sizes
+ Support for more MIDI message types (All controls now support Control Change, Note, Program Change, Poly Pressure, Channel Pressure and Pitch Bend messages)
+ Added XY control MIDI mapping mode (Placing 2 or 3 fingers on the control will send only x or y messages)
+ New iPhone5 layout: “Automat5”
+ Fixed handling of UTF-8 encoded strings in both application and editor
+ Fixed naming issues with virtual CoreMIDI connections (iOS)
– Removed support for MIDIMobilizer Mk I (Please use a CoreMIDI compatible accessory, i.e. MIDIMobilizer Mk II, instead)

It’s worth a read of hexler’s developer travails, and how he managed to cope with both Android’s fragmentation and iOS’ lack of backwards compatibility. (Phew!)

TouchOSC 1.9.0 for Android and iOS out today!

He is a developer I really respect. Less known: he’s got a nifty VJ app called TouchVIZ, also for the iPad.

In action, in videos

Two great examples of what you can do with TouchOSC. First, with Twisted Tools’ Scape:

Second, a look at that native Logic support. (Logic.. speaking of back from the dead, I’m not so surprised when one independent developer like hexler isn’t releasing something every few months. But, uh, I hear Apple has, like, a number of programmers.)

  • Ivan Franco

    Then there’s also TB Midi Stuff, which I have found to be the more versatile.

    • Peter Kirn

      Just bought it … Ashamed not to have played with it. 😉 different market than touchosc, I think. Will give it a go with MeeBlip!

  • gunboat_d

    finally something to shut up the whiners over on hex’s support forum. i can’t believe how rude some of those kids were getting.
    i can’t wait to finally use this on my android tablet!!

  • David

    DAWosc had Android covered and is much more straightforward to set up, especially for midi. But good to hear TouchOSC is closing the gap.

    • Peter Kirn

      I suppose I’m giving an edge here to the open ended environment – but yes, for some applications, those can be useful. Time to reboot the android app guide for music.

    • David

      I think you mean touchDAW, Peter.

      DAWosc is just as open as Touch OSC, if not more so because the templates are stored as easy to understand and manually editable text files in the file system and both midi and OSC translation are handled though puredata on the host side.

    • Peter Kirn

      No, you’re right, looking again DAWosc seems quite cool. It’d be nice to see a Mac editor but maybe you’re tending to deal with text files?

    • David

      I actually always do the color editing in a text editor, with find/replace it’s easier and faster than setting it in the editor. Also, you can make adjustments or fixes directly on your device, e.g. you open the text file and change the midi channel or correct the midi note or OSC value. Just save the text file and re-load the layout in DAWosc. You can actually leave the app open in the background and multitask it all. With a tabbed editor like DroidEdit you can have your whole set open at once.

      You could do it all in a text editor though because the format is very simple and intuitive once you know them. The main problem would be element placement, you would pobably want to use some squared paper.

  • Paul Rose

    maybe I am old, maybe I am stupid, but I am having a hard time to set that up wtih a macbook pro and an iphone5 and ableton live. Launching, arming tracks, fader, sends etc. works, but I can’t get it to play midi notes or drumrack pads.
    And the documentation is rather for people that use pd, but not for me. argh. I hate computers. I watch a movie now.

  • Ben Hovey

    I dig TouchOSC a bunch, but there is one app that is little known, but wonderful: MIDI Designer. I hope you give that app some love one day. He just had a huge update with named ticks and hex buttons. Check it out, I have been using it live a lot.

  • Robin Parmar

    Konkreet Performer looks to be far cooler as an OSC controller… and it is iOS only unfortunately.

  • Justin

    OMG i have waited SOOOOOO long for the Android version to appear. I checked in on the forums once a month for ages now. Got so sick of recompiling the .apk every time I wanted a new layout. ONE VERY, VERY HAPPY CUSTMOER right here. Purchased in a heart-beat.

  • Ashley Brown

    Just so you know Android guys who used to have the free version – its now £2.99 on Android.