Desktop vs web-based software…or not?

Many PubCoder users have asked us why didn’t we develop a software online. (Hold on a second. What’s PubCoder? Aaah. Here’s a post that explains what it’s all about). The arguments in support seemed coherent with the idea that desktop software, generally speaking, is “antique”, vs the web and its infinite possibilities — always up-to-date, no hard-disk space, collaboration, efficiency and the magic word: “cloud”. This post is not to defend desktop apps per se, but to argue why we chose to develop an authoring tool for interactive content as such, and — secondly, and most important — to show that a desktop tool and the web may well live perfectly together, providing the most of both environments for the scope PubCoder is designed.

Why Desktop?

This one’s easy. There must be a reason why most of DTP tools are desktop apps: Adobe InDesign like QuarkXPress, just to mention the most well-known. One may argue: hey, these need to manage high resolution assets, especially when it comes to printed publications. PubCoder is a “digital-first” authoring tool, with this expression meaning it is built to create digital content output, so you’re working with 72 dpi layouts. True. Still, the kinds of projects PubCoder allows you to create are precisely those where having your big source files locally, where the software can use all the horsepower of RAM and CPU makes the whole difference than having less. For the following reasons:

  • On a web application there’s a bottleneck between your desktop and the application, called connectivity. So you better do all the optimisations on this side of the plug. This is time-consuming. In PubCoder all the work is done by the software, automatically. Just drag your 2GB TIFF images, use it in your 100px per 100px box layout, and when it’s time to modify your image, for example a PSD layer, this is done immediately. Fast:
  • Let’s pretend you are on a PubCoder web app. You are happy with your first 20 page magazine, and you want to see how it looks like on your real device; press the “publish” button to preview it on your local device and…go get a cup of coffee: your project is overall 300MB, it will take those 3 minutes average to get it from your remote server to your local machine. You start looking at the project and then, ouch! there’s a typo. Re-press the publish button, go get another cup of coffee. Before you start suffering from tachycardia, what about a 2GB 100 page project book? Press the preview button, no more coffee: better go watch a Games of Thrones episode, cup of tea this time. Instead, on your local machine this is done in real time. Super-fast:
  • How about working on your project offline? There are web apps that allow some small caching in the browser through local storage, but this would be rather uncomfortable when it comes to larger files and project. Certainly with assets we see used in InDesign or PubCoder projects.
  • In digital publishing there’s not just images: don’t forget audios and videos. You could embed those from the web (Youtube, Vimeo, etc), but you also might want to include the asset directly in your product for a whole lot of good reasons. And audio and especially video files can be pretty large.

So yes, CPU and RAM are still very useful when it comes to treating and manipulating large assets locally, even in this “cloudy” age. Moreover, PubCoder 3, our newly release in beta for mac, is a 64 bit application. Much faster, and ready for the future.

Goodbye web? Not at all!

This doesn’t mean we have to waive to the idea of exploiting at best our great 1 GB/s connection flat contract and the immense power of the web. Not at all! Here is where the other magic word of this millennium comes in: APIs. There are tons of services out there who provide, for our sake and fortune, technical means to connect to their great products. This is what we have been building inside PubCoder: clever ways to connect to useful services which provide the ability to search, pick and use assets you may not have at your disposal. Seamlessly, from within PubCoder’s UI. I’ll show you how it works. There are three types of assets that you can easily search and use this way:

PubCoder supports any Open Type and True Type Fonts. Do you have a wonderful font, but it’s in a different format, or maybe you don’t have the rights to use it in a digital product? No worries! You can go searching among thousands of open source web fonts provided by Google Fonts. The great thing is that it’s all integrated inside PubCoder, with great ease and efficiency. Here is how it works:

From the text editor, just open the Google Fonts window; search, pick and download your preferred; PubCoder will do the job of making it available among the font choices in your project. Done! And it’s free!

Most projects need icons: to tell the end user how to move between pages, to open links, to animate your menu, etc. You probably have your own set(s), but then you might need one more. So usually you would go on the internet and search for some awsome icon on those great icon stocks like, let’s say, The Noun Project. You search for it, download it, and then from your finder drag it into the stage. Long. Annoying. No worries: in PubCoder we decided to implement precisely…The Noun Project’s APIs, so that you can do this directly inside your PubCoder project:

See? Just open the window, search the icon you like, download it, and it’s already magically on the stage. Done! And it’s free again!

Same as above: you have your image stock on your computer, but you are missing that one that would make your project look really great. Again, usually you would open your browser, search in one of those great image stocks like, let’s say, Unsplash; search for your image, download it, drag it…I’m tired already! Yet again, we made it simple: we partnered with Unsplash guys and were able to gain access to their APIs, so all of this can be done directly in PubCoder with just a couple of clicks:

Here we did even more: we added the Google Open Image repository, complete of thousands of images. Of course this is totally transparent to you: just search what you are looking for and PubCoder will look into both repositories, presenting results altogether; just pick your favourite, and automatically PubCoder will download it and crop it in your image box, instantly. Done! And, yes, this is totally free!

In conclusion: with PubCoder you really get the full power of your PC and, at the same time, gain access to millions of assets made available by beautiful and free web services out there.

So, what’s next?

The next step to make this union desktop-web even more effective is to push further something that we are already seeing arising in some services like Google Open Image. And that seems to be (another magic word): AI. Artificial Intelligence would really allow our users to benefit from filtering and including those assets that are meaningful solely to that particular project. As a dev team will definitely keep an eye on that.