My Top 45 Creative Apps: Wireframes, Modeling & More
Original post: June 12, 2014
Why Publish My Creative Software List
From Axure to inDesign, to Microsoft Project, to Wirefy… I am publishing this list (skip the intro) because my colleagues and project collaborators need to know with which applications and platforms I am most familiar – both with regards to prototyping and wireframing specifically and with regards to other related processes (creative and technical), including project management, product marketing and user experience disciplines, business modeling, diagramming, visualization and more. This list can also be a useful resource for those who aspire to become excellent project managers, UX designers or product managers.
This list is not intended to be updated regularly and is effective as of its publication date – June 12, 2014.
Alphabetical List: My Creative Software
I believe if you know 10+ of these, you kind-of know them all, but some tools have steep learning curves.
1. Adobe After Effects
Abobe After Effects is a digital motion graphics, visual effects and compositing app developed by Adobe Systems used in the post-production process of filmmaking and television production. After Effects can also be used as a basic non-linear editor and a media transcoder.
2. Apple Keynote
Keynote is a presentation software application developed as a part of the iWork productivity suite by Apple Inc. Keynote 6.0 was announced on October 23, 2013 and is the most recent version for the Mac. On January 27, 2010, Apple announced a new version of Keynote for iPad with an all new touch interface.
3. Axure RP Pro
Axure RP Pro is a wireframing, rapid prototyping, and specification software tool aimed at web and desktop applications. It offers capabilities typically found in diagramming tools like drag and drop placement, resizing, and formatting of widgets. In addition, it has features for annotating widgets and defining interactions such as linking, conditional linking, simulating tab controls, show/hide element etc. There is support for medium-fidelity simulation of Rich Internet Applications. Axure RP can then generate HTML prototypes and Microsoft Word specifications from the diagrams.
4. Balsamiq Mockups
Balsamiq Mockups is a graphical user interface mockup builder application. It allows the designer to arrange pre-built widgets using a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor. The application is offered in a desktop version as well as a plug-in for Google Drive, Confluence and JIRA.
Bridge (aka Adobe Bridge) is a digital asset management app developed by Adobe Systems and first released with Adobe Creative Suite v2. It is a mandatory component of Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe eLearning Suite, Adobe Technical Communication Suite and Adobe Photoshop CS2 through CS6. Starting with Creative Cloud, however, it has become an optional component downloaded via Creative Cloud subscription.
Cacoo is one of the most straightforward programs for low-fidelity and mid-fidelity projects that has a soft learning curve and offers a sweet library of free objects and styles. It runs a bit slowly because the developers are in Japan, but it is extraordinarily reliable and offers a free package that is quite comprehensive. Highly recommended for small companies who want to start wireframing ASAP.
7. ConceptDraw Pro
ConceptDraw PRO is a proprietary diagramming software for creating business graphics: diagrams, flowcharts, Infographics, data visualization for business process modeling and project management documentation. It can also be used for creating professional and technical diagrams, such as: UML diagrams, DFD, ERD, computer networks topology, engineering schemes and other graphic issues. It was developed by CS Odessa in 1999 for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X platforms. Since 2008, it has been a part of ConceptDraw Office. ConceptDraw PRO contains a set of tools for vector graphics drawing, collection of task-oriented templates and vector stencils libraries, along with a built-in presentation mode.
Edge (aka Adobe Edge) is a suite of web development tools developed by Adobe Systems that enhances the capabilities of their other applications, such as Dreamweaver. The first application in the suite was released in August 2011 as a multimedia authoring tool designed to succeed the Flash platform. In September 2012, Adobe renamed the application Edge Animate, and announced Edge Reflow, Edge Code, and Edge Inspect. Also packaged with the suite are Edge Web Fonts, the PhoneGap application, and access to Adobe’s Typekit service.
10. Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro is a non-linear video editing software developed by Macromedia Inc. and later Apple Inc. It runs on Intel-based Mac OS computers powered by OS X backbone. The software allows users to log and transfer video onto a hard drive (internal or external), where it can be edited, processed, and output to a wide variety of formats.
Fireworks (aka Adobe Fireworks and formerly known as Macromedia Fireworks) is a bitmap and vector graphics editor. It was originally developed using parts of Macromedia xRes, which Adobe acquired in 2005. Fireworks is made for web designers for rapidly creating website prototypes and application interfaces. Its features include slices and the ability to add hotspots. It is designed to integrate with other Adobe products such as Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Flash. It is available as either a standalone product or bundled with Adobe Creative Suite. Previous versions were bundled with Macromedia Studio. On May 6, 2013, Adobe announced that Fireworks would be phased out. Adobe will continue to provide security updates and perhaps bug fixes for the current version, but does not plan to add any new features beyond what is in Fireworks CS6. The petition Release Adobe Fireworks to Open Source has been created to open Fireworks to the community.
FlairBuilder is a prototyping tool that lets you create interactive wireframes for websites and mobile applications. It’s easy to learn and use, and comes with lots of options. FlairBuilder lets you start with a low fidelity sketch, and jump to a higher fidelity wireframe with just one click. All interactions will stay in place. Switch back and forth if you need to.
Flash (aka Adobe Flash and formerly called Macromedia Flash and Shockwave Flash) is a multimedia and software platform used for creating vector graphics, animation, games and rich Internet applications (RIAs) that can be viewed, played and executed in Adobe Flash Player. Flash is frequently used to add streamed video or audio players, advertisement and interactive multimedia content to web pages, although usage of Flash on websites appears to be declining.
Fluid is a nice mobile prototyping tool that in my opinion is difficult to rival for the purposes of cheaply building mid-fidelity prototypes that can quickly run on mobile devices. This product has a specific, narrow application but does well for what ir promises.
Framebox is a quick and simple frame sharing platform liked for its free features and ease of use. It is not considered to be a professional application but is likable and offers a soft learning curve.
Gliffy is a nice and simple tool for diagramming, organizational charts, wireframes, network diagrams and sitemaps. It is used by many large and small businesses throughout the world.
HotGloo appears to do a good job of combining interactive wireframing with collaborative prototyping. Among a few other good things, it allows you to wireframe in real-time with your team to get work done faster and communicate with your co-workers via the built-in chat function (which is not a unique feature for HotGloo but works well on this platform).
Illustrator – or Adobe Illustrator – is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Systems. The latest version, Illustrator CC, is the seventeenth generation in the product line. Adobe Illustrator’ was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1986 as a commercialization of Adobe’s in-house font development software and PostScript file format. Adobe Illustrator is the companion product of Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is primarily geared toward digital photo manipulation and photorealistic styles of computer illustration, while Illustrator provides results in the typesetting and logo graphic areas of design.
InCopy (aka Adobe inCopy) is a professional word processor made by Adobe Systems. It integrates with Adobe InDesign. InDesign is used to publish printed material, including newspapers and magazines, whereas InCopy is used for general word processing. The softwares enables editors to write, edit, and design documents. The software includes standard word processing features such as spell check, change tracking and word count, and has various viewing modes that allow editors to visually inspect design elements — just as it looks to the designer working in Adobe InDesign. Version 3.0 of InCopy was included in the first Adobe Creative Suite in 2003, and later versions were included in versions of the Ceative Suite up until version CS6. From 2013 newer versions are only available on the Adobe Creative Cloud.
InDesign (aka Adobe InDesign) is a desktop publishing software application produced by Adobe Systems. It can be used to create works such as posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers and books. InDesign can also publish content suitable for tablet devices in conjunction with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Graphic designers and production artists are the principal users, creating and laying out periodical publications, posters, and print media. It also supports export to EPUB and SWF formats to create e-books and digital publications, including digital magazines, and content suitable for consumption on tablet computers. In addition, InDesign supports XML, style sheets and other coding markup, making it suitable for exporting tagged text content for use in other digital and online formats. The Adobe InCopy word processor uses the same formatting engine as InDesign.
InVision is a powerful design prototyping tool that can easily transform plain designs into beautiful, fully interactive prototypes complete with gestures, transitions & animations for web, iOS & Android.
iPlotz is a good product for wireframing your ideas easily. It is not my favorite (do I even have one?) but does what it promises: iPlotz allows you to rapidly create clickable, navigable mockups and wireframes for prototyping websites and software applications. Create a project, add wireframe pages with design components and discuss your creations with others.
23. iRise Pro
iRise was designed to help manage collaborative visualization to enable organization to build better software in less time. It ambitiously claims to streamline project management. This product has the word “agile” written all-over it and was designed well, in my opinion, but requires heavy training and a company-wide implementation to be effective. Not for the faint-hearted.
JumpChart is another all-in-one tool that offers resources to manage content, mockups, attachments, architecture and notes – all in one place. I like it, but as all big solutions, it has “holes” and requires a company-wide policy and has a steep learning curve.
Justinmind Prototyper is an authoring tool for software prototypes and high-fidelity website wireframes. It offers capabilities typically found in diagramming tools like drag and drop placement, re-sizing, formatting and export/import of widgets. In addition, it has features for annotating widgets and defining interactions such as linking, animations, conditional linking, calculations, simulating tab controls, show/hide elements and database simulation. There is support for high-fidelity simulation of Rich Internet Applications. Justinmind Prototyper can then generate HTML prototypes and Microsoft Word specifications.
LightRoom (aka Adobe Photoshop Lightroom) is a photo editing and management computer program developed by Adobe Systems for Windows and OS X, designed to assist users in managing large quantities of digital images and doing post-production work. Lightroom combines photo management and editing in one interface. Lightroom and Photoshop share many of the same photo editing capabilities but with very different strengths, namely Lightroom’s non-destructive behavior and Photoshop’s ability to layer and manipulate specific elements of an image. Lightroom is not a file browser like Adobe Bridge, but rather an image management application database which helps in viewing, editing, and managing digital photos. Its closest competitor is Apple‘s Aperture program which similarly provides photo management and non-destructive editing capabilities.
27. Lovely Charts
Lovely Charts is a diagramming application that allows you to create good-looking diagrams of all kinds, such as flowcharts, sitemaps, business processes, organization charts, wireframes and many more. I don’t think that this application is the best thing since sliced bread, but it does the job and I am happy to work in it if the client so desires.
Lumzy is a nice prototyping and wireframing app with a built-in image editor (not a common feature), a good component library and nice sharing tools.
MockFlow Design Cloud provides online services to plan, build and share work for designers. Its flagship software – WireframePro – is used by many. MockFlow is less functional and more visual than I’d like but works well for what it promises.
Moqups is a clean and reliable online wireframing tool with a soft learning curve and excellent guidance and tutorials. Recommended for non-networked wireframe jobs and for smaller projects that don’t demand heavy online collaboration. Good one for rookies.
Muse (aka Adobe Muse) is a product by Adobe Systems. The software is focused on allowing designers to create websites without having to write any code. This is a relatively recent app and is available through Adobe Creative Cloud.
OmniGraffle is a diagramming application made by The Omni Group. OmniGraffle is built only for Mac OS X and the iPad. It may be used to create diagrams, flow charts, org charts, and illustrations. It features a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG interface. “Stencils”—groups of shapes to drag and drop—are available as extensions for OmniGraffle, and users can create their own stencils.
33. Pencil Project
Pencil Project is an opensource Website wireframe and prototyping software from Evolus Co. Pencil Project is Free Software and is released under the GPL version 2. It is available for all platforms that Firefox 3x can run. The first version of Pencil is tested against GNU/Linux 2.6 (Fedora, Ubuntu and Arch) with GTK+, Windows XP and Windows Vista/7.
Photoshop – or Adobe Photoshop – is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Systems for Windows and OS X. Photoshop was created in 1988 by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, it has become the de facto industry standard in raster graphics editing, such that the terms “photoshopping” and “photoshop contest” were born. It can edit and compose raster images in multiple layers and supports masks, alpha compositing and several color models including RGB, CMYK, Lab color space (with capital L), spot color and duotone. Photoshop has vast support for graphic file formats but also uses its own
PSB file formats which support all the aforementioned features. In addition to raster graphics, it has limited abilities to edit or render text, vector graphics (especially through clipping path), 3D graphics and video. Photoshop’s featureset can be expanded by Photoshop plug-ins, programs developed and distributed independently of Photoshop that can run inside it and offer new or enhanced features.
Pidoco (aka Pidoco Usability Suite) is a cloud-based collaboration software for planning, creating, designing, sharing and testing wireframes, mockups and prototypes of websites, mobile apps and enterprise software applications. It enables users to quickly create clickable wireframes, mockups and interactive low-fidelity prototypes of GUIs without programming by using drag-and-drop placement of pre-fabricated elements. Pidoco allows users to share projects with team members and other project stakeholders for real-time online collaboration, reviewing and user testing. The web application is used to visualize requirements, collaborate in the design phases of software development, involve end users, and generate optimized specifications for traditional or agile development processes. Pidoco is browser-based and thus works in all operating systems. In my opinion it works best in Chrome and FireFox.
PowerPoint is a slide show presentation program developed by Microsoft. It was officially launched in 1990 as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. PowerPoint presentations consist of a number of individual pages or “slides”. The “slide” analogy is a reference to the slide projector. A better analogy would be the “foils” (or transparencies/plastic sheets) that are shown with an overhead projector, although they are now used rarely. Slides may contain text, graphics, sound, movies, and other objects, which may be arranged freely. The presentation can be printed, displayed live on a computer, or navigated through at the command of the presenter. For larger audiences the computer display is often projected using a video projector. Slides can also form the basis of webcasts.
Prelude from Adobe – a successor to the now discontinued Adobe OnLocation – is a tool for Windows and Mac to review, import, log, select, and export tapeless media. The software also offers features like speech transcription and rough cut creation.
38. Premiere Pro
Premiere Pro from Adobe is a timeline-based video editing software application. It is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes video editing, graphic design, and web development programs. Premiere Pro is used by broadcasters such as the BBC and CNN. It has been used to edit feature films, such as Gone Girl and Monsters.
Reflow – or more properly Adobe Edge Reflow – is a design tool that supplements your design workflow to help you create nice responsive designs for all screen sizes. Design on a native web surface while accessing the latest CSS features, preview designs in real time using integration with Edge Inspect, and export code you can hand off to developers with confidence that your design vision will remain uncompromised throughout development. Edge Reflow is ideal for web designers who start in Photoshop and want to create responsive layouts and CSS visuals targeting modern browsers.
SmartDraw is a visual processor used to create flowcharts, organization charts, mind maps, project charts, and other visuals. SmartDraw is built exclusively for Windows operating systems. Since version 7, it uses Microsoft’s Fluent User Interface in conjunction with automated panels specific to each type of diagram. It integrates with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Microsoft Project. It can export diagrams to common image formats and PDF format.
42. Story Plus
Adobe Story is a collaborative script development tool from Adobe. It includes scheduling tools, allowing schedules to be created from one or many scripts. Adobe Story is also integrated with Adobe Production Premium Suite. It is available as a web-based application, a desktop application, and a mobile app. The desktop application can sync with the online version. Note that as of this date the iPad app does not support editing.
43. UXpin | JustProto
UXpin (aka JustProto) A good in-depth, application for real-time collaborative wireframing & prototyping that merges offline creativity with online efficiency.
Visio – formerly Microsoft Office Visio – is a diagramming and vector graphics application and is part of the Microsoft Office family. The product was first introduced in 1992 and was acquired from Shapeware by Microsoft in 2000. Visio is available in three editions – Standard, Professional and Premium. The Standard and Professional editions share the same interface, but the latter has additional templates for more advanced diagrams and layouts, as well as unique capabilities intended to make it easy for users to connect their diagrams to data sources and display their data graphically. The Premium edition features three additional diagram types as well as intelligent rules, validation, and subprocesses (diagram breakdown).
Wirefy helps web designers and developers create fast, manageable wireframes. It speeds up the journey between sketches and final deliverables. Like the web, it is in constant iteration. This requires a simple workflow and a well-defined collection of atomic elements so that new UIs can be quickly pulled together. You can style, add or remove components as necessary to make smarter UX decisions by focusing on the content first rather than the subjective design decisions. With a bit of essential knowledge of HTML and CSS, you can use Wirefy to build flexible wireframes without the headache of working through countless calculations.
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