I was browsing Lifehacker recently and came across a post for a new product, currently in beta form, from Adobe. Called Project ROME, it is a content creation suite that runs either as an Adobe AIR application, or as a web app, right in your browser. I’m running Linux, and the only binaries available for download were for Windows or Mac, so I tried out Project ROME in my web browser, but even so… wow. It’s an impressive piece of software already. I’m not sure if it’s something I would ever use – at least not more than sporadically – but it’s very powerful, very fast, and really intuitive.
First, Project ROME is template-driven, which means that everything you create starts with some type of template. This template can be completely blank (without even a space to start typing text), but it’s still a template. One of the exciting things about Project ROME is that it appears that there will eventually be an extensive space where users can share templates among themselves. It comes with dozens of templates already, but as a Google Docs user, I know that one of the advantages of using a program like this is all the templates users come up with and share.
What kinds of templates are available? There are currently to major categories – templates for Home and Business, and templates for Education. Within the Home and Business category are templates for Animations, Brochures, Business Cards, Cards & Invitations, CD & DVD Covers, CI Packages, Fliers, Gift Certificates, Letterheads and Websites. In the Education category are templates for Certificates, Digital Stories, Plans & Schedules, Portfolios, Presentations, Quizzes, Reports and Websites. There are also a couple of blank templates, designed for either the printed page or to be viewed on a computer screen.
The thing that immediately struck me is how flexible Project ROME is, being capable of creating both a website and a presentation! Part of the reason for this is that Project ROME is a document layout program. It doesn’t use the metaphor of a printed page like word processors do; instead it uses the idea of a blank canvas, to which you can add anything you want. Among the items you can add are shapes, gradients, vector graphics, bitmap images and yes, even text. If you already have an account with Adobe (you might if you’ve ever used Acrobat.com or Photoshop.com), then you can take advantage of the Object Exchange (similar to the Template Exchange), which is where other users place items they’ve created and want to share.
Once you start using Project ROME, it’s similar to many page layout or graphics programs. You can create layers, perform editing on just layers or on the entire project, and items can be rotated, skewed, colored, and more. And when you’re done, your work can be saved. The formats available depend on what type of project you’re working on, but you can usually save the file to a Flash file (.swf format), or to PDF. You can also print it, or in the case of websites you’d made, save to a ROME Website. This was, as far as I could tell, the only way to save your website as a website (as opposed to a Flash file or an Interactive PDF), so if you had the idea of making a website then saving it to your hard drive for later FTP uploading to your own web host… you can’t.
Even in its infancy, Project ROME is impressive. There are a ton of tools, all laid out in logical menus and tool palettes. In spite of my having never used Project ROME before today, I was able to grasp how to use it, and where the tools were that I wanted, very quickly. I think it’s a great tool, and am looking forward to seeing how it progresses. Having said that, I’m not sure if it is something I have enough use for to warrant paying for a subscription. At the moment, Project ROME is free to try out, but it will eventually become a commercial application, with payment for it via a subscription model. Pricing for the subscription has not yet been released. If you want to try out Project ROME, head over to the website and try it out, or if you use Mac or Windows and want to use it from the desktop, make sure you have Adobe AIR on your system, then install Project ROME.
Note: As of November 30, all development of Project ROME has ended. While no further development will be taking place, the web application and desktop application will remain available.