Hands-On With Apple’s New iAd Producer

Apple (s aapl) wants everyone to get in on the iAd game, so today it launched iAd Producer. The Mac app is available as a free download for iOS developers through Apple’s website. iAd Producer allows you to design and prepare interactive iAd advertisements for use in iPhone and iPad apps using a visual editor, and manages the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript backend for you. It also offers advanced tools for more knowledgeable users, and allows developers to create templates and custom components for re-use and potential distribution.

Sounds like iAds for dummies, but is it really? I consulted a dummy with little-to-no programming experience to find out: me. The app definitely starts off simple. Upon opening, it asks you whether you want to develop for iPhone or iPad, then you get a flowchart of your project with all elements clearly labelled. Everything you need is contained in a single window, so you won’t get lost the way a novice might with Xcode and all its floating tool panes, for instance. I couldn’t help but notice a resemblance to Apple’s iPad apps in iAd Producer’s overall design, interface and navigation. Could it be a sign of things to come for OS X desktop software in general?

Back to how it works. You click on individual elements (Splash, Menu, Pages, etc.) to bring up a template menu. I’m telling you this, but I don’t really have to since just mousing over the elements informs you exactly what to do next. Once you’ve chosen a template, you can double-click on any element to drill down to an editor for that component. Here, you can drag and drop multimedia resources to the Asset Library on the right from the Finder, and then add those elements to your template layouts. You can also add additional elements to any template from the Objects navigator at the bottom of your editing window.
From the Asset Library, you can locate the original files in Finder, replace all of one with another asset, and even open files in external editors (whichever editor is set as default for the file type selected will open). You can also specify from the overview screen how each page transitions to the next, in the same way you might in iMovie.

Bottom line: I built a working iAd in about 10 minutes, start to finish. Even if I took my time and created original assets, this would be an incredibly quick and painless process. You get instant feedback throughout thanks to the Simulate button in the bottom left-hand corner of iAd Producer, which allows you to see how your iAd will work in the iPhone simulator that ships with Apple’s iOS developer tools. I didn’t see a single line of programming code during the entire process.

iAd Producer is nice, but it raises one burning question: How come I don’t have this without the advertising focus as, say, “App Producer,” a part of the iLife suite that lets users create their own apps? Even if I could only use the apps I made with it on my own iOS devices, that would be amazing. All my awkward fumbling with Xcode, and I’ve never been able to do much beyond crash my iPhone. The “ad” I created amounts to little more than an advanced personal slideshow and gallery app, but that’s about all I’d really need one to be.

Anyone else a little jealous that Apple is treating advertising developers so well while leaving us would-be amateur app creators hanging?

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