Hot Apps Factory SARL (French Limited Liability Company, I guess more like a "pvt ltd") have just launched their apps, App Cooker and App Taster. So what exactly is App Cooker?
IntroductionApps are everywhere, everyone wants to get an app made, Apple is getting quite picky on their approval process because apps are more or less the same, generic apps, while clients want apps that are *similar* to a particular app. Getting the specs form the client and then translating those back to the development team, creating a model a what-if scenario on how things would be *IF*, making a slideshow to allow a client to play with based on their specs. It is all possible and made easy with App Cooker, thought the playback is what App Taster (a free app) is for.
First impressionsWhen you first start up App Cooker, you are presented with a start up screen, this is now becoming the standard for iPad project apps. I first saw this with OmniGraffle for iPad and last saw it with Codify. It is quite a neat and clean interface that inspires. Tapping on the project will open it up, Each project is composed of 5 workspaces.
* The App Icons, you can add all variants and sizes of Icons in here
* The App idea which helps define the project, the type of app that is to be created, and evaluation, a kind of a rating system to help define the complexity.
* The Mockup, which we shall look into detail in the next section
* Store Information, that can help create all of the related information for the App Store, including localisations, categories, rating, etc. All of the questions that would be valid and asked on iTunes when creating the app entry. At the moment about 18 languages are supported which include the major European languages, All variants of these and Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
* The Scenario tab, that is more like an interactive spreadsheet, select the platforms that the app will be released on, the duration of the sales period and other parameters to get revenue, expense, net results scenarios.
Revenue and Expenses Scenario sheetThis is a very interesting and interactive sheet, reminds me more of a Bar/Pool table with the UI and color scheme, maybe also because more of these calculations could have been over beer with mates in the pub.
You can create as many scenarios as you want, I would have missed that if the screen did not rotate to landscape and show me that. All possible sources of revenue can be added to estimate the revenues. It has a comprehensive list and the periods/frequencies are customisable with a One time, per Hour, per Day, per Week, per Month and per Year and the option of 1-99 times.
Mockup EditorThis is one awesome module of App Cooker. It shows the workspace that holds all screens, and three type of screens can be added, Landscape, Portrait, and one that can have both. On tapping each of the screen, a popup allows to Edit, Delete, Duplicate or set it as a starter.
Double tapping the screen is the same as selecting to Editing the screen. The UI is just impressive, it is well thought, planned and laid out in a very user friendly manner. The canvases are in a way infinite canvases and can be scrolled, pinched, zoomed. The top bar has a changing set of buttons depending on the context, generally starting with Done (the equivalent of Back), an Undo (if applicable) The name of the screen, and then options for
* Bug/Feature reporting
* Shapes (these are in the form of several vector graphics, namely, Line, Rect, Rounded Rect, Circle, Triangle, Right Angled Triangle, Rhombus, Star, Pentagon and freehand.
* Images , this has two sources for the moment, the iPad library and Dropbox. The iPad library can be granted access or restricted access depending on the settings in the Settings/Location services menu.
* Objects are classified into two parts, widgets and misc. Widgets are all of the commonly used iOS UI elements, like the statusBar, the TitleBar, the SearchBar, Lists, TabBar, etc. There are 6 icons that show a Coon badge across them, that include an Alert, an ActionSheet, a Modal View, a PopupView, a Table and iAds. It has quite a comprehensive list of widgets. Misc has all the supporting elements that are used in the widgets, things like checkboxes, the small buttons, etc
* The last is links, this is the functionality that allows the pseudo interactivity between your apps. Allowing for linkages to other screens
The pull down menu bar has options relevant to work with the object/widget created and consists of options to lock the items, group/Ungroup, Arrange the z-oder, flip Horizontally or Vertically, Rotate, Size and/or move.
The other options which are at the bottom of the screen are Background that offer the 4 standard options, White, Black, Bluish Stripes and Dark Linen, there are also options to center the view, turn snap to guides on/off, showing of links, and displaying the Portrait or Landscape orientations.
The things that really added to this screen were the Snap to Grid, Undo and the rotation.
Other ExperienceThere are other options, namely PDF Export to iTunes (saved in the Documents directory and can be accessed when connected to iTunes) or the file can be attached to an email. Now that the iOS devices can be synced over the air (WiFi, without requiring cables) saving to the iTunes Folder and then retrieving it from the iMac was almost instantaneous without having to connect the cables. The PDF created are reasonable and are to scale (of the device).
The project can be exported in the App Cooker format as a backup, or as the App Taster format for layback on a client's device or PDF for documentation.
There is another Gem that is not seen in the whole schema of things, Importing apps from iTunes. This is found from the project screen when a tapping the + button can help creating a new project, Duplicating the project or copying from iTunes (in other words Importing), It loads the files available in iTunes, though it lists all the files available it can only import the App Cooker Project files.
ThoughtsThe app is amazingly polished and does exactly what it is for, creating mockups. It is so good that you almost feel like asking why did the developers not add a code generation feature in the app? I guess it might have all to do with the process of Apple Approval. If they added any form of code, Apple could have rejected it stating that it has *scripts*. App Taster can playback the projects which is great as it can run on both iPhones and iPads.
App Cooker is an iPad only app, where as App Taster is an Universal app that will run on all iOS devices. The App Taster file contains all the relevant information in a nice packaged file format.
From a developer's perspective, I feel that App Cooker is not only the De-facto standard in mockup creation, but has also inspired the UI for some of my apps. This is probably the best thing to have spend money on in an environment that caters to services relating to the iOS app development. It is portable, very responsive, small file size and ability to not only create but also play and distribute the same is just awesome.
Software : App Cooker
Version : 0.9.87
Publisher : Hot Apps Factory
Website : http://www.appcooker.com/
Twitter : @AppCooker
Platform : iPad
Price : $19.99
NOTE: The Price is set as $19.99 and each time as new features are added a newer version of the app released, the price increases by $5 till it reaches $49.99 (this is the first time that someone has outlined pricing like this, but we agree to that as it is a nice way of letting the early adopters be rewarded for their faith than the ones that waited for a stable version will all the bells and whistles).
And we have a couple of promo codes for App Cooker for our lucky readers, all you need to do
1. Follow @whatsin4me
2. Retweet the message "Read reviewme.oz-apps.com, follow @whatsin4me and RT this msg. You might win a copy of #App Cooker from @AppCooker"
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