Delivering a consistent and immersive app experience across iOS, Android and Windows
Each Wednesday, Talking New Media invites industry leaders to discuss industry topics involving digital publishing. This week’s column is authored by Neil Enns, senior product manager at Adobe.
Up until recently, it has been challenging for magazine publishers, companies and educational institutions to take the engaging, interactive experiences they developed for mobile apps on the iOS platform and translate them easily and consistently to Android and Windows.
In June, Adobe released significant updates to the DPS native Android and Windows viewers, streamlining the process for creating mobile apps for these platforms by providing a robust set of interactive features as well as article and viewer capabilities, bringing the same great reading experience our customers love on iOS to Android and Windows. You can now look forward to creating one piece of content—whether it’s an issue of a magazine, a sales enablement app, a game day app, or your company’s annual report– and delivering it to the Apple App Store, Google Play, Samsung Papergarden and Windows Store–without having to alter it or invest any additional production time while maintaining the same engaging, interactive experience regardless of the device from which your audiences are accessing your content.
This series of comparison charts outlines all of the interactive components, article features and viewer capabilities that are the same across all platforms.
Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process for creating an Android app in DPS.
Creating Your First Android App
Most customers already have an application on iOS and are interested in establishing a presence on Android and Windows. With the new DPS native Android viewer, it’s easy to create an application that reuses existing iOS content.
Step 1: Sign into App Builder, the mobile app building tool within Adobe DPS.
Step 2: Create a new Android application by clicking on the plus button in the toolbar. Select Android for the Platform and the latest version in the Viewer Version dropdown to ensure you get the most recent viewer release.
Step 3: Provide your application details and press Next. The key setting is the Application account, where you should put the publication account that contains your iOS folios. This will result in an Android application that displays the same list of folios available to your readers in your iOS application.
Step 4: Provide your application icon and press Next. You can upload any sized image and it will automatically be scaled to fit the required icon size. The library banner is an advanced feature to provide customized branding in the viewer’s library.
Step 5: Configure the library and press Next. For your first application leave all of these settings untouched. Advanced rendition support provides a powerful way to control what content is displayed on smartphones and tablets and will be discussed later in this article.
Step 6: Configure direct entitlement and press Next. Direct entitlement provides a way for DPS customers to provide access to paid content through corporate logins or existing print subscriptions. For now leave these settings blank.
Step 7: Configure in-app purchasing and press Submit. For example, if you plan to charge for issues in Google Play check the box for Google Play in-app purchase. If you are just offering free content for download you can leave the boxes unchecked.
After submitting your application, App Builder will process the build and in a few minutes the list of applications will update with a download link for your Android application.
At this point you can download the unsigned Android application by clicking on the Unsigned app link. Before installing the application on a device to test you will need to sign it with your development certificate. The DPS Signing Tool, available by clicking on the Download Signing Tool link in the top right of the App Builder main screen, simplifies this process.
Step 8: Sign the app. Run the DPS Signing Tool after installing it and point the tool to your unsigned app and developer certificate. Provide the password and alias, then click Sign application to sign your app.
That’s it! At this point you have a .apk file that is signed and can be submitted to the Google Play marketplace.
Modifying Your App to use Android-Specific Folios
Publishing iOS content directly to Android devices is one approach to building custom DPS applications for Android, but very often our customers would prefer to make dedicated content available that’s tailored specifically to Android screen sizes. The best approach to dealing with this is to set up a dedicated DPS publication account specifically for the Android content, and to use that publication account when building the Android viewer in App Builder.
For more information about how to create a new publication account in DPS see our guide on the DPS Account Administration Tool.
Supporting Phones and Tablets With The Same Application
By far the most common reason our customers are interested in targeting Android devices is because of the wide use of Android smartphones worldwide. The new DPS native Android viewer supports all Android smartphones running Android 4.0.3 and later. Content published for tablets will render correctly on the phones, albeit scaled down to fit the smaller screens. Readers can then use the pinch gesture to zoom in on pages to get a closer look.
Of course, tablet content on a phone isn’t always the greatest experience, so DPS supports delivering appropriately-sized content to tablets or phones. In DPS this system is known as renditions. By creating two folios, one designed for tablets and the other designed for phones, and publishing them to the same account, the new native Android DPS viewer can be configured to deliver tablet content to tablets and phone content to phones.
To configure this option use the advanced renditions setting feature of App Builder:
The dropdowns contain a list of all the size folios published to your DPS account, and you can select the specific folio sizes that should be presented to tablets and smartphone devices. For more information on this powerful feature see our help topic on advanced renditions for Android.
The new native Android and Windows viewers provide an easy way to extend the reach of your content beyond iOS to the wide world of Android and Windows devices. By simply creating a new application and re-using existing iOS content you can immediately tap into the huge audience of Android and Windows users, and then over time decide whether publishing platform-specific content makes sense for your target audience.
To learn more about the steps required for publishing Windows apps on DPS, be sure to read this article.
Neil Enns is a senior product manager at Adobe. In this role, Enns manages the Windows and Android viewer projects for Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite. Enns joined Adobe almost three years ago, bringing with him 13 years’ experience in the software development field.
Enns has a master’s of science in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Toronto.