Interactive Content Apps for Tablets, Smart Phones Create Revenue Opportunities

This content app was created in InDesign/DPS as an "interactive brochure" for the Apple iPad. This page includes a video stream, a picture gallery and a pull-out box with a link that uses Apple's Email app. The free app is available at

Cenveo Mobile dPub creates a library of individual content apps for tablets. Each document can include interactive elements, and is generated from a digital source file, including PDF, XML, InDesign or QuarkXPress.

No Coding Required: App Creation at a Glance
Several companies offer tools for ordinary mortals to create tablet apps from page layout software. Most, but not all of these, rely on Adobe InDesign to create each page, which can put printers with graphic design departments at 
an advantage.

Printers’ unique window of opportunity is their understanding of how print pages are designed and produced, especially if they are already taking customers’ page layout files and making them “print-ready.” App creation from InDesign or QuarkXPress is a similar process, one that many customers would rather leave to a professional. Proactive printers, with the right adjustments, could offer that service, with the appeal of the “one-stop shop” for graphic communication.

A printer’s page layout expertise is only one reason to offer content app services. If a service provider is currently involved in managing its customer’s structured data (for variable print campaigns, e-marketing or document management), then creation of mobile apps from XML sources is a logical next step. In other words, apps can simply be an extension of an already broad range of communication services.

How It’s Done

Content app creation is similar to ordinary print page creation, with the addition of interactive “overlays” for elements such as video, image galleries, live maps, 360° views and much more. It is usually better to start with a new document layout, but even existing print documents (everything converted to RGB, and high-res images replaced with low-res) can be adapted to tablet use. Creative thought and planning are essential. Just adding hyperlinks to a basically static page is unlikely to impress a tablet user. The designer’s use of rich media must be at least as good as his use of color, layout and presentation in a printed piece. In other words, if you have skilled designers, they will need to up their game.

Fortunately, many of the familiar layout tools for print are also used to create interactive pages. Text can be imported and formatted to fit the space, just as it is for printed pages. You can use scrolling frames for longer text articles, but be cautious about using too much text overall. Import or place still images, and enhance them with pan and zoom, or combine them with other images to create a space-saving gallery. It is relatively easy to add special effects, and to import audio or video files. However, video files are typically very large, so it may be advisable to link to video footage from a hosted platform like Viddler.

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