Catoo – A simple way to create a catalog app

After developing a couple of projects in the mobile commerce sector, we realized that there is a big potential for a product with which catalog apps for tablets can be build easily. All small, mid-size and even bigger brands which have PDF-based catalogs distributed to their customers (and there are a lot of them) will have to or are currently switching to the mobile sector. So the potential for creating catalog apps will develop in the coming months. Consequently there have to be people who create these apps, and they don’t want to implement all needed features on their own.

The features of these kind of apps are very similar to each other and independent from the content. There always has to be a good viewer (or PDF renderer), bookmarks, customization possibilities and multimedia features which create a real benefit compared to a paper catalog.

So we evaluated the market and saw the space for such a light-weight product, somewhere between the heavy-weight and not good customizable big players like Adobe – where specialists are needed and prices are high – and pure PDF libraries which are used by developers. The plan is to reach a wide range of customers for our new product called Catoo – from the single developer or student who can easily build catalog apps for the stores around him to the big agency which reaches a lot of brands and retailers.

We started implementing a PDF rendering engine for iOS, which we think is really great and very performant. After we used this engine in some individual projects for customers we build a product around it, which is now called Catoo – The Catalog Toolkit. It was definetly a technology driven development, because we started with a static library and after that we created the Catoo product and all the other parts around the library.

Now Catoo contains a Mac OS tool – the Cato Catalog Composer – with a lot of features that lightens the users work of preparing the content. Then there is the powerful library inside of a sample XCode project and the backend which deals with the license management.

The standard workflow is like follows:

  1. Installation of XCode (at least if you don’t have one)
  2. Download Catoo from the Catoo website
  3. Open the sample project in XCode
  4. Insert the license you received via e-mail while downloading Catoo in the appropriate folder
  5. Open the Catoo Catalog Composer (the Mac OS tool we talked about)
  6. Choose the PDF file and add information to the catalog
  7. Optionally add multimedia content by filling the provided XML template
  8. Customize the app with your icon, splashscreen or splashvideo insideXCode
  9. Test your app on an iPad
  10. Publish your app

Catoo Catalog Composer

From these steps you can see, that we really tried to keep the whole workflow really simple, so that not only developer, but also designer or simply digital-affine people can work with this tool.

Currently we are extending Catoo with a backend to manage catalogs from the web. With this new version it will be possible for the creator of the catalog to separately change and update single catalogs, chapters or even pages when the catalog changes (e.g. some prices or pictures). For the end user this new version will generate a slimmer app with the option to choose which catalog, which chapter and even which page he wants to have updated. This makes the delivered app a lot smaller because the content is downloaded after installing the application on the device.

We hope that this article helps to understand what we wanted to achieve and how our new product works. Now it is up to you out there to try this product and give us feedback, if this is what you want. You can test Catoo for free with all integrated features and tell us if you like and what we can improve.

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