Adobe just launched a new iPad app that aims to make anyone feel like a magazine editor.
It’s called Adobe Slate, and it offers a way to mash up words and pictures into slick-looking stories for the web. Slate automates things like animations and transitions, and purposely limits control over fonts and formatting, so that anyone can make a good-looking story with no design know-how.
Why this matters: Adobe is following in the footsteps of other new-age presentation and storytelling apps such as Microsoft Sway, FlowVella, and Haiku Deck, all of which try to automate the kinds of flourishes that once required serious PowerPoint or web programming chops. You give up control in the process, but the barriers to designing a polished web story are much lower.
So easy, you might wish it was harder
To get started with Slate, you’ll either need to create an Adobe account or sign in with Facebook. You can then look at some sample stories for inspiration, or dive into making your own.
You start by creating a title, which you can then fling around to one of nine positions on the screen—it appears as if you are dragging it wherever you want, but Slate actually guides it into pre-set slots based on where you direct it. You’ll also pick a cover photo. Because Slate stories follow responsive design, you can set a focal point on your cover image to make sure that it crops properly on all devices.
Slide the title card upward, and a prompt appears underneath, telling you to add an image, some text, a link, or a grid of photos. Slide up on this, and you can add another story element below your first one, and another, and another, and so on. The idea is to create a vertical chain of photo or text blocks, and Slate will automatically make it pretty.
Images can be added from your Camera Roll, or imported from Creative Cloud, Lightroom, or Dropbox. Additionally, you could take a new photo from within the app, or search through Adobe’s database of Creative Commons images
It’s dead-simple, but also quite limited. You can choose from a handful of themes to change the whole look of the story, but can’t adjust individual fonts or formats, or even add a link within a larger block of text. (You can, however, place links as standalone buttons.) You can change image formats so they appear full screen, inline, or as a scrolling “window,” but you can’t add borders or freely move images around. Video isn’t supported at all.
Even the publishing element is confining. Stories show up at slate.adobe.com, and you’re given a direct link to your story to share with others. When exporting, you can tap buttons to share your story via Facebook, Twitter, email, or Messages—but you can only select one option at a time. You can, however, go back and republish your Slate story in as many different formats as you’d like. You’re given an embed code, too, but only for your story’s title and cover image—which directs viewers back to the story hosted on Adobe’s website. You can’t host your entire story on your on website or blog, or embed them within other webpages.
Slate has some potential as a publishing tool, especially considering how easy it is to get started. Its built-in themes and pre-set animations make it easy for users to create slick presentations and online flyers without any technical know-how. But without more control over how stories look and where they can be published, the appeal is probably going to be limited.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.