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Preamble

(if you rate this I would like to read your comments about your rating)

Part 1 of this series is about BalsamiqPart 2 is about ForeUI, Part 3 is about iPlotz and this final review (of mockup tools), Part 4, is about a desktop prototyping program called Mockup Screens.

Mockup Screens is a Windows only program which enables you to quickly and efficiently develop prototypes in Windows, Web and Wireframe (Mockup Screens calls this Black and White) representations.

Download and installation is a snap (you only need your email address and it is never given away according to the author) and you are up and running in minutes – that’s a good deal.

So, on to the rest of the review.

Info on Product:

  • Current Version: 4.21
  • Platform: Windows
  • Pricing: $99 Single Users, $199 Team, $399 Corporate, $249 Educational

Standard Disclaimer

Let me preface this review of mine by saying it is a review of how I see the program and how it felt working with it as well as my impressions from a software developer point of view.  This is not some indirect advertising or some way to push more business for Mockup Screens.  Enough said.

Finally, here’s some links for Mockup Screens:

Home Page

Screenshots

General Info

Pricing

Downloads

Articles

Blog

Contents

Looking Around

What I Did

Off The Top

Recommendation

Looking Around

Quick look at Mockup Screens.  Here are a few screen shots and some info about various features of Mockup Screens.

General

This is a the default look of Mockup Screens after it has loaded (much smaller of course).  I really like the clean layout of Mockup Screens:  it’s nice and easy to find the features I need to work with without hunting around the UI for what I want to do.  Everything is very well identified with no mysteries about where the Widgets are or where the Basic properties, etc.

general

Widgets

The Widgets are what it’s all about of course and the Widgets panel is self-explanatory.  Just drag and drop the widget from the panel to the canvas and set the properties:  pretty simple.

widgets_properties

Screens

This panel shows a list of named (either by Caption or Alternate Name) screens that are in your current project.  You just click on a screen representation to switch to that screen on the canvas.

screens_properties

Properties

There are 4 property panels including the Comments panel: Basic properties, Advanced properties and Geometry.

comments_properties

basic_properties

advanced_properties

geometry_properties

What I Did

Here are some screen shots of a sample prototype that I put together.  While it is rudimentary (on my part) it does show how easy it is to create a prototype UI with Mockup Screens:

This is my base screen with a general menu I added in about 2 minutes.  The watermark does not exist in the registered version.

stage1_screen01

I increased the size of the screen here to fit a couple of widgets into it.

stage2_screen01

Now you can see that I added a treeview with some items.  Treeviews are very easy to work with using a . (or multiple dot) notation for submenus.

stage3_screen01

Finally, I added a couple of button with an action to jump to the next screen (just a plain window I did not show here).

stage4_screen01

Off the Top

Things I liked

What I think really makes this Mockup Screens work for me.

  • I really liked the ability to fine tune the placement of the widgets with the Shift-Arrow (fine tune) or Arrow (same as mouse movement) – it’s nice to have exact placement.
  • I really liked how clean the Mockup Screens UI presentation is.
  • The Jump to Screen option makes it easy to create a generalized workflow from screen to screen.
  • The slideshow feature is a real bonus – the ability to navigate through the workflow of your prototype is extremely helpful.
  • The ability to export into several different file formats is extremely useful to me – I especially like the .pdf export feature (in all of the tools I use!) as it saves me a lot of time doing my own pdf’s.
  • Besides the ability to export your whole project (all scenarios) or selected scenarios is awesome!  It also is very helpful to be able to just take a single snapshot of the current screen I am working on.
  • The Screens panel is a very cool feature which really made it nice to navigate back and forth between various screens I was working on.
  • The Marks Widget is extremely handy for presentations.  It allows you to annotate certain UI points and when I am presenting a UI it is easier to say ‘look at item 4’ instead of ‘look at the tab widget below the divider bar’ – clarity makes it easier to communicate to the client.

Things I could like

Some things that would be cool (to me) if they existed (suggestions?) or, perhaps corrected, in Mockup Screens.

  • I would like it if there was a more hand drawn skin type.  Windows and Web is nice and the Black and White skin is very neutral but I kind of like the hand drawn look of Balsamiq or ForeUI.  Probably just me but when I am working with a customer on a prototype it kind of looks like what it’s supposed to:  a rough drawn sketch.
  • I would be good to see the tab key actually work for field navigation in the properties area.  I clicked on the Caption field for my Main Screen (see above) and the cursor did not move to the next field.  This worked the same for the Basic, Advanced and Geometry property tabs.
  • It would be great if the Screens panel could be stacked (like a tab control) with the Widgets panel for maximized screen space.
  • I would like it if the Comments ‘tab’ was located with the rest of the property tabs.  If that’s too much room for comments then perhaps the Geometry tab could be renamed to Other and then add the comments in its own group box.
  • The Widgets needs an Object component that can be set as a circle, oval, rectangle with back colors and opacity.  Additionally, it would be nice to see a different cursor for the line widget other than a line – it’s kind of distracting.
  • Adding the ability to choose some basic action for the Jump to Screen feature would be nice such as Click, Select, Change Text, etc…
  • It would make more sense (to me) to limit the Jump to Screen feature to UI components that it makes sense to have it on.  ie.. it does not make sense to jump to a different screen to when I click on the Line widget or when I click on the Window background.  If it does I would like to know why…?
  • I keep coming back to the properties panels.  The thing is that while they are clean they would be  more useful (just to me!) if they had the ability to undock from where they are and allow you to move them around.

Recommendation

I have to admit that I spent a long time with this review (I usually can get one done each week) but I was having  a hard time finding a lot of reasons why I would buy this product for $99.  Don’t get me wrong:  Mockup Screens has a lot of great potential and it seems to be a very solid base to build on but it kind of feels like that to me:  a solid base for building a top notch prototyping program.

I have communicated with the developer (Igor Jese) and he is a great spark of enthusiasm and productivity.  I have always had the sense that he will do whatever it takes to make Mockup Screens a truly stellar product (and it DOES have the potential for it).

Finally, personally, I would not be able to justify putting $99 into Mockup Screens as it stands (see: Things I could like) but that will most likely change in the future.  This is just my personal opinion and what I think does not detract from the quality of Mockup Screens as it stands.

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