Fri, 02 Sep 2011 App Studio for QuarkXPress review
Quark finally ships the App Studio – find out if it was worth the wait
Earlier this year, when QuarkXPress 9 came out, most people remarked that it was missing its headline new feature, App Studio. Now, with the release of the 9.1 update, Quark has remedied this, so we’ve taken it for a spin.
Essentially, the App Studio allows you to create native apps for the iPad using all the design tools familiar to QuarkXPress users, and without the need for any complex coding work. As such, it gives publishers a fairly quick and cheap method for creating book and magazine apps, which coupled with the App Store market place makes for a fairly compelling business model.
There are three stages to publishing via the App Studio: first you have to create an issue; then you have to build the app which customers can use to read your issue; and finally you have to get it into the app store.
Using App Studio
When you create a new document there’s a new App Studio layout option. This gives you the iPad screen size, though you can set the margins. (Quark has said that it will add support for other devices, and even Web apps.) This then creates two blank layouts side by side, for vertical and horizontal layouts. The two layouts are synchronised together as a single Layout Family, so adding or deleting a page from one layout will automatically have the same effect on the other.
You can also export existing print layouts into tablet-friendly editions but they can only be viewed in one orientation.
As well as the standard design tools, there’s also an extra App Studio window, which lets you add some interactivity. So, for example, you can set up pictures which expand to full screen when double-clicked, and you can pan and zoom within those pictures. You can also add captions with extra information, and can set up slide shows to expand on a particular topic. You can also include movies and audio tracks, with options to embed those in the app or link to an external site to keep file sizes down. Other options include buttons, links to websites, and adding scroll bars to windows. You can achieve some nice effects but this panel is not very intuitive and would have benefited from better interface design
App Studio factory
Once you’ve created the issue, the next stage is to build the app. For this Quark supplies a standalone program, App Studio Factory, which you can find in the App Studio folder. It’s easy to use – just pick a template from the selection and then customise it to suit the products you want to publish. This could be a title, so for example, a Macworld App would let you view each monthly issue of Macworld. Or the App could cover a collection of loosely related issues or books. Or you could simply embed the issue within the app and then sell it as a one-off event. You will have to get a template license from Quark before you can go any further. You then have to register your iPad with it in order to test your apps with that iPad before submitting the finished product to Apple.
The App Studio comes included in the 9.1 update. But you will need an Apple developer account which costs $99 or £61.
You also need an App template license and an issue license pack from Quark. These are charged on a sliding scale, depending on the number of issues you plan to sell. You can find details on Quark’s website. As a rough guide, the app template for a one-off single item would cost £95, while a one-issue license pack costs a further £255.
You will also need a web server to host your app, and of course, Apple will take a 30 percent cut of any sales.
Previewing your app
You can test your app using Quark’s App Studio Issue Previewer, available for free from the App Store. In theory you can run this through the iOS Simulator on a Mac, but we can also report that this works very nicely on an iPad. Simply use the Previewer app to generate a URL, then type this into a web browser on your Mac to bring up the Upload page.
Choose the .zave file, created when you export the issue, and providing your iPad’s WiFi is turned on, that file then appears in the Previewer app on the iPad. You can also upload the file through iTunes when you synch your iPad, but the WiFi option is a very neat way of checking how your app looks. It takes just a few minutes to export the issue, and to upload it to the iPad.