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What is it? Mural is a free and open-source software to create visual longform stories.

How is it of use to journalists?

Visual storytelling is becoming an increasingly important format in the journalism industry. Combining both the audio and visual aspects of a story creates a unique way of presenting news to the readers.

Compelling pieces such as The New York Times's "Snowfall" or the Guardian's "Firestorm" set the trend several years ago, and since then a grammar of visual storytelling, sometimes referred to as "scrollytelling", has developed. However, creating pieces in this style can require a lot of coding and can prove to be rather expensive.

This is where Mural comes in. Using this tool, you can overlay text on top of video loops or still images, rearrange the sequence of items, add background sounds to still images and export the final product as a ZIP file which can be easily published.

Mural is a desktop app for Mac, Windows and Linux. The app is open-source and has been funded through the prototype grant from the Google Digital News Initiative.

The tool is free to install and use, but Mural also offers paid services such as hosting, media transcoding and preparation, distribution via content distribution networks, software customisation, consulting and training.

Douglas Arellanes, co-founder of Mural Software, told he started the project because he was "frustrated with the way traditional content management systems handle visual content".

He believes that "journalists should use Mural because there are certain kinds of stories that are better told in visuals – a picture being worth at least 1,000 words in today's markets – and when it's easier to integrate text and images, stories are better told".

Listen to Arellanes talk more about Mural and the realities of keeping a business afloat while producing open-source software in this podcast.

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