Mobile Cellphone Info has posted a new item, 'Hands on: Briefs is an ambitious
tool for prototyping iOS apps'
Ive got a great idea for an app!
Thats probably a sentiment most of us have uttered at some point over the last
few years. But relatively few of us probably have any idea how to turn said
concept into an actual app. Martian Crafts Briefs aims to change that by
providing a you with the tools you need to prototype your app, taking your idea
from under construction to that things operational!
Keep in mind Briefs isnt actually for programming appsits not a replacement for
Apples Xcode. In my admittedly short time using it, the software it most
reminded me of was actually Keynote: You arrange elements to mock up an iPhone
app (or iPad app), deciding what screens youll need, how you get back and forth
between those screens, and even what your app will look like on different iOS
An overview lets you visualize how the various screens in your app will be
Each app prototype contains one or more timelines, which essentially represent a
workflow for a specific iOS device: Your options are an iPhone, an iPhone 5, or
an iPad. Each timeline is composed of scenes, which each represent a single app
screen, complete with attendant buttons, sliders, text fields, and more. For
each of these elements, you can specify what it looks like when disabled, or
when a user is actively touching it.
Once youve arranged those elements, you can add actions that allow you to
perform transformations on the elements in the scene, or even transition to
another scene. Using those transitions, you could easily create a simple
walkthrough of the app, complete with basic functionality; you can even make
both portrait and landscape versions of each of your scenes.
So, where do you get those elements? Briefs comes with a built-in library
containing lots of standard iOS widgets for iPhone and iPad, as well as
blueprint styles for both iOS devices. But if youre handy with a graphics
program (or borrowing graphics from other sources) you can easily add your own
custom assets. Briefs also accommodates both Retina and non-Retina displays,
letting you specify separate assets depending on the resolution.
Briefs contains a library of elements to get you started, in both "standard" iOS
style and the app's own homegrown "blueprint" style.
More to the point, those custom assets can be exported back from the program,
helping simplify the often tricky workflow of communicating ideas between
developer and designer.
While you can demo the prototype you create in an iOS simulator on your Mac,
Briefs really shines when you use it in conjunction with the free companion
Briefscase app on your iPhone or iPad. Thats a huge boon to those trying to
explain their app concepts; theres no better way to do so than to put your app
in someone elses hands. In its most simple form, you can send a Briefs file to
someone and have them open it; far cooler, though, is using the BriefsLive
feature to display your Briefs file, live, on an iOS device running
Briefscasecomplete with interactivity. And it takes no more than the touch of a
Its also worth noting that the launch of Briefs on the Mac App Store is the end
of a long and winding road for developer Rob Rhyne. I first saw a version of
Briefs demoed at the C4 conference in Chicago in 2009, where it had been
designed to run on the iPhone itself (no Mac app involved). Unfortunately, the
project ran afoul of some of Apples App Store rules, and Rhyne was forced to
take it back to the drawing board.
Theres no question that Briefs is an ambitious tool, and a professional oneat
$200, its not really targeted at the casual hobbyist. But it fills a very
specific niche in design and prototyping, one that is often overlooked in the
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