Blurb is best known for its BookSmart software, a program that lets you create professional-looking books from your own photos and text. Offering a range of templates and the ability to print copies you want as and when you need them, it won favour among professional designers looking to produce slick portfolios, and doting parents looking for an enduring memento of their little darling’s first months in the world.
Blurb Mobile provides a twist on the self-publishing concept. Rather than creating books, you create ‘Stories’ – short multimedia albums, comprising photos, text and even sound and video clips. These can be played as slideshows, or as a presentation through which you can swipe.
The brevity of Stories forces some tough choices: you’re allowed up to 15 images, some concise text, and a couple of minutes of audio for each. But used smartly, this could help you hone in on your best work.
There’s the same slick aesthetic and emphasis on intuitive, enjoyable user experience as in BookSmart. We were also pleased to discover that Blurb Mobile offers a good degree of control over how images and other elements are presented. Some of the templates are rather cheesy, but it’s also brilliantly easy to create a classy piece of work.
When you’ve compiled a Story, you can share it publicly in the Story Stream – which features some stunning work by other users. Alternatively, you can share with friends through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or email.
It’s easy to see how Blurb Mobile could be handy for knocking together quick holiday albums or portfolios on the hoof, or for using as a digital scrapbook. It’s a highly versatile and fun way to share your work, housed in an app that’s well suited to the iPad’s tactile interface.
Getting started with Blurb Mobile for iOS
Step 1. You can start creating Stories without registering for the Blurb Mobile community, but you’ll need to sign up for a free account if you wish to share them through the public Story Stream, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. If you already have a BookSmart account, Blurb Mobile will recognise your existing login details.
Step 2. Tap ‘Create Story’ to get started assembling your own project. Give the Story a name, add a brief description, then specify whether you’d prefer to keep your masterpiece private or share it with the world through the Story Stream. This is also where you specify whether to tag your content with location information.
Step 3. Welcome to your Story-creation space. When you’re viewing any of your own projects, you can access the full range of editing tools, swap and rearrange images, or add more content by pulling down the bar from the top of the screen to the bottom – even after the project has been published.
Step 4. Add some images: one option is to shoot using either of the iPad’s cameras (tap the camera icon for this), although the iPad makes a rather unwieldy camera and the image quality isn’t amazing. We prefer to save the images we want to use into the Image Library in advance and tap the square icon to select them.
Step 5. Once you’ve added an image, corner handles will appear that allow you to modify the size and position of your image. You can also access these controls when you’re in Editing mode by tapping on an image. Pinch to zoom in and out, and swipe to adjust which section of the image you want to appear in the frame.
Step 6. The arrows in the righthand corners let you rotate the image. Using the arrow in the centre right you can toggle between a narrow image frame, the default square and a wider one, for a portrait, landscape or square picture. The purple arrow on the left allows you to change an image’s position in the Story.
Step 7. Tap the ‘T’ icon at the centre of the bottom of the picture frame to add a caption to each image in your Story. Don’t get too excited by the possibilities offered by the expansive text box that pops up, however, since the maximum length of text Blurb Mobile allows is only about 60 words.
Step 8. The microphone icon at the bottom left allows you to tag a photo with an audio clip or commentary of up to 30 seconds, recorded through the iPad’s microphone. You can also record a 30-second audio clip to set the scene for the entire Story. To do so, simply tap the icon at the bottom right of the screen.
Step 9. For more complex layouts, tap the grid icon to the right of the Import icon. This brings up a selection of configuration options. Pull the slider to set how much border the grid of images has, or adjust the corner and border styles by selecting from the options on the bottom righthand side.
Step 10. Tap the paint palette to select the theme. This defines the look of the backdrop, caption font, and so on. We preferred to keep things simple with either the Black or White, each of which allows the images to speak for themselves. Gritty is also effective, adding an edgy, roughed-up twist that complements darker subjects.
Step 11. Once you’ve finished a Story, push the bar from the bottom of the screen to the top to start publishing. Tap the TV icon to review your handiwork as a slideshow, or use the finger icon to swipe through it. Then hit Share, and email your Story to a contact or share it with the Blurb Mobile community and your social networks.
Step 12. When you email a Story or share it via Facebook, it displays as a link that leads to a dedicated web space featuring your Story. Note that once you’ve shared a Story – even if only by email – you can’t control how private it is. Recipients can forward on your Story or share it via Twitter or Facebook.
Step 13. The free version of Blurb Mobile is rather limited – the app allows only up to eight images per Story, audio clips of up to 30 seconds, just one 15-second video, and eight themes. Upgrading to Blurb Mobile Plus costs £1.49 and enables you to add 15 images as well as more capacity for video and up to 2 mins of audio per photo.
Step 14. The Story Stream is a good place to share your own Stories. It’s also a good place to get inspiration and spot the creative uses others have found for Blurb Mobile. Some of the work here is gorgeous – and much of it underlines the point that less is more when it comes to themes, frames and so on.