Potentially useful software

Subject: Potentially useful software
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 2010 11:40:03 -0800 (PST)

This may be old hat to some people, but others may find it new and useful.

As part of recent freelance work, I have stumbled across a couple of software tools that look very interesting.  One is "gliffy" at gliffy.com.  This is a Web application that works very much like MS Visio.  It can be used for things like process flow charts, UML diagrams, and other graphics.  It is not exactly the same as Visio, obviously, but close enough.

Drawings can be shared so multiple people can work on them.  There is no capability for real-time collaboration on drawing changes, but that can be supplied by a web meeting program like Gotomeeting.  I worked for a while with another guy and we could swap control of the keyboard and mouse through Gotomeeting, so by doing that we could both modify drawings (one at a time - the keyboard/mouse sharing is sequential, not simultaneous).  Drawings can be made public, so other people who have the right URL can view JPEGs of the drawings.

Gliffy will suposedly export files in a format (SVG) that can be opened by Visio, but there are flaws in the export.  For example, the connectors shown in gliffy do not export *as connectors.*  When the SVG file is opened in Visio the connectors become simple drawing objects that are no longer locked to the other objects.  That connector problem is in the 30-day free trial; I don't know if the licensed version has the same problem.

Another package I found that looks useful is Balsamiq Mockups at balsamiq.com.  This software is for making mockups of user interfaces.  Actually, it will create wireframes for web sites, and applications both for desktops and mobile devices.  It will also create click-though prototypes, so you can actually see what reactions you get when you use the controls on the mockup.

This is not a Web application, but supposedly there is a web version in the works.  There is a 7-day trial version that can be downloaded.  There is also a demo version that can be run over the web - that version will not allow linking from a mockup control.  The downloaded trial allows linking between mockups in the same project.  Apparently you cannot link from a mockup to a web site or something else outside the Balsamiq project, but you can import images.

Apparently this software requires Adobe Air installed first.  I don't know if it can be used to actually create code for a finished interface - I haven't used it very much at this point.


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