We’re used to Google launching free new web services (and shutting them down) on a whim, so it was rather odd yesterday to see that Google had released a new free desktop app: Google Web Designer. Designed for Mac and PC, without even a version for Google’s own Chromebooks or perhaps Android tablets, Google Web Designer looks like an Adobe app and feels like a blast from the past.
Actually, though, it’s intended to blast away a technology who’s time is long past: Adobe Flash. It’s free, and it’s called a Web Designer, but it’s directly designed to help you make animated and responsive HTML5 ads for Google’s DoubleClick ad platform, presumably both to cure the web from the last vestiges of Flash and to help ads on Google’s platforms get clicks on mobile.
But hey: it’s also essentially a basic free version of Hype that you could use to make animations for your site, even if you’re not advertising with Google.
It’s fairly easy to use — though it may drive you nuts on a Mac with its in-window File menu that makes it look like it’s a Windows app running in Fusion or Parallels. You’ll start off by selecting the type of document you want to make, where you’ll be reminded that this is first-and-foremost an app for making ads for the web, not so much unlike Apple’s iAd Producer. But, in this case, you can choose to make a normal webpage instead.
Once you’ve got a document started, you can create CSS-based vector-style shapes and lines, drag-and-drop in your own images and other media, add text areas that use any font in the Google Font library, and arrange each each element with full-featured alignment tools for pixel-perfect layouts. Throwing in animations is simple too: just arrange the elements like you want them to appear at the beginning, add another frame, and move the elements to the spot you want them in that frame. Repeat that until everything’s perfect, and the app will automatically fill in the animations. Or, you can switch to the Advanced Mode to hand-customize each part of the animation.
It’s funny enough that Google made another desktop app outside of Chrome, but what’s even funnier is that it’s essentially a packaged web app, with the full Chromium runtime inside the app bundle. Perhaps it’s too large (at ~26Mb) right now to distribute as an offline web app in Chrome, but I’d happen to think that eventually they’ll bring the Web Developer app to the browser.
Either way, though, Google Web Developer a decently nice way to make quick web animations on your Mac or PC for free. It exports fairly clean code that you can edit in the app, uses HTML5 Canvas, CSS3 Transformations, and WebGL for your animations, and lets make nice enough animations with next-to-no effort. There’s even a decently detailed tutorial online to take you though the app’s features and help you get started. That’s not bad at all.