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6 Awesome Apps for UI Designers

designers-desk

All designers have their own workflow, and with it, their own set of software and apps they use to get things done. Personally, I love hearing about helpful new apps that will allow me to be more productive, organized, efficient or creative, so I thought I would share with you the 6 apps I can’t live without, and how I use them as an interface designer.


Evernote

evernote

While even my grandmother is probably familiar with Evernote, I’m often surprised to find out how many of my friends and colleagues aren’t using it. It’s an amazing app that is available on all common platforms. It allows you to do a lot of things, but I love it for keeping projects organized. Everything from notes and checkbox lists to photos and sketches can be neatly sorted into virtual notebooks that themselves can be sorted into other notebooks. Additionally, it has an enormous library of plugins, can be integrated with countless other apps and programs, and is always in sync between all of your devices. It’s the ultimate “hub” for keeping all your project related materials and information organized.


Penultimate

penultimate

Penultimate is a fantastic annotation app that can be used to quickly sketch ideas, wireframes, flow diagrams or whatever, right on your tablet or smartphone. It offers a variety of virtual paper types such as lined notebook and graph paper. I use it constantly whenever and wherever inspiration strikes and I need to quickly sketch out a wireframe or flow diagram. Additionally, it syncs with Evernote, so all your sketches can be easily organized with their respective projects. As with any touchscreen-based annotation app, I would definitely recommend investing in a good, fine-point stylus to get the most out of it. The one I have was $30 at Target and it probably paid for itself in the first week I owned it.


MyPANTONE

pantone

Pantone is the industry standard for color matching, and they have a great app for tablets and smartphones. The app has many great features, but the most powerful one in my opinion is the ability to sample colors from photos on your smartphone and match them to the closest Pantone shade. This is great if you have a client who wants their UI color scheme to match a real-life object they are inspired by. I do a lot of work on home automation system touchscreens and the Pantone app is a lifesaver when I have to match a UI to the color scheme of a particular room. I just take pictures of some of the colors in the room, and the app generates harmonious color combinations that I can immediately show to my client!


Gliffy

gliffy

Gliffy is one of the coolest, most helpful apps I’ve come across in years. It’s a web app that allows the creation of rich flow diagrams, wireframes, mockups and even working prototypes. It features an extensive set of objects, elements and shapes, and you can even import your own images by simply dragging and dropping them right into your web browser. We use this app at my company to quickly create flow diagrams and wireframes to show clients before creating a final, working prototype in a program like Adobe Fireworks. It’s much quicker for presenting ideas and fine tuning things early in the design process. Gliffy files can exported as image files or PDFs, or it can generate a link to the working, clickable diagram. The app has a free version which is fine for occasional use, and very reasonable paid plans that unlock more storage and functionality.


Lynda.com

lynda

This is my favorite “secret weapon” as a small business owner. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, collection of professionally made tutorials on the web. You can learn to do just about anything that can be done with a computer on Lynda.com, via extensive lessons that cover every last detail in a completely professional manner. I’ve used this powerful website to learn about everything from UI/UX design to how to optimize my LinkedIn and Facebook business pages. Lynda.com is a paid site, but if you’re serious about always continuing to learn new things, while at the same time staying in the know with the latest design software, developer tools and programming languages you already use, Lynda.com is an invaluable resource.


CloudApp

cloudapp

CloudApp is excellent for quickly sharing ideas, and with one of their paid plans, it’s even a suitable replacement for Dropbox or Box for many designers. The way CloudApp is different, is that you can upload a file or screenshot via drag and drop onto the taskbar icon, or via a number of keyboard shortcuts that do different things. Once your file has uploaded, the download link will be automatically copied to your clipboard so you can easily paste it into and email or instant message. An example workflow for me would be if I were working on a project with a remotely located co-worker. Instead of bothering with the annoyance and glitches of a screen-share, we would just have instant messenger open and quickly send ideas back and forth via CloudApp. While CloudApp was a Mac only product for years, it has recently been released for Windows, making it a much more practical storage and sharing solution.

Aaron Craig

Aaron Craig is a graphic designer & entrepreneur. He is the founder of NTDesigns, a UI design firm that specializes in touchscreen based interfaces, especially in the home automation industry. He is the primary author for the NTDesigns Blog, and writes periodically for other blogs and publications in the UI design and automation realms when he can. Aaron lives in Milwaukee with his family and two dogs, Napoleon and Kip.

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