No, I am not a spokesperson for Balsamiq but rather a happy customer. In the unfortunate event you have not heard of Balsamiq Mockups and you develop software or design it, you are missing out. Balsamiq Mockups is a tool that allows developers to create mockups easily using a library of user interface components to help ease the pain of creating screens.
Replaces Pad and Pen
This is a great little tool which helps me develop screens and workflow for the software applications I create. I use this tool instead of the usual pad and pen to determine how a particular screen will look. A recent mockup of the administration screen for a Survey tool I?m creating:
What makes this so nice is it appears similar to writing on a pad of graph paper with one key exception; I can determine the dimensions of my screen and how much space each component laid out on the screen will take up. This way, I *know* how everything will fit on screen or in the browser and won?t be surprised after the HTML/CSS is written.
I can toss aside my pen and paper and just use Mockups. I spend my time now dragging and dropping controls from the library and know exactly how much space I am taking up, keeping in mind the screen sizes of the target. I easily move controls around, remove them and customize their text. I cannot say enough about how much time this saves me. Instead of fretting over how bad I draw, I can not easily create what I need to get my work done.
Balsamiq Mockups is not a free-hand drawing tool, I could not use such a tool. Rather it contains a library of common user interface tools which you drag and drop to the grid surface. They tout 75 ready-to-use controls:
I have yet to need any control in my interfaces that is not in this library. They even have layout components for iPhone applications.
Third-Party Integration and Support
When I decide to use a tool I often look to see if the tool with integrate with or support other tools I might be using. This isn?t critical most of the time but can be the deciding factor in some situations.
Although there is built-in support to export a mockup to Adobe Flex, there is a company, Napkee, which allows the user to create full HTML/CSS/JS or Adobe Flex 3 from a mockup, saving a ton of time to give you a great starting point.
I subscribe to the Balsamiq blog so I know what is coming next and when I will see it. I could imagine feedback is welcome.
In the Air
Mockups is an Adobe Air application so the installation is easy. I know what you are thinking, I don?t want another run-time on my system. Stop your whining, you have a ton on there now and it won?t kill you to have another. The number of good Adobe Air applications I use is growing and are really good, TweetDeck for example.
One really nice thing about Adobe Air apps is they run on all the platforms I need; Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X. I understand they also work on Linux.
The Adobe Air runtime is super-simple, just like installing Adobe Acrobat Reader and once the runtime is installed, each application is just a simple click.
Mockups is not free to be able to save mockups but you can try it out or if you don?t care about saving, they just install and use it. The licensed version does cost $79, so a bit pricey in my opinion, but a valuable tool all the same.
Balsamiq does release updates often and you need to visit the site to check for updates and install them. I really wish this was built into the app like so many others where it either does an automatic check or allows me to check for the update.
I also wish for a way to export as a PDF to share with others who don?t have the tool. I would like to be able to annotate diagrams and collaborate with others, maybe myself and a designer.
I can?t say enough good things about this little tool, it makes my job easier everyday.