Are you using Steroids? Maybe you should be!

If you’re interested in creating native mobile apps (especially iOS apps) using your favorite e-learning authoring tool and want a chance to experiment first, Steroids lets you do just that with minimal up-front investment in time and money. It also makes testing your newly-created apps a breeze!

AppGyver Steroids is a solution you can use to turn your HTML5 published content into native mobile apps. There are some great advantages to using Steroids, but to appreciate them, let’s first examine PhoneGap, the framework on which Steroids was built.

PhoneGap is an open-source (a.k.a. FREE) mobile development framework that lets you package a single source of existing HTML5, JavaScipt, and CSS3 content as multiple native smartphone and tablet apps. In other words, using PhoneGap, you can use the HTML5 content published from tools like Captivate, Articulate, or Lectora to create native smartphone and tablet apps for the mobile devices of your choice. And yes, those apps are eligible to be in their corresponding app stores.

You’re probably thinking this all sounds too good to be true. Well it might be, especially for those of us who don’t live and breathe app development day after day. In order to use PhoneGap, you have to:

  1. Install the individual SDKs (software development kits) for each mobile platform you are targeting. (For iOS, this alone requires an Apple developer license and a Mac with OS X v10.7 (Lion) or greater.) You also have to set up each individual platform’s development environment.
  2. Install the PhoneGap mobile development environment and work with a command line to compile and create your apps.
  3. Test any apps on emulators or the actual device.  Some mobile devices have a whole new set of hoops to jump through just to be able to test directly on the device.

The whole process sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? Adobe apparently thought so too, and that’s when Adobe PhoneGap Build came along. PhoneGap Build is a cloud-based service that simplifies the first two steps above so that all you have to do is use their cloud-based application to input your developer license information and upload your content’s zip file. As a result, PhoneGap Build compiles and creates the app-store-ready apps for you. To test those apps on their native devices, you’ll have to jump through the same set of hoops for step 3 above.  In addition, there are limits to your content size (15 mb or 40 mb) and which mobile platforms it supports (only 3 of the 9 that PhoneGap supports). So, while Adobe PhoneGap Build simplifies the installation process, the cloud-based service limits your content size, and still requires a complicated app testing process.

This brings me back to AppGyver Steroids. It’s still not what I would consider the perfect solution for those of us who don’t live and breathe app development, but it offers a robust enough set of features that might make the non-ideal part worth the trouble. Like PhoneGap, Steroids still requires the set up of a mobile development environment and ability to work with a command line. If this idea alone causes you to break a sweat, then it’s probably not the solution for you. But, understanding the development environment and being comfortable with the command line might be the only down sides to Steroids. The framework provides not only the ability to use your packaged HTML5 content to create native mobile apps, but it also provides a solution for testing those apps on their native devices without having to plug in your devices or worry about developer licenses and provisioning files. In other words, with Steroids, you can provide someone on the other side of the country with the app for testing purposes without forcing you or them to jump through hoops and download files. This simply isn’t possible with PhoneGap or Adobe PhoneGap Build.

Within about 3 hours, I was able to install the Steroids framework, research the command line commands, compile a published Lectora course into an iPad app, and access and test the app on my personal iPad. And, by the way, I could give my friend on the other side of the country a link to check out the app on her iPad too. If that isn’t enough, Steroids also provides a series of add-ons and tools you can use to ensure your packaged HTML5 content looks, feels, and functions like a truly native app.

Just because the tools are available doesn’t mean we should turn all of our e-learning content into native mobile apps. But if you’re looking for ways to build mobile apps using your favorite e-learning authoring tools, Steroids could be exactly what you need.

Tanya Seidel
Artisan E-Learning

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