We launched Affinity Publisher, the third app in the Affinity suite, exactly one year ago. To celebrate the big day, we caught up with the app’s lead developer, Adam Whitehouse, to get the inside scoop on everything from the app’s conception to its latest major update.
What inspired you to get into software development and how did you get to where you are today?
To be a good software engineer you need to have a passion, and you need to be eager to learn and explore and to innovate and create. This was just as apparent after taking a few initial steps as it is today, and it is the inherent possibilities and opportunities that are as exciting and inspiring as anything else.
How did your work on PagePlus inform your work on Publisher?
PagePlus has been, is, and will continue to be a massive influence on the direction of Affinity Publisher. As a company we have a wealth of experience built up over many years working with PagePlus. It has taught us what to do, what not to do, and years of feedback from our customers and our excellent beta testers is helping us to prioritise current development.
What was it like having the opportunity to develop a brand-new publishing app from scratch?
It’s well publicised that all of the Affinity apps share the same back end and opt into facets of the same document model. Designer and Photo were ahead of us in development, so we had a first-class platform to build on. In the beginning it was a question of creating our roadmap of features and functionality that we knew would be hard requirements to make a ‘Version 1’ genuinely useful to customers.
What were the challenges of creating the third app in the Affinity suite? That seems like a lot of pressure…
I think it’s a matter of focus. There is a lot of common ground between the apps, but there is just as much that differs. I think identifying necessary differences, whilst not particularly difficult, has caught us out from time to time.
How did it feel when Affinity Publisher finally launched?
Of course it was a great relief. We had had an extended beta period, so there were no real surprises. There was also an acute awareness that we were only just getting started.
“Of course it was a great relief. We had had an extended beta period, so there were no real surprises. There was also an acute awareness that we were only just getting started.”
Is there a feature or other specific part of the app that you feel most proud of?
The text engine is highly performant, and a lot of work has gone into making sure this is the case. We have been caught out with a few cases where a misstep in the surrounding architecture has caused issues, but at the core it is a classy bit of kit. We know there are lots of things that it doesn’t yet handle, but they will come with time.
One thing that really sets Affinity Publisher apart from other apps is its unique StudioLink feature that allows users to instantly switch between Affinity Publisher, Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo all within the same app. How did you go about implementing this game-changing technology?
The concept of StudioLink was designed in from the very start. So when the time came to actually provide an implementation everything pretty much just fell into place.
“The concept of StudioLink was designed in from the very start. So when the time came to actually provide an implementation everything pretty much just fell into place.”
Affinity Publisher was recently named Mac App of the Year by Apple, which is a huge honour—what did this mean to you? It must be nice seeing all your hard work pay off.
It’s an award for the team, the development department and for the company as a whole. I would say everyone here in Software Development is involved in the success of Publisher, the whole company is involved in the success of Publisher.
Affinity Publisher was Mac App of the Year 2019
How do you go about adding new features? And how do you decide which ones to include?
We have a roadmap of future features which is quite a fluid and dynamic thing. It is based on customer feedback, both from the user forums and our corporate clients, insights from our support team, and our long-term strategic vision for the product.
The 1.8 update had some pretty major additions/improvements. What were you most excited to introduce? IDML import seems like a pretty big deal…
The initial release of the IDML importer is quite fully featured, but there are still things that it doesn’t handle. We will continue to improve it. We also made improvements to master page handling and added the facility to merge documents which will help with compilation of the Publisher Workbook.
Where do you see Affinity Publisher in the next few years? Anything you can tell us about Affinity Publisher for iPad?
Our roadmap for Publisher is huge. It’s virtually impossible to cherry-pick features to list here and now. It’s not a secret that Publisher for iPad is in development, and I would say development is going well. In fact, we’re not too far off having a technical preview that we might be able to share outside the team. It’s important to us though to keep a balance between iPad and desktop development, so it’ll be a while longer before we have anything to show publicly.
“Our roadmap for Publisher is huge. It’s virtually impossible to cherry-pick features to list here and now. It’s not a secret that Publisher for iPad is in development, and I would say development is going well.”