Web apps, for the most part, have taught us that we didn’t need all the features rich desktop apps offered. Most people don’t need every feature in Word, so Google Docs or even simpler tools like Draft were enough. Mobile apps have mostly continued the trend, with apps that have far fewer features.
The Lucidchart team has shown us, though, that web apps don’t have to be basic. Their web app takes on Visio and OmniGraffle — and does a great job competing. And now, they’ve made yet another full-featured app for the web, this time to revolutionize rich print and digital publishing with the brand-new Lucidpress.
Microsoft Publisher’s Online Competition
The online word processors we’re used to today are basic at best. You can absolutely make a normal resume, report, or other print document with it, but you won’t want to use them to design, say, a glossy flyer to advertise your business. And if you want your report to stand out from other default template documents, you’ll have a tough time making it look better. Apple’s Pages for iCloud fares much better in the design front, but it’s still not a page layout app.
If you’ve ever wished you could make richer print designs — and then easily share them digitally as well — Lucidpress is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s a page layout web app designed for the way most of us work nowadays, by letting you create rich print layouts and publish them in a mobile and touch friendly way online at the same time. And you won’t be missing anything from traditional desktop apps, as Lucidpress lets you bring your images and text from Dropbox, Google Drive, and more, and even lets you add your own personal fonts to customize designs exactly the way you would on your computer.
Just like in most Office-type apps, you’ll start out with a template, or you can choose to start with a blank design and make anything you want. I’d recommend trying out a template first, though, to get a feel for what you can do with the app, then start again with a blank document to make your own original work. Also, if you ever think you’ll want to print your design, choose a print template — you can always digitally publish a print design (or copy it and expand it with digital-only media like slideshows and video), but digital designs don’t print nearly as well. What’s really neat is that you can save personal and team templates, to make, say, writing letters with your company letterhead simple for anyone on your team.
From there, you’ll get to proceed much as you would in any page layout program. You won’t want to do your actual writing or photo editing in the app — just like you wouldn’t in Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher — but it’s a great place to bring everything together. There’s everything you’d expect for normal layout and formatting for print designs, including detailed text spacing options, preset paragraph styles you can save to use between sessions, shapes and color options, and more. Bringing in content is very easy as well, with deep Google Drive integration to import text and Dropbox, Flickr, Facebook, and Google Image Search integration to add images to your designs. And everything can be positioned and formatted however you want — I’ve never seen this much flexibility in a web app before. It’s really impressive.
Once everything’s finished, you can print from the app or export your creations as a PDF, or as an image. Alternately, you can publish your creation online directly from Lucidpress with one click. There’s only one problem: no matter how you export, your text is all saved as an image. PDF exports, even of print layouts, will not include any selectable or searchable text, but instead are essentially page-sized images. Outside of Lucidpress, there’s no way to edit your document or even copy any data out of it without running it through an OCR app. And with web exports, you’ll hit the same thing — text is simply rendered as an image, which can often end up grainier than you’d expect from online text.
So, Lucidpress gives you a great way to make a print layout — if you’re really printing it. On the web, its exports end up feeling like a flash-powered site since nothing’s selectable or copyable. And that’s too bad. It’s a really nice app, packed with features and simple to use, but it fails right when you’re done with the app. We sincerely hope Lucidpress will get more traditional document and web exports in the future, which would make it far more useful of a tool.
For now, though, if you want to put together a rich print layout — or even want something to share digitally where selecting text isn’t of high importance — Lucidpress is a web app you should try out for sure. It’s still impressive, even if somewhat limited.