Adobe Slate: New App for Creating Beautiful Sites Is Almost Too Simple
Adobe, as you’re probably aware, is the huge software company best known for Photoshop and other high-end design programs. They’re complex, they’re for professionals, and most of them require you to pay a subscription fee instead of buying them outright.
So it’s eye-popping to see Adobe unveiling apps that are free and aimed at normal people: students, teachers, photographers, small business owners, just folks of every kind.
A few months back, Adobe’s first stab in this direction was a free iPad app called Adobe Voice. It’s a clean, lovely, incredibly easy-to-use program that lets you make “explainer videos” — a popular kind of online narrated persuasion videos. Here’s my review and video demonstration.
Now there’s a second app in this line: Adobe Slate. Once again, the company has observed a hot trend in online media and brought amateurs the tools to get onboard. This time, the trend is parallax-scrolling websites.
It’s hard to explain this special Web effect in words; you really need to see my video above. You have probably seen parallax sites: You scroll down, and you see a cool effect that makes it seem like you’re peeking between bars.
Parallax sites are great for telling stories. You scroll down, down, down, taking in the text and the handsome photography as it unspools before you. And that’s exactly what Adobe has in mind: Slate is great for making slideshows, invitations, diaries, book reports, proposals, brochures, college applications, and anything else you might want to display visually online. You can present your photography, convey a message, tell a story, document an event, or invite people to a party.
In the video above, you can see me put together a complete site in five minutes.
Photos and formatting
As you go, you can type or dictate text — as captions, body text, or headlines. And you can insert photos from several different source: your iPad, its camera, your Dropbox, or your Adobe online accounts. You can style these photos to scroll and flow in different ways.
The most intriguing option, though, may be the Find Photos option. It searches the entire Web for photos that match your search term — yet, unlike a random photo you’ve found with a Web search, Adobe shows you only the pictures whose photographers have explicitly blessed them with the rights to be used for free. (They’re photos whose creators have placed them, in other words, under what’s called a Creative Commons license.) The app automatically creates a tasteful Credits screen at the end of your video, so those photographers get credit.
The app builds something that will look right on every computer, every tablet, and every phone, even if somebody rotates the screen. So you also get a handy button that lets you indicate the important part of the photo, so nothing essential will be off the screen or off-center when it’s rotated.
Before you send your masterpiece out into the world, you can tweak how it looks — the whole thing, all at once. With one tap, you can choose a canned theme, a typographical design that affects the entire feel of the project.
When everything looks good, you can publish your parallax page to the Web. Adobe will host it for free. You get a Web address, which you can copy, post to Twitter or Facebook, whatever. You can make your site either public or private.
A primitive slate
Slate is a fantastic start, but there is some fine print.
First, it’s available for now only on the iPad. Not Android, not the desktop, not the phone. Anybody online anywhere can view your presentations, but you can only make them on an iPad.
Second, it’s got some little bugs.
Third, the whole thing is a little limited. You can’t incorporate video, which seems weird. You don’t have free control over typefaces and sizes — you have to use one of Adobe’s canned themes, and there are only 11 of them. (Adobe says more type designs and animation types are coming soon.)
There are lots of programs that let you build websites, but Adobe Slate is different. It’s much simpler, more elegant, easier to use. And it’s dedicated to a single task: creating and posting attractive, great-looking online presentations. It’s a great start, and I hope more flexible updated versions are released soon.