by Joseph T. Sinclair
Monica (http://monaca.mobi), widely used in Japan but not so widely use the United States, continues to be a powerful and inexpensive means of turning HTML documents and websites into iOS, Android, Windows, and Chrome apps. I first covered Monica in the February 2015 blog. Since Monica is a viable means of creating apps from documents, however, it is worth reporting more on this flexible and easy-to-use development tool.
Monica, which works in the cloud, provides you with an HTML editor. A basic app user interface is already programmed into the HTML and present in the editor. You simply copy and paste your HTML document into the HTML template in the editor. Or if you choose to, you can create text and other HTML elements using the editor. Each document or website has its own root folder-directory in Monaca. You can upload anything you want to, whether files or subfolders, for downstream attachment to the root directory.
You can think of Monica as a conversion utility that magically converts your HTML document or website into an app. Assuming you design your HTML properly, the app can be almost identical to an ebook or a PDF document. Granted, you have to have some HTML and CSS skills to use Monica productively. Such skills are fairly easy to acquire and do not take a lot of intelligence or long periods of study. With those skills you can easily make Monica work for you and create documents of all kinds including book apps to sell in the Apple App Store, Google Play, Microsoft App Store, and the Amazon App Store.
Monica has plenty of documentation online for you to use in learning to make the use of Monica productive. Even so, you’ll need basic HTML and CSS skills.
Since most people read on their phones rather than their tablets, making your documents easy-to-use and easy-to-read on phones is of prime importance. There is an open software mobile interface called Onsen. This is free interface programming done in HTML for mobile devices. Although the interface is for phones, it also works for tablets.
Monica works well with Onsen. Indeed, Monica has a sister website with an assortment of Onsen templates available free for your use. You simply copy and paste your HTML into the Onsen template. Many of the templates are designed to accommodate documents including books. The templates can be important because they enable you to forgo creating your own navigation capabilities. That is not to say that you shouldn’t build supplementary navigation capability into your HTML documents. You should. But the templates can provide the basic navigation that your readers will need.
I’ve experiment a little with Monica turning some simple documents into apps, and it works like a charm. I have yet to create a full-fledged book with Monica but plan to do so.
HTML apps that are essentially ebooks or shorter documents such as white papers, brochures, booklets, manuals, novelettes, short stories, and the like can be made with Monaca. You may run into some resistance in having them accepted by the various app stores without adding other elements such as color graphics, photographs, audio bites, calculators, embedded programming, or animation. In other words, they need to be multimedia presentations rather than just plain simple text.
Fortunately, with HTML5 that is not difficult to do. And Monica will wrap all that multimedia up into a slick little package called an app and what we call a book app. Monica even has tutorials to assist you in registering your apps with the various app stores.
All in all, Monica is a great tool regardless of the price. In this case, however, the price happens to be very reasonable and for starters you can even get a free account with which to experiment.
The author of this article, Joseph T. Sinclair, is the author of twenty How To books published by national publishers.
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©2015 Joseph T. Sinclair. All rights reserved.