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Tool needed for quick GUI design (on paper)

I'm working on designing functional specification for big document flow project. Now we're using MS Visio 2003 when designing GUI forms for quick dialogue with customer (Visio has built-in "software" shapes, such as "common controls", "toolbars and menus" etc.).

The problem is - when complexity of GUI increasing (especially when non-standard controls needed) it is really hard to align all that shapes within a form. Design becoming slow and nervous.

We tried to use MS Visual Studio 2005 for GUI design - got similar problems. We don't need functioning/interactive demos now, we need only quick "thought exchange" with customer.

Does anybody know some software tools, wich are little bit more flexible/rapid than MS Visio?

Thank you.
Andrew Shkuropiy Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I remember reading about a new software for exactly that problem on this forum. Maybe someone else remembers more.

If that's just my imagination: someone take a cue and start coding such an app.

OTOH, my design need are filled by InterfaceBuilder.
Matthias Winkelmann Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Lucid Spec  was discussed here. Too expensive for my company, but they have a limited use trial version.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A lot of people may laugh, but in the past I've found Microsoft Publisher almost perfect for this job.

* It has widgets for form fields (it can actually be used to make really bad Web pages, apparently)

* It has a "master sheet" that can be the background of your Web page or your Windows app so you don't have to recreate everything for every page or window -- you start off with a "template."

* Stuff is "sticky," meaning it stays on the page where you put it, instead of cascading around like Word.

* It has a lot of callouts and boxes and stuff to annotate your work.

I had a great experience with it.
Deane Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I like Deane's suggestion of Publisher. I will have to try that.

Personally, I use PowerPoint for the following reasons.

- Clients are comfortable making adjustments themselves
- It's basically free (who _doesn't_ have PowerPoint on Windows?)

Many years ago I took screen captures of all of the common controls (scrollbars, buttons, etc) and then pasted them into a blank PowerPoint presentation. I use that as the base so that I have everything available. When WinXP came out I had to capture the controls all over again (about 4 hours) and will have to do so again for Vista. Small price to pay every few years.

I've tried using the Visio tools every now and then (at each new release) but like the OP I find them lacking. Clients also balked at how "flat" the interfaces looked, because Visio doesn't render the UIs with the default WinXP theme.
PWills Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Back in the old days we used a thing called a pencil and paper. It was great and very flexible. Really easy to use (most people I knew had the skills) and you could do pretty much anything you fancy with it.
Andrew Gilfrin Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
A pencil was also my first thought but it has the problem of getting the form into an electronic document.  In the past I have done the Visio thing when you need to show some transitions and functionality. 

However, I have also taken the PWills approach and suggest it.  Once you get the widgets captured it is a cut/paste. If you are sure you did not need to display any functionality. Moving from Visio to PP may seem like a step back to end users.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
When I read this, I immediately thought of ColorForms.. those little soft plastic films that stick to a waxy background... but using GUI elements instead of cartoon characters
Michael Johnson Send private email
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I cannot speak for the pages you refer to specifically, however BofA outsourced to India a couple of years ago.  This is also India's entry market. 

That said, "clean code" only matters when resources are expensive.
Do the pages work with the most commonly used browser? Yes
Was the cost to develop them very low? Yes
Was the work done quickly? Yes.

I don't like it, but it is easy to see why they would do it.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Dang - wrong post - sorry folks.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I'm with Andrew Gilfren on this one.
Perhaps you should check out Paper Prototyping [ ] as it might come in handy to remember not every problem needs a 3 billion dollar pen when a Big Chief tablet and nickel pencil will do.

Also since I am not being a smart-a$$ and I don't know your requirements, they do make software where you can transfer digital picture images of whiteboards, paper, etc. into electronic form with surprising results, so the above recommendation isn't so far fetched.
C Johnson Send private email
Thursday, February 16, 2006
> A pencil was also my first thought but it has the problem of getting the form into an electronic document.

I have a printer that's also a scanner: scan the paper to BMP or TIFF or GIF on disk, then embed as a picture in a Word document.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I tend to use Paint style bitmap editor programs as I work on largely existing GUI's with a consistent style, so I tend to copy a dialog & then move things around in the bitmap editor.

For generating some bits of the UI I do fire up the IDE (Delphi2006) which is nice for seeing what a bunch of tabs or something would look like. Take a snap shot & then add to by bitmap.

I did try using SmartDraw (Visio, but better) but in the end found that you can create anything in an editor. One worry - if it too realistic, some PHB's think the product really exists, so I also use Excel and PowerPoint to put together stuff which shows tables (that would be created from a DB in the actual app) etc, rather than making a full interactive prototype.
Grant Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006

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