Better Defaults v2 Axure RP Library Released

My friend Loren Baxter who is an Interaction Designer and UX Engineer and owns the site “A Clean Design” has just released version 2.0 of his fantastic “Better Defaults” library of widgets for Axure RP 5.5 and higher.

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Enable Commenting on your Live Axure Prototypes

I’ve started working on a large project as part of a team of 5 people recently. Aside from doing the visual design, I’m working on the UX strategy and information architecture with an IA and UX designer from the US. We’re of course creating most of our documentation, user flows, wireframes and prototype in Axure RP Pro. He and I have been working on the same project file using the new Shared Project feature from Axure 5.x and collaborating on it through a free Subversion server ( That works very well and, once a day or sometimes more often, I’ll generate the Axure prototype and FTP it to a password protected sub-domain on my site so that other team members can consult it. There’s also other project file linked from a page in the prototype. But there was one thing missing from this process.

The thing is that, as of now, Axure prototypes do not handle comments on the project from other stakeholders as some online prototyping applications like Protoshare do. But recently, I’ve discovered a little script that enables us to integrate comments quite easily using the free Protonotes service. That script is called Head Insert and has been developed by another Axure enthusiast named Joshua Morse. He originally published version 1.2 in this blog post and recently updated the script to version 1.31 which can be found here.

What the script does is add a small bit of JavaScript code provided by Protonotes when you signup (for free) to the head of each appropriate HTML file in the generated Axure HTML prototype. Then, when a user loads the prototype in their browser, they can see comments added by others, edit/reply to them and add their own through a toolbar created through the Protonotes script. Using variables in the script you can control whether the toolbar or the actual comments appear on page load by default. The comments themselves are saved in a MySQL database on ProtoNotes’ server or, optionally, on your own. It works very well and the great thing is that this is all free!

Digital Editions: Working Again, Still Not Impressed

Just as a follow-up to my last post about the new Adobe Digital Editions eBooks reader software, Adobe has released and updated version a couple days ago that solved the crashing problem that I and many other users were having. So now, I can now go back to reading my Flash book.

I’m happy I can go back to studying the new version of Flash, but I still think this new software is sub par for Adobe and I’m still wondering why they though they “had” to create yet another reader for eBooks instead of letting customers use the far more sophisticated and better working Acrobat Reader 8.1. I mean, if Digital Editions actually improved the user experience I may understand why it was created, but it doesn’t. Quite the opposite.

Admittedly, I have an old computer by today’s standards (a situation soon to be corrected as I’m shopping for a new one this week) but Reader 8.1 works very well on this machine. It’s still responsive and feels quite fast. In contrast, when I try to navigate a document in Digital Editions, clicking buttons often has no effect whatsoever and pressing the keyboard arrow keys to advance to the next page either does nothing or advances to a seemingly random spot. In Reader, a press of the right arrow key brings me to the top of the next page no matter what position I am scrolled to in the preceding page, but not in Digital Editions which seems to have no sense of where the pages start and stop in the actual document.

This kind of thing may seem trivial to many but it is huge to me as, these days, I probably read 5 times more electronic documents (in the widest possible definition of the term) than paper ones. That means I spend a lot of time in Adobe Reader and I’m used to how it works. That doesn’t mean I am unwilling or unable to adapt to new ways of doing things, but I usually expect the new to improve on the old. In the case of Digital Editions, IMO, it doesn’t and it makes it all that more frustrating to be forced to use it to read the electronic books I have or may purchase in the future.

Adobe Digital Editions: I’m Really NOT Impressed

Last week, I purchased an eBook from Adobe Press (Flash CS3 related) because I wanted to get back up to speed with Flash since I’ll need to use it for upcoming projects. This was the first time I bought an eBook and the only reason I did was because I wanted it right away and didn’t want to wait for delivery.

When came the time to download it I was prompted to install a new reader application called Digital Editions. That already bugged me quite a bit because I already have Acrobat Reader 8.1 installed and I quite like it but apparently, Adobe decided that unlike Reader versions 6 and 7, version 8 would not support and would not be able to open eBooks. Why on earth did Adobe think we needed yet another piece of reader software when we already had a perfectly good one that can do the job?

This new Digital Editions things is just a far from subtle effort on Adobe’s part to push their Flex/RIA platform. For me, Digital Editions was slower than Reader and had a clunky interface… plus it’s all black and you cannot change that. I HATE100% black user interfaces, especially in a utilitarian piece of software like this. But at least, it enabled me to open my ebook and read it. That was until today…

This morning I tried to fire up Digital Editions to keep reading my eBook and I was prompted with a dialog forcing me to download the final release. The version I was using before was a beta. I won’t even go into the braindead decision to force customers who buy eBooks from Adobe Press to install and use beta software on their work machines. That’s a whole other level of stupidity I’m not going to get into here.

The thing is, after installing this so called "final" version, it crashes right after I start it. No matter how I uninstall and reinstall it, reboot or delete its config folder, that piece of junk just will not start and keeps crashing almost as soon as I start it. To say that I’m pissed that I apparently wasted $40 on an eBook I cannot even open is an understatement. Way to go Adobe! I will definitely go back to buying paper copies only of any future books I buy. At least they will always be available when I need them…

The New Adobe CS3 User Interface

Illustrator UI

Now that I have installed the new CS3 Design Premium release version and have actually spent some time working with the new applications, I’m starting to understand the fuss a lot of people made and are still making over the new Adobe user interface. Although I was a beta tester, I’ve mainly been using Fireworks and Dreamweaver CS3 because those are the apps I needed to use to work on my current projects. As you probably know by now, neither Fireworks nor Dreamweaver have been updated to the new Adobe UI.

Illustrator UII’ve been working on a new logo for my business site which will be used to perform a sort of rebranding of my business (both online and print collateral. I’d started the work in Illustrator CS2 and moved to CS3 last week to continue. In the included image, you can see the Illustrator interface with the latest revision of the logo in a landscape letter sized page at 100%.

In that image you’ll probably first notice that the main toolbox is now 1 tall column which saves precious horizontal screen real estate. I have it floating over the artboard as this is my preference but it comes docked to the left by default. On the right you’ll see a number of panels reduced to icons and labels which saves a lot of space and lets you concentrate on the work you’re doing. To the right of that you see the Layers and other panels in their “normal” openend stated like you are used to and, on my machine they are actually on my second monitor even if you see them in the same image as the main interface here.

To be honest, at first I was really sceptical about this new UI and, like many others,  I was worried that it would “break” the Macromedia UI which I generally found more efficient and elegant than the old Adobe UI. But as I use it more and more, what I’ve come to realize is that this new UI actually keeps what was best in both the old Macromedia and Adobe approaches. It is more flexible than the old MM style and solves the proliferation of countless screen space guzzling palettes in the old Adobe UIs. It looks very polished too but, more importantly, it works very well even if it does require some getting used to for an old Macromedia user like me. Even those who have been using previous versions of Adobe applications (also like me) will probably need a little time to find their bearings within the new UI.

To me, this new UI is a marvel of sophistication, elegance and efficiency and I am now somewhat disapointed that Fireworks and Dreamweaver will have to wait until CS4 o get the same interface. Lastly, I have to give the InDesign development team huge kudos for going the extra mile and adding even more sophistication to the concept by letting users add and delete items in the main menus as well as color code items that are used often so they are easier to spot. As I spend more and more time in ID to design the layout of my interactive PDF tutorials, I can appreciate all the extra effort they put in making ID one of the most sophisticated pieces of software I ever tried.