My Favorite Mobile App Software

Let me start by saying there is always a time and a place for good old-fashioned Objective-C in Xcode and Java in Eclipse, that is why they are the standards for creating iOS and Android apps. However, coming from a front-end graphics background and using Macromedia/Adobe Flash for pretty much everything in my life, learning Objective-C was less than fun for me.

That being said, here are my favorite pieces of software that actually made it fun to learn how to make mobile applications (in no particular order).

1.) Adobe Flash CS5/5.5/6 – Initially, this is how I got into mobile app development. Adobe added the ability to export AIR for Android and iOS, and all of a sudden your Flash projects could be native apps on your Android and iPhone. For me, it was an easy way to get my feet wet in the mobile app world. However, Flash is rarely the best software to use if you want to make a serious app, but it’s a great starting point. I still use it to draw a lot of my artwork. Pros – Great for Flash developers or anyone already familiar with AS3.0 ; Cons – Usually not the best choice for large apps or apps that require a lot of data.

2.) CoronaSDK (http://www.coronalabs.com) – Once I discovered CoronaSDK, I was instantly in love. It uses Lua code, which is very similar to Flash’s ActionScript, but more simplistic. It uses a small fraction of the code that is required in Objective-C/Java and the CoronaSDK simulator will use one set of code to publish out to most devices. So if written properly, your one set of code can be published out for iPhone, iPad, Nook Color, Kindle Fire, and Android devices. Pros – Great for Flash developers, publishes out to most devices without having to code twice, only a basic text editor is required to write Lua code, easy to use ; Cons – The subscription price point might turn some people off to Corona. At $349 a year for the Pro Subscription, the average person might be hesitant to dive in unless they’re sure they can make that back in app sales, but there is a free trial to see if it meets your needs.

3.) Kwik Photoshop Plug-in (http://www.kwiksher.com/) – I created my first children’s iPad book in Xcode using Cocos2D and Objective-C. It took me 4 times as long to learn how to code it than it did to actually write and illustrate the book. Then I discovered Kwik, which works in conjunction with CoronaSDK, and instantly remade my book using that. Using Photoshop, you assemble each page of your book on layers, and then using Kwik, just tell each layer what you want it to do. No coding involved, no looking at thousands of lines of text, just Photoshop and a click of a mouse. Since it publishes out to CoronaSDK, you can publish your book out for multiple devices without having to recode it. Sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Also, Kwik 2.0, dubbed “K2”, is scheduled to debut in the near future, and it pretty much takes what Kwik did, but makes it even more awesome with a plethora of new features. Pros – Great for people who know how to arrange layers in Photoshop, great for anyone with an idea for an eBook, easy to use, good online support ; Cons – Requires that you already own Photoshop and a CoronaSDK subscription.

4.) TextMate (http://macromates.com/) – At first, I was skeptical about paying for a text editor since I already had TextWrangler, which is free. If you’re a PC user, you can use Notepad, which comes pre-installed with Windows, so why pay for a text editor? TextMate comes pre-programmed with commands most commonly used in coding. It will detect what kind of code you’re writing by what you save your document as, and will adjust accordingly. Plus, you can add your own commands that you use the most. For example, if I save my text document as a .lua file, type “physics”, then press the tab key, it fills in all of the coding required by Corona to enable physics. You can do this for actionScript, HTML, javaScript, C, Java, Lua, blogging, XML, PHP, etc. Pros – Saves you a lot of time if you’re going to be writing a lot of code manually, regardless of the coding language ; Cons – Some people might not want to drop $51 USD on a text editor, but there is a 30 day trial to see if it’s for you.

5.) TexturePacker & PhysicsEditor (http://www.codeandweb.com/) – If only there was an easy way to convert artwork into animated sprites with physics applied to them. That’s where TexturePacker and PhysicsEditor come into play. Import your artwork into TexturePacker and it’ll make a spritesheet for you that is ready to use in Corona, Starling, Cocos2D, JSON, etc. Artwork that you need physics applied to can be rendered in PhysicsEditor and it will even trace the shapes for you, regardless of the complexity. The software is constantly being updated with new betas available to add new features (Kwik 2.0 image sheet anyone?) and it’s easy to use. Pros – Easy to use, exports for many platforms, auto-traces shapes, new updates, option to buy separately or together ; Cons – There are a lot of spritesheet creators on the market so users might be hesitant to try this one, but again there’s a free trial to see if this is the one for you.

6.) Spriteloq (http://www.loqheart.com/spriteloq/index.html) – Spriteloq went right for the soft spot in my heart that I reserve for Flash. Spriteloq targeted people who draw their animations in Flash and then want to their drawings into CoronaSDK apps. With Spriteloq, you use a simple command line to export your library of movie clips as individual .swf files. You can import those .swfs into Spriteloq and adjust the frame rate, single play, loop, reverse, etc. and then compile every animation into a single spritesheet. So within a minute, you have your Flash animations running in native iOS and Android apps. If you’re worried about physics, it supports that as well. As a Flash user, I love this software. Pros – Great for Flash animators, easy to use, saves time, free trial ; Cons – Requires the users to already own Flash and CoronaSDK

So there is a list of my favorite software to use to create mobile apps. If you have any questions on how to get started using them, all of the companies provide great support, plus I have a few tutorials throughout this blog that you can follow. You can also leave a message on here or ask me on Formspring: http://www.formspring.me/GPAnimations

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