What users want: the driving force behind iStudio Publisher

iStudio Publisher, the new layout design application, struck us as an intelligent move and we wanted to know more about the developers. We had an e-mail based interview with Andy Carrott from c:four, the company that develops iStudio Publisher. The interview is short and the Q&A basic, but it gives some insight in c:four’s targets and where this company is going.If you want to know more about iStudio Publisher’s roadmap, go grab it from c:four’s web site; it is well worth a visit.

IT Enquirer: What exactly were the reasons to start with your own layout design application?

c:four: Some of the existing professional publishing products are difficult to use, expensive, and have a steep learning curve. With iStudio Publisher we have set out to reverse all of these issues.
The ethos behind iStudio Publisher is to make DTP available to a wide range of users by offering an intuitive interface, whilst at the same time providing sufficient functionality to create professional looking documents. One of our primary design goals for iStudio Publisher is to allow users to get started quickly.

Some of our team have been involved in developing and supplying publishing software for many years and iStudio Publisher is a natural continuation of that work.

IT Enquirer: What are the experience and expertise of the people who started the company? What does the name stand for?

c:four: We are a privately owned company. The name originated from having Explosive Publishing Power as the company tag line (Composition C-4 is a common variety of plastic explosive). This tag line has since been dropped.
Two of our joint owners are experienced publishing professionals, who are also joint owners of a successful publishing business producing a range of newspapers and magazines in the UK. The design of iStudio Publisher has benefitted from this real world publishing experience.

c:four’s Managing Director is Tom O’Connor. In 1983, Tom set up Typecraft Software to create composition software on the IBM PC – the first typesetting system (forerunner of DTP). In 1985, a deal was struck with AM Varityper, a New Jersey corporation, to market the product (called MAXX) to its worldwide user base in the typesetting market.

In 1987, Tom created LaserMaker, a system for magazine and newspaper publishers, which was based on the IBM PC MAXX product, but with networking and additional facilities, such as Copyflow. LaserMaker became an IBM worldwide partner.

Our software architects and developers first started working together as researchers at Loughborough University 20 years ago. Since then, they have worked together on a wide range of different software development projects, many of these being complex, bespoke IT systems.
A common feature of these projects has been the involvement of this team from initial inception, through requirements gathering and analysis, and continuing all the way through design, implementation, testing and initial user training and support. The approach has always been to listen to what users want and try to provide well designed solutions that get the job done, whilst also being easy to learn and enjoyable to use.

IT Enquirer: In which applications do you see the core kit embedded? Are you in talks with interested third parties?

c:four: The core software is integrated into iStudio Publisher and will underpin all future c:four products. We have had initial talks with various interested third parties.

IT Enquirer: Are there any integration plans whatsoever besides the core kit?

c:four: Not at present, but we are always open to suggestions.
IT Enquirer: Can you give a brief outline of the difference in feature set between iStudio Publisher and the Pro version?

c:four: We haven’t finalised this feature set yet, and we’re letting users drive this to some extent with their support requests.

The Application Development Roadmap published with the current application gives a good indication of the breadth of coverage of features in iStudio Publisher. In general, these features will be more sophisticated in iStudio Pro. The details of these are still being worked out.

IT Enquirer: From your current state of development document, I deducted you don’t intend to compete with QXP8 and IDCS4 head-to-head, but what will the added value of a Pro version then be, if it doesn’t include much of the functionality of these two?
c:four: We see iStudio Publisher filling the gap in between the word processor applications and the high end applications. Our development is based on what users of iStudio products want, so they are shaping the future of the products.

IT Enquirer: Your format is XML, which potentially enables the files to be used directly in publishing systems or in a push mechanism to the web through a XHTML converter. Are there any plans to make that more manageable for your target audience?

c:four: We’re thinking about this. There are a lot of things we could do, but it really depends on what users and interested 3rd parties would like to do. This is the most important aspect to us.

— END

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