Everybody (with at least half a brain) knows Corona SDK is an awesome game development tool for 2D games. But when someone needs to put together a business app they start looking around at other tools because the game use of Corona SDK kind of overshadows everything else.
And while I will admit to being a reluctant proponent (in the recent past) of using Corona for business apps, I’ve found myself moving more and more firmly into the camp of…
…using the right tool for the job. And in more and more cases, Corona SDK is the right tool.
Yes, even for business apps.
There have been some articles on the Ansca Mobile site lately from people who are making real money writing business apps with Corona so I’m not going to beat you over the head with that. Instead, I’m going to show you a secret weapon you can use to make biz apps easier to create using Corona SDK.
What’s My Experience?
Here’s my disclaimer — while I’ve made money in the past two decades writing business software I’ve only created one non-game app using Corona SDK. That was NapKeeper, winner of the non-game category in the recent Hackathon.
While it is admittedly a novelty app, in look and feel it’s a business app from top to bottom:
- Using the regular UI widgets
- Storing data using SQLite under the hood
- Interfacing with Facebook
…and a lot of other non-game things.
The entire app was created in about 10 hours during the contest. And while it’s not a perfect app, if I can do that in one day, what could you accomplish in two days, or a week or two?
The Secret Weapon
Besides using Corona SDK (the real secret weapon!) here’s how I was able to create the app so quickly — I made notes first about exactly what I wanted the app to do. And not just any notes, but notes that looked like this:
That’s a screenshot from an iPad app called Blueprint which was the best $20 I think I’ve spent on iTunes (there is a limited Lite version you can try free). Using the widgets on the right I was able to create the screens exactly the way I wanted them to look.
Sidebar: Not exactly, really, because Corona SDK doesn’t use native widgets. Plus, there are more widgets available for Obj-C coders than for us, but I was still able to get pretty close.
Before starting any coding, I sat down with Blueprint and “drew” all the screens I wanted for my app. Blueprint even allows you to link screens together and then “play” the mock-up by tapping a button and having it switch to the linked screen.
In less than an hour I had the entire NapKeeper app laid out. It looked like this:
Those are the screens for NapKeeper (mostly) linked to the other correct screens.
So That’s How You Won (You Cheating SOB!)
Hang on, put down the pitchforks and torches. While Blueprint is absolutely cool, it doesn’t do any coding for you. You can export as PDF and that’s it — it’s just a set of notes. Pretty notes, but still just notes. No code, no graphics.
But it did two big things for me:
1. Kept me focused! I have enough trouble staying on task (Look, a squirrel!) as it is, so if I can just code and not think about what comes next, I’m way ahead of the game. This collection of screens showed me exactly what I needed to work on.
2. Gave me some needed graphics. While Blueprint doesn’t export graphics, I took screenshots of four screens, pulled them into Preview and clipped out the bottom tab bar. I think Corona SDK includes a tab bar widget now, but it didn’t back then, so that’s how I was able to get a good-looking tab bar with the correct buttons.
Working On My Next Business App With Corona SDK
I have another non-game app scheduled to be done in January and I’m now at the point where I won’t be looking for “the best tool to use.” With Blueprint to handle the planning, and the speed at which I can put together an app using Corona SDK, I already have a killer combination.
Corona SDK isn’t just for games anymore.
Update: I’ve created a video tutorial course called Business Apps Using Corona SDK. It covers the best of the latest widgets and shows how to create a working business app with Corona SDK.
Great article! Need to check out BluePrint for my iPad. The game dev has over shadowed the business app dev on Corona, but I started using Corona for the cross-platform business development. Now with widgets, it is even easier and faster.
This same topic came up at the Dallas meetup in December with Walter Luh. As one person who was attending said (and I paraphrase), “I make my money from business app development, it pays for my game development”.
That is one of the reasons I spend 14 of 17 chapters of my book on Mobile App Dev talking about developing for business apps (shameless self-promoting plug).
Thanks for the tip on the I pad tool. What has drawn me to corona is the multi platform support. What does your app UI screens look like on an android build? Could you please post some images?
Damn, another great post! I gotta check my twitter feed more often and more in-depth! 🙂 Great tip on the blueprint app! Also, another cool blueprint app for the ipad was AppCooker.
where do I get the gui?