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Adobe Slate is a new digital storytelling app

  • Published on April 3, 2015
Adobe Slate is a new digital storytelling app

With the advent of simple tools for creating online presentations, everyone has the ability to easily become a publisher. Adobe is hoping to serve some of this audience with Adobe Slate. Before taking a more detailed look at Adobe Slate, it’s useful to understand who is likely to use it, and why Adobe Slate came into existence.

A few years ago, if you had an idea to share with colleagues at the office, or students in a classroom, the standard choice for this was to use Microsoft PowerPoint if delivering the presentation from a computer. Recently this evolved to include Apple Keynote on the Mac OS, providing Mac users with an alternative to PowerPoint when creating presentations. These could also be modified and presented from iOS devices, such as the iPad and iPhone.

Tools for creating presentations – sometimes called digital storytelling – have also started to emerge, and are being used in schools and by professionals. These are creeping into areas previously served by Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft. Some of these new presentation tools, such as Haiku, make it easy to create presentations, edit and deliver them from an iPad or computer. Haiku, like many of these new apps, are available at no cost. Haiku also connects to free images that have Creative Common license, and many templates to create good looking designs. Google also makes its tool, Presentations, available as part of their Google Docs. These are the tools with which Adobe Slate will be competing.

Now that everyone can publish using these free tools, Adobe is trying to remain relevant. As many of these users don’t want or need professional-level tools, they don’t look at the more sophisticated tools from Adobe. After all, Adobe has long been known for providing tools for design professionals, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, and publishing professionals, with tools like InDesign for print or Dreamweaver for the Web. But today both students and professionals are looking for different ways to share their ideas and to tell stories. Adobe doesn’t want to see storytelling and digital pitch-decks move away from areas where they have been a significant player to new tools where they don’t compete. To remain relevant, Adobe needed to offer a digital design tool for the masses, which is Adobe Slate.

Adobe Slate is an iPad app that provides a template centered approach for creating digital designs that are shared online, hosted on Adobe’s servers.  The stories that are created using Adobe Slate are then shared online, via the web. It is overly simplistic to view this as a Dreamweaver replacement, as Adobe Slate contains far fewer tools, and choices. You can use your own text that you input and images from your iPad camera roll: all other design choices are strictly limited.

When designing a digital story, such as a presentation, with Adobe Slate, you are provided with design templates. The page templates, along with choices of type style and type size are all part of the limited design selections using Adobe Slate. You can customize the text used in the templates, and add your own photos – as long as they are part of the iPad camera roll. Similarly, when building a presentation, only a select number of fonts can be selected. Simply put, there are limited design choices. If you’re comfortable using their templates, you can build good quality presentations. Yet if you need for a presentation to be highly customized, you’ll need to use a tool such as Keynote or PowerPoint. The simplicity means that you can learn Adobe Slate without any formal Adobe classes, while you may need training for Keynote or PowerPoint to master their available options.

Although the Adobe Slate templates make the design easy, they don’t provide for much creative expression, and the app is only available for the iPad. Another limiting factor to working with Adobe Slate is that it publishes exclusively to the web. This makes it possible to reach a wide audience, but it’s helpful if you want to design a presentation that you’ll also be sharing in-person. This places Adobe Slate in a middle ground, creating presentations that you can only deliver if you are connected to the Internet. Or web pages that you can’t edit or customize. The pages it creates are nice looking, but with so many competing options for building presentations, it’s difficult to foresee that Slate will ever gain more than a small following.


About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.