Lightwell software lets you create mobile apps without using code

We first discovered Lightwell – software that lets anyone turn their work into an interactive app for iOS without knowing a line of code – when its New York-based creators Hullabulu launched the tool last year.

Since then it’s been through major updates (the inclusion of lip syncing and image sequences for example) and now Hullabulu has released Lightwell 3.0 – a visual redesign of the entire app (and previewer app) along with new features.

The new interface aims to be faster and easier to use. If you already use Lightwell, you’ll be pleased to know existing features still exist, but there are a few new ones with more expected to roll out soon. Lightwell is available on iPhone, iPad and Mac OSX 10.11+. Take a look at what's new in the video below, otherwise keep reading to see how the new features work. 

If you’re learning about Lightwell for the first time, jump down to where we explain how it can help you create apps without needing any code.

Here are the new features. 

New interface

The four main building blocks of Lightwell now fall under colour co-ordinated tabs. In addition, all sound assets – dialogue, music and special effects – have been rolled into a singular workspace dubbed ‘audio’. Controls for each within Audio are found directly below it, in order to maximise the size of the canvas.

Master Scenes

With the release of Lightwell 3.0, you can now choose from scene templates to help you get started. This tool is probably best if you’re creating multiple scenes with the same visuals or audio. The templates include repeatable assets like background music, navigational UI elements like an anchor point and angle limits, and layers.

You can also create your own animations and interactions into Master Scenes.

Coming Soon

Expect to see new features pop up in the next few weeks, such as canvas zoom, app performance metrics and dynamic text and shapes.

What is Lightwell?

Lightwell helps creatives to build mobile apps without writing a line of code – letting you move from 2D art to an entirely interactive, animated experience that compiles into native iOS app. Hullabalu creates interactive storybook apps for children such as The Adventures of Pan.

Being from this background, it has created a tool that's primarily aimed at creating narrative-driven playful experiences – but it could be used to produce any type of self-contained app with animated graphics and a relatively small amount of interactivity.

All you need to do is drag and drop your artwork, characters and props into the Lightwell desktop app – which is currently only available for Mac – then create custom animations, interactions and dialogues before publishing your project directly to the app store - all within a Photoshop-style interface. Check out how it works in the video below.

If you need any help along the way, Lightwell has a bunch of video tutorials on its website explaining how to create particular features - such as cutting assets, ambient motion and organising layers - so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started. There are also a few ready-made scene templates to get your creative juices going.

Existing Features

Lip Syncing 

Lip Syncing can be found in the dialogue panel. Instead of creating an entire animation, link sounds in your scripts and watch it automatically animate into dialogue. 

Automate your character’s mouth and speech movements by adding a sound file, line text and images.

Image Sequences 

Upload a series of sprites on a layer and control how they are displayed. This could be adjusting the frame speed, number of repeats, or if it auto-reverses or not. Although the small tool has been around for a while, its perfect for bringing image layers to life. 

Interaction Manager

Interactions can now be grouped together and set to play all at once or sequentially. When set to 'sequential', the interactions within the group will only trigger if its previous interactions have been triggered.

Alongside this, each interaction will be limited to the times it can be triggered. Once it has reached that limit, it will automatically be skipped over in its containing group.
These two controls can be combined in as many ways as you want.

Other features

Features include creating movement and interaction between characters and objects (such as shake, jump or topple) or your own interaction. Test a project in a companion previewer app to see what the layout looks like on both iPad and iPhone. Users can also add their own sound and dialogue, text and music. 

Download a free 14 day trial here, or choose the Lightwell Creator option for US$12/£8.70 a month (or choose to be billed annually for US$10/£7.24). 

Hullabalu has developed other tools in house: Pegasus, an animation and story engine tool, and Artemis, its own art and design tool suite. Some of the features and technology within these are in Lightwell.

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