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Apple wants to make it easy for non-programmers to build iOS apps

post #1 of 92
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A new digital content authoring tool from Apple could make it simple for people without a background in programming to build their own iOS applications for the iPhone and iPad.

Apple's interest in making iOS development simpler than ever was revealed in a new patent application published this week and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Content Configuration for Device Platforms," it describes a new authoring tool that would allow users to create content without needing to understand or access computer code.

The application notes that computer programming languages are a "hinderance to content creation," as many content creators and designers simply lack the skill and knowledge to work on the technical side of computer programming.

This problem can be addressed with "WYSIWYG" software using a graphical user interface to build software, such as a webpage development tool. But Apple notes that while these tools can assist in the creation of content, they have limited capabilities and often require users to make hands-on edits to code like CSS.

Further, Apple states in the application that current tools can make it difficult for an inexperienced user to ensure that their content can be viewed optimally on multiple screens. Currently, iOS applications can be written for either the iPhone or iPad, or both, but Apple's filing also mentions the possibility of displaying such content on multiple screens with various resolutions, including televisions and computers.

"Due to such diverse devices having such diverse capabilities, content must now be created not only once, but often several times so that it can be configured for multiple device types," the filing reads. "This development has introduced a new barrier to content creation and delivery."




Current solutions to this problem, Apple says, utilize a "lowest-common denominator approach," in which the content is converted so it can be displayed on any mobile device. In doing this, devices that can display greatly enhanced content are not utilized to their full potential.

Apple proposes to resolve this myriad of issues with a new graphical software creation tool. With this tool, non-technical users would be able to do things like animate assets without the need for writing code.

"Each animation can be controlled by an action, and the actions can be tied to a time axis for execution," the filing states. "By relating actions to a time axis, animations based on the actions can be more easily viewed and reviewed."

Apple's described digital content authoring tool would cater to both amateur and professional content developers alike. Those with less experience could completely bypass the need to understand or access computer code, while skilled programmers would still have the option available.

The authoring tool would also be designed specifically for a number of Apple's electronic devices with diverse hardware capabilities, allowing simple support for different screen sizes and form factors.

The authoring software would use "an additional layer of abstraction between the graphical elements represented in the graphical user interface and the code that represents them." By doing this, variables could be modified using a widget like a graphical user interface inspector, rather than requiring the user to modify variables in the code itself.




Apple's solution would also rely on a JavaScript library to implement additional code. This would allow the authoring tool to include alternate implementations of an object, event handling behaviors, and error handling.

"The authoring tool also leverages a JavaScript library running in the background to enhance the code elements, by writing additional code that facilitates the smooth functioning of the objects defined by the code elements, even when those objects are implemented on diverse devices," the filing reads.

"The JavaScript library instantiates the objects specified by the user using the authoring tool and generates additional code (HTML/CSS/JavaScript) as needed to display the content. This allows the authoring tool to substitute alternate implementations for various situations, such as diverse devices, as needed."

The JavaScript library could, for example, determine which features of an application are not supported on a specific device. The filing gives the example of the system disabling graphics processor dependent functionality, such as shadows, gradients and reflections, on an unsupported device.

Much of the application deals with advertising content, and illustrations found in the filing also include pictures of iAd. In this way, Apple's content creation tool could be leveraged to allow those without coding experience to create advertisements for the company's own mobile advertising platform.

In addition, the design of the program appears similar to Apple's own iAd production tool for Mac. However, the application applies to any type of digital content authoring, and not just advertisements.

In other accompanying art, the filing shows a number of examples of software that could be created with an amateur-friendly content creation tool. One simple example is a game of tic tac toe, another shows a menu from a coffee shop, and a more complex example features the ability to purchase video of live performances from the show "American Idol."




Creating these applications would be a simplified process in which the user could select a template for their software. From there, they would begin to fill in the pieces and build their own iOS application, webpage, or advertisement.

The filing suggests that Apple sees this new, simplified iOS software creation tool as a way that small businesses, in particular, could get involved in application creation. In another example, a restaurant called "The Legends of Rib" has an interactive menu on the iPhone.

The detailed 72-page application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December of 2011. It is credited to Genevieve Garand, Steve Edward Marmon, Ralph Zazula, and Michael Paul Stern.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 92
sooooo anyone see how ridiculous this is?
post #3 of 92
This has been tried before...ultimately, to get a good and unique app, you will still need to get under the hood and do some coding.
post #4 of 92
Something on the order of HyperCard, in terms of programming complexity, would offer a nice intermediate approach that a lot of people could use without having learn too much about what is under the hood
post #5 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by MACT View Post

Something on the order of HyperCard, in terms of programming complexity, would offer a nice intermediate approach that a lot of people could use without having learn too much about what is under the hood

I'm thinking REALbasic. But that's the idea. I'd like to do programming for use at my university (as I've done in supercard and REALbasic) but the hurdle to learning IOs has been too great.
post #6 of 92
iCode?

Continuing the X = pro, i = personal theme.
post #7 of 92
And then they can discontinue it, like iWeb.
post #8 of 92
Last time I saw anthing like this it was a tool called Matrix Layout back in the 90s, and it was utter junk. If anyone can make this work Apple can, but as a programmer I've yet to be convinced that these types of tools can do much more than create photo albums and very simple, generic apps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

This has been tried before...ultimately, to get a good and unique app, you will still need to get under the hood and do some coding.

Exactly. You can't write business logic with icons.
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post #9 of 92
There is an app out there that already tries this. I used it when i first got into programming, It had only very simple app development capabilities and I soon realized that I was going to have to learn Objective C and use x code to do more than cut and paste. I did and now I love creating apps, sometimes coding is like my virtual Lego's and I love it. I would hate for this to get completely replaced by this.

Jason
post #10 of 92
Another app inventor? No thanks.
post #11 of 92
Err - I hate to break it to you, but this is Dashcode, and it's been shipping for several years.
post #12 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post

And then they can discontinue it, like iWeb.

It's iWeb for your iDevice!

This might be nice for creating simple apps to advertise a product, act as an interactive guide or the like.
post #13 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

iCode?

Continuing the X = pro, i = personal theme.

iCode is one the few times I would encourage the 'i' nomenclature.


Quote:
Originally Posted by knightlie View Post

Last time I saw anthing like this it was a tool called Matrix Layout back in the 90s, and it was utter junk. If anyone can make this work Apple can, but as a programmer I've yet to be convinced that these types of tools can do much more than create photo albums and very simple, generic apps.

I'm not seeing this for anything remotely complex, but to give users app widgets. SImple utilities that they can personalize themselves or download themselves. Perhaps even simple enough to not have to know HTML/JS/CSS.

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post #14 of 92
As already mentioned, it sounds a lot like App Inventor for Android. I don't think there's much value in it - especially when Apple already rejects apps for being too basic.
post #15 of 92
I know professional developers won't like this, but this is awesome news!! I hope it'll be as easy as the iRise UI. Apple will smoke competition if they do this right and not have dumb bugs.
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post #16 of 92
Where's my t-shirt?

icode

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post #17 of 92
I think it makes more sense to create something like this for educational purposes, not commercial app development. Something like Smalltalk Scratch.

I've never really understood the need for apps which are just repackaged versions of a company website. Just make a mobile version of your website.
 
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post #18 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

As already mentioned, it sounds a lot like App Inventor for Android. I don't think there's much value in it - especially when Apple already rejects apps for being too basic.

I wouldn't think these would be App Store apps.

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post #19 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

As already mentioned, it sounds a lot like App Inventor for Android ...

No.

App Inventor, (as well as this) are just copying a long, long, long, line of programs that have tried to do this same thing.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this line here:
Quote:
Those with less experience could completely bypass the need to understand or access computer code, while skilled programmers would still have the option available.

In at least a couple of dozen product descriptions since 1985 or so.

If Apple wants to create an animation tool, they would probably do better to take something from Adobe like Illustrator or Director or whatever people are using these days, and fix it so non-technical types can actually use it.

Remove all the crud and the bad UI and the MS Windows crap, throw away all the useless whiz-bang features and make it clear, graphical and most importantly, understandable. A tool like that would be way more valuable than trying to make a content creation app that uses no code and works across multiple devices/platforms. That's just a crazy promise that cannot be kept.
post #20 of 92
Dear god no, not another tool for 'non-programmers' to make applications. This idea has failed every.single.time anyone tried this, Google App Inventor being one of the last well-known examples. Apple should know better.

The whole idea behind programming is that, since computers cannot think by themselves, you have to tell them exactly what to do. So unless you are 'programming' the umpteenth soundboard, or some picture of a monkey that starts making sounds if you shake the phone, you will have to figure everything out by yourself, and translate it into code.

The list of things you can do by just tying together some pre-fab components and hook them up to UI events is limited to only the most useless of applications. If software development were as simple as that, you wouldn't need years of education and experience to get good at it. It's almost an insult to software engineers and programmers like myself, as if you could teach anyone to build bridges by just showing them how you can bolt some girders together.
post #21 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoxMacCary View Post

Fantastischer news!!

Now, even a dope like me can get in on the App Store goldrush goodness!

I call dibs on "Angry Farts" !

I've been reading these forums for over five years and no comment has made me laugh like that one.
post #22 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

Dear god no, not another tool for 'non-programmers' to make applications. This idea has failed every.single.time anyone tried this, Google App Inventor being one of the last well-known examples. Apple should know better.

The whole idea behind programming is that, since computers cannot think by themselves, you have to tell them exactly what to do. So unless you are 'programming' the umpteenth soundboard, or some picture of a monkey that starts making sounds if you shake the phone, you will have to figure everything out by yourself, and translate it into code.

The list of things you can do by just tying together some pre-fab components and hook them up to UI events is limited to only the most useless of applications. If software development were as simple as that, you wouldn't need years of education and experience to get good at it. It's almost an insult to software engineers and programmers like myself, as if you could teach anyone to build bridges by just showing them how you can bolt some girders together.

Yes, and we all know Apple's poor track record for succeeding where others have failed.
post #23 of 92
By the way, does anyone else see the irony in Apple developing something like this?

I thought they Apple was big on iOS applications using all of the unique iOS features and capabilities (and rightfully so), and the only way you can do that is to invest in learning how to use the tools that allow you to do that, which means Objective-C, Cocoa, XCode. If this means the bar for entry is too high for people who don't know software development, than so be it.

There's a reason most of the Flash content you will find on the web is utter crap, and it is not just because Flash as a development platform sucks.
post #24 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by Filmantopia View Post

Yes, and we all know Apple's poor track record for succeeding where others have failed. I mean, other that in personal computers, portable music players, smartphones, tablets, etc.

Maybe you can elaborate this a little further, because I fail to see how any of Apple's previous success stories offer any insights about completely unrelated endeavors such as a programming language that basically writes programs for you.

Are you implying that anything Apple tries is an automatic guarantee for success, just because they know how to build great MP3 players, phones, computers and tablets?
post #25 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by MACT View Post

Something on the order of HyperCard, in terms of programming complexity, would offer a nice intermediate approach that a lot of people could use without having learn too much about what is under the hood

Well, Hypercard is still alive and is now called Livecode aka Runrev.
Incidentally, you can code against iOS, Android, W7.
On top of it, the same code works on the 3 platforms...
post #26 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

I think it makes more sense to create something like this for educational purposes, not commercial app development. Something like Smalltalk Scratch.

I've never really understood the need for apps which are just repackaged versions of a company website. Just make a mobile version of your website.

Technically, apps that repackage a web site probably shouldn't be made.

I get annoyed at every site that asks me to download the app for their site.
post #27 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-range View Post

Maybe you can elaborate this a little further, because I fail to see how any of Apple's previous success stories offer any insights about completely unrelated endeavors such as a programming language that basically writes programs for you.

Are you implying that anything Apple tries is an automatic guarantee for success, just because they know how to build great MP3 players, phones, computers and tablets?

I'm implying that it's a little silly to dismiss Apple's ability to create something successful in this area. Apple can't make a great filmmaker or musician out of the non-talented, but it can enable those who aren't technically advanced to do something pretty decent.

I'm a filmmaker, and the idea of making an app that ties into my web series is a pretty exciting prospect. Doesnt seem like something that would require a ton of coding wizardry, just some moderate logistical and aesthetic control.
post #28 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post

And then they can discontinue it, like iWeb.


I hear you. However, it does state this can be for an iOS app, webpage or advertisement, so maybe Apple isn't not abandon web creation totally.
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post #29 of 92
I don't think this system can be used to develop apps others would pay for, unless you write code, of course. Making an interesting app without writing code isn't possible, because in that case you'll have to reuse modules developed by third-parties, and such third-party can develop the app better than you.

Anyway, the thing I most dislike from this announcement is Java. Please don't force the iPhone to crawl and waste battery running Java libs. Android tried to drive into a world of everything-Java, and they failed (they had to release a native SDK, because that's what the world needs).

Please Apple, if some developer wants to use Java, allow him to do so, but don't drive us into a Java platform. Please don't. We just want XCode and gcc.
post #30 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by knightlie View Post

Last time I saw anthing like this it was a tool called Matrix Layout back in the 90s, and it was utter junk. If anyone can make this work Apple can, but as a programmer I've yet to be convinced that these types of tools can do much more than create photo albums and very simple, generic apps.

I think that's exactly what they're going for. Simple apps. Though I'm not sure why they'd want to do this after the whole spat of 'native is superior to crappy compile flash apps'. It's kindof hurtful too, as a developer.

But I could see how the frameworks that Apple has gone through the trouble of creating (i.e. table views, nav controller, tab bar, etc.) could be lightly modified to compile out a full application with no coding at all. Sortof where IB is almost already.
post #31 of 92
Oh god no. People with no design experience should not be let anywhere near application development. Often neither should the people with no idea about programming.

As a tool, this could be nice for quickly making iOS UIs but in the hands of users with no eye for design this will just result in the app store being flooded with subpar crap on top of the subpar crap already in it.

Just look at MySpace and see what customization capability did to that.
post #32 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I get annoyed at every site that asks me to download the app for their site.

I guess the upside is that if I downloaded every website app, I could just use Spotlight as my default search engine in Safari.
 
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post #33 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Technically, apps that repackage a web site probably shouldn't be made.

I get annoyed at every site that asks me to download the app for their site.

That's not always a bad thing. The Yelp app, particularly on iPad, is much nicer than the Yelp web site, even though its mostly just repackaging the website content. The real problem, I think, are apps that are nothing more than a UIWebView displaying the web site... what's the point.
post #34 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

That's not always a bad thing. The Yelp app, particularly on iPad, is much nicer than the Yelp web site, even though its mostly just repackaging the website content. The real problem, I think, are apps that are nothing more than a UIWebView displaying the web site... what's the point.

If the app is going to add some extra functionality which is unique to iOS (but still pull it's content from the website), then I don't have a problem with it.

The problem I have is when an app does exactly the same thing the website does, or just adds something generic (like location searching) which could easily be accomplished in HTML5. Just make a mobile version of the site, allow people to bookmark it to an app link if they want, and be done with it.
 
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post #35 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

That's not always a bad thing. The Yelp app, particularly on iPad, is much nicer than the Yelp web site, even though its mostly just repackaging the website content. The real problem, I think, are apps that are nothing more than a UIWebView displaying the web site... what's the point.

i don't think he's arguing that a native app can't be more useful and refined than a web-based site, only that it's annoying that every time you access the site from iOS you get a JS layover that wants to tell you about their App Store app. I've already clicked the 'x' on the overlay once so it shouldn't be reminding me every... single... time I access that site.

For example, I don't want to use the IMDb app to access IMDb. I don't even like their mobile version for my iPhone. Unfortunately it's become so annoying that I no longer frequent IMDb as much as i used to. Not just on my iPhone, but also on my Mac as a result of collateral damage.

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post #36 of 92
How about moving away from objective c? It's a funky language. I wouldn't mind C# on LLVM/Clang with the Cocoa framework. The C# language is good but .Net is garbage.

Dynamic languages like Perl 6, Python, PHP etc... that compile to LLVM byte code and can utilize Cocoa would be great too. Haxe is picking up steam too.
post #37 of 92
I think this is great news. Probably most if not all the crowd here will considerate a joke.
Borrowing part of a line from that Pixar Rat film, "Anyone can Cook".
99% of us mortals will never be able to code, but a much bigger number can have decent ideas. This help from Apple will help those out with some type of idea that might have a chance of success. Not that it could be a finished product by any measure. BUT, what it could do. It would allow us non-doers to fiddle around with an idea. Anyone can have an Idea. What if they came up with something. The little app they create could serve as a brief or something to show off the idea or the intent of the app.
It is very easy to come up with ideas (for some people). But it is not very easy to express that idea to somebody, especially people that speak a different language (code).
Take myself as an example. I am full of ideas, in my mind most of the stuff i think of seems to be as good or better than some stuff on the app stores. But even though it is somewhat easy to find a programmer, it is more difficult to refine the idea.
Maybe this can be of help to us those others.
post #38 of 92
I am gathering based on the comments none of you have heard of multimedia fusion. Its used to create games and apps without code(you can code a plugin if you want).

Its very successfull and some popular flash and ios games have been created with it.

Look it up its made by clickteam.

Why not just buy click team and tailor multimedia fusion for ios devices?
post #39 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

This has been tried before...ultimately, to get a good and unique app, you will still need to get under the hood and do some coding.

I'm not sure that Apple is designing this for would-be app developers. I think it's meant as a Flash substitute for designing animated/interactive ads and perhaps for small businesses who want to create simple apps without hiring a developer for tens of thousands of dollars or more... might be cool, if not for the potential flood of annoying animated ads.
post #40 of 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by auxio View Post

I guess the upside is that if I downloaded every website app, I could just use Spotlight as my default search engine in Safari.

Wouldn't it just as easily search your bookmarks too?

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

That's not always a bad thing. The Yelp app, particularly on iPad, is much nicer than the Yelp web site, even though its mostly just repackaging the website content. The real problem, I think, are apps that are nothing more than a UIWebView displaying the web site... what's the point.

Does it do more or better as a native app than you would reasonably expect to see from a web app?
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