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Hands-On With Apple’s New iAd Producer

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Apple (s aapl) wants everyone to get in on the iAd game, so today it launched iAd Producer. The Mac app is available as a free download for iOS developers through Apple’s website. iAd Producer allows you to design and prepare interactive iAd advertisements for use in iPhone and iPad apps using a visual editor, and manages the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript backend for you. It also offers advanced tools for more knowledgeable users, and allows developers to create templates and custom components for re-use and potential distribution.

Sounds like iAds for dummies, but is it really? I consulted a dummy with little-to-no programming experience to find out: me. The app definitely starts off simple. Upon opening, it asks you whether you want to develop for iPhone or iPad, then you get a flowchart of your project with all elements clearly labelled. Everything you need is contained in a single window, so you won’t get lost the way a novice might with Xcode and all its floating tool panes, for instance. I couldn’t help but notice a resemblance to Apple’s iPad apps in iAd Producer’s overall design, interface and navigation. Could it be a sign of things to come for OS X desktop software in general?

Back to how it works. You click on individual elements (Splash, Menu, Pages, etc.) to bring up a template menu. I’m telling you this, but I don’t really have to since just mousing over the elements informs you exactly what to do next. Once you’ve chosen a template, you can double-click on any element to drill down to an editor for that component. Here, you can drag and drop multimedia resources to the Asset Library on the right from the Finder, and then add those elements to your template layouts. You can also add additional elements to any template from the Objects navigator at the bottom of your editing window.
From the Asset Library, you can locate the original files in Finder, replace all of one with another asset, and even open files in external editors (whichever editor is set as default for the file type selected will open). You can also specify from the overview screen how each page transitions to the next, in the same way you might in iMovie.

Bottom line: I built a working iAd in about 10 minutes, start to finish. Even if I took my time and created original assets, this would be an incredibly quick and painless process. You get instant feedback throughout thanks to the Simulate button in the bottom left-hand corner of iAd Producer, which allows you to see how your iAd will work in the iPhone simulator that ships with Apple’s iOS developer tools. I didn’t see a single line of programming code during the entire process.

iAd Producer is nice, but it raises one burning question: How come I don’t have this without the advertising focus as, say, “App Producer,” a part of the iLife suite that lets users create their own apps? Even if I could only use the apps I made with it on my own iOS devices, that would be amazing. All my awkward fumbling with Xcode, and I’ve never been able to do much beyond crash my iPhone. The “ad” I created amounts to little more than an advanced personal slideshow and gallery app, but that’s about all I’d really need one to be.

Anyone else a little jealous that Apple is treating advertising developers so well while leaving us would-be amateur app creators hanging?

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12 Responses to “Hands-On With Apple’s New iAd Producer”

  1. I have also often wondered why apple doesn’t release a tool for building iPhone apps. XCode does offer a nice dev environment but it’s still quite archaic, especially the code writing itself. It’s an age-old language that’s far harder to master than -for example- javascript. It still uses concepts from the stone age that developers really shouldn’t have to be bothered with in 2011.
    To say that making app development easy will only incite more fart apps is really an elitist remark. Yes, we might get even more fart apps, but we will also get more original and fun content.

    • Xcode is not archaic. The ‘ageold’ language for native apps is a choice of either C, C++ or usually Obj-C. These C languages are the most commonly used languages for desktops and gaming devices. They are certainly not archaic. C based languages are certainly more powerful than Javascript.

      Javascript is simply not powerful or capable enough to create apps that will match apples standards. Can you write a moderately complex game in Javascript, I certainly can’t? Can you make anything in a proper 3D environment, not easily.

      If devs want to write an app in Javascript, they can use something like PhoneGap or Titanium Developer. But no-one is making games with these… only little webapps packaged as native apps.

      I do agree though that a simpler language would encourage more original ideas. This is what the Adobe to iPhone compiler has tried to do…

    • You could not be more wrong, Objective-C is very powerful, and javascript is not as powerful. Yes it takes longer to learn but that does not make it bad. There is nothing stone age about logic. 1+1 is always going to be 2 in the year 2010, 2100 and 1804.

      iAds are made with javascript for a reason, one is ease of use and the other is things like download times, the fact that its interpreted rather then compiled…

    • Our platform allows anyone to build rich HTML5 ads without programming. You can run these units on any of the mobile or web ad networks that allow you to buy inventory. At this time, Apple is not allowing anyone to buy inventory in the iAd network. When they do open it up, you can either use their iAd producer or Sprout’s AdVine to build iAds.

  2. Nice to see that Apple has released the *second* visual authoring environment for building iAds. Sprout’s AdVine has been used for the past year to build rich HTML5 ads for mobile and web environments. You just can’t buy any inventory on the iAd network.

    Want to give our platform a try and build an ad in under 10 mins? Check out this video:

  3. This should go out as a free download from Apple on their site for general web designers etc. Talk about encouraging HTML5/ CCS3 and an alternative to Flash. Tis would promote the use of Macs, Safari and the web for iOS devices. Good for the Apple business plan, good for the web and an extra spur for Adobe to make their new version of Flash that generates HTML5 as well as SWF files.

  4. The ‘Why doesn’t this create apps’ question could be answered a number of ways. First, the current 5 thousand fart apps would inflate to 5 million fart apps very very quickly. Then you might say, why can’t I use it for personal projects? Well, Apple doesn’t make money on those, and that’s not a very good business model.

    The XCode beta has a single window (presumably for full screen Lion mode)