7 Non-Web-Based Wireframe Tools

7 Non-Web-Based Wireframe Tools

Wireframes are a simple yet effective way to plan and prototype the layout of a website before writing any code. They help structure ideas and test assumptions, and are great for facilitating early feedback from clients. That’s why, over the past few years, wireframing has become an integral part of web design and web development. Therefore, the question is not whether to create wireframes, but rather how.

Non-Web-Based Wireframe Tools

Although there are dozens of web-based wireframe tools available, I prefer to do my wireframing in a native desktop application for the following reasons:

  • I can work offline at places with poor or no internet connection, e.g. when riding the train or a plane.
  • I am not dependent on someone else to take good care of their servers.
  • I prefer to pay a one-time fee instead of monthly subscription charges.
  • I have the freedom of knowing that I can continue using the tool even if its vendor goes out of business tomorrow.

In this article, I will introduce you to seven desktop-based wireframing tools for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux.

Non-Web-Based Wireframe Tools

WireframeSketcher
WireframeSketcher can be installed as a plug-in for any Eclipse-based IDE and is also available as a standalone application for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It lets you choose between two different styles for the look of your wireframes: Sketch (to make wireframes appear hand-drawn) and Clean (with crisp, straight lines). Other major features include the ability to create interactive prototypes and the possibility to present wireframes as storyboards.

WireframeSketcher

WireframeSketcher can be tested for 14 days without restrictions; afterward, you have to pay $99 for a single-user license.

PowerMockup
PowerMockup is an add-on for turning Microsoft PowerPoint into a wireframe tool. It provides a library of wireframe elements and icons that you can drag and drop onto a PowerPoint slide. You can also create your own elements using standard PowerPoint shapes and add them to the library.

PowerMockup

PowerMockup works with PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 (Windows only) and can be tested as a trial version free of charge. The full version is priced at $39.95.

SketchFlow
Another wireframing solution for Windows only is SketchFlow, a UI prototyping tool provided by Microsoft as part of its Expression Studio suite. While SketchFlow is a little complicated to use and has a rather steep learning curve, it is extremely powerful when it comes to creating interactive prototypes that simulate real functionality. You can bind controls to data sources or even make use of the .NET Framework for adding application behavior.

SketchFlow

Expression Studio 4 Ultimate, which includes SketchFlow, costs $599. A 60-day free trial version can be downloaded from the Microsoft website.

Axure RP
Axure RP is one of the oldest and most comprehensive prototyping solutions available. It supports the whole chain from drawing quick wireframe sketches to creating interactive, high-fidelity design prototypes and generating detailed specifications.

Azure RP

Axure RP is available for Windows and Max OS X. To try it out, you can download a 30-day trial version from the Axure RP website. A single-user license for Axure RP costs $589.

Pencil
Among the seven tools listed in this article, Pencil is the only one that’s completely free and Open Source. It can be installed as a Firefox add-on or as a standalone application for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Pencil is easy to use, includes a large set of stencils, supports linking between pages, can export to various formats, and allows you to create your own personal collection of stencils.

Pencil

As mentioned before, Pencil is free (released under GPL version 2). Don’t hesitate to give it a try.

MockupScreens
By default, MockupScreens uses a Windows XP style for the screen prototypes that you create. This makes them look a bit outdated at first, but you can easily switch to a different skin via a drop-down menu in the toolbar. Compared to other wireframing tools, MockupScreens provides a relatively small number of basic user interface elements and icons. Two great features of this tool are its ability to annotate individual elements and the possibility to group and arrange screens in scenarios.

MockupScreens

MockupScreens is available for both Windows and Mac OS X. The price for the full version is $99.95.

DesignerVista
DesignerVista allows you to create both low-fidelity wireframes and high-fidelity GUI mockups. It supports page templates and themes, can export to HTML and PDF, has a slide show feature, and is able to generate UI specification documents.

DesignerVista
DesignerVista runs on Windows XP or higher and is priced at $79.99 per license. A free 20-day trial version is available for download at the DesignerVista website.

Conclusion

Although some of these wireframe tools may seem costly, online tools can cost around $60 per month, so in the long run, offline tools can save you money and they are far more convenient.

Do you use an offline or web-based wireframe tool? Which is your choice? Please share your comments with us in the section below.

Ludmila Pasol is a software architect and web developer from Bucharest, Romania. She has a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems and loves coding in Java, Python, PHP and JavaScript.

Comments

  1. / Reply

    Another that you could have mentioned is UIBlueprints (http://uiblueprints.com). Let me know if you’d like to try it out. I’d be happy to provide you with a license.

  2. / Reply

    Yiu’ve missed MockFlow. One of the best IMHO.. :)

    • Tim,
    • May 11, 2012
    / Reply

    You completely missed OmniGraffle and OmniGraffle Professional. These are the best wireframing/mockup tools for Mac that have been created.

    • Corey,
    • May 11, 2012
    / Reply

    You also missed Balsamiq. It is very popular and up until recently was only a stand-alone desktop app.

    • Howie,
    • May 13, 2012
    / Reply

    What about iPad wireframers to be truly on the go.

      • Callum,
      • May 27, 2012
      / Reply

      iMockups is pretty good, not free but still good.
      http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/imockups-for-ipad/id364885913?mt=8

  3. / Reply

    SketchFlow is effective tool, thanks

    • Gareth,
    • May 13, 2012
    / Reply

    Really no mention of Fireworks? Proto for iPad is pretty cool, compile on the go upload to the cloud and reuse later in Dreamweaver.

  4. / Reply

    I was surprised at the omission of Balsamiq, I was interested in this article as I use Balsamiq but it can be annoying in some ways and I wondered if other tools might have better ways of working.

  5. / Reply

    Since we started using Jira/Confluence from Atlassian we only use Gliffy. Ok .. its not offline but for small company’s (up to 10 people) their downloadable version only costs you 50,-.. Great project management, time management, collaboration and wire-framing all in one.

    Things we like is that in the collaboration tool you can give a description of the project, draw some mockups using Gliffy and share it all with your team members. It all interacts and all info is just where you need it.

    As this starts sounding like a sales pitch for the Atlassian crew i want to add that the 50,- you pay as a small company all goes to charity! So they dont make a dime. You can probably tell i am a happy user ;-)

    • Cynthia,
    • May 15, 2012
    / Reply

    Love Axure :) Worth using with Axutopia’s widget libraries if you’re prototyping apps (not websites).

    • Saya,
    • May 15, 2012
    / Reply

    Very helpful – i downloaded the one I liked

  6. / Reply

    Keynote and PowerPoint are excellent, no-code wireframing tools. Hooking up animations and slide transitions to objects in a slide can also make wireframes interactive prototypes.

    I created a PowerPoint template as a tool for wireframing and prototyping metro-themed Windows 8 web apps. To respect the comment guidelines on this site I won’t include the link. But, if you are interested, drop me an email or reply.

      • Gal,
      • August 3, 2012
      / Reply

      I saw your post about powerpoint template for metro design
      will be thankful for it

    1. / Reply

      Hi Jordan. Could you send me this PowerPoint template? Thanks!

  7. / Reply

    Hi

    Great article, but you missed a really good one off the list. softandGUI’s – UXToolbox (www.softandGUI.co.uk) is a great, powerful tool for wireframing and prototyping. It can be used to develop wireframes and prototypes for any type of device and application (window’s applications, websites, iPhones/iPads, Android, etc.) and can switch between traditional sketchy or high-fidelity pixel perfect views.

    Users can also annotate their screens/wireframes with description tags and custom notes that can be included in the HTML and Word exports to form documentation, specifications, quotes, etc. It also has some other great features such as its own built in customisable presentation mode, fingertip emulation, optional interaction cues, etc. and supports exports to PNG, Word, XML and HTML.

    Definitely worth a few minutes to check out.

    OK, small disclaimer: I am the founder/CEO of softandGUI :-)

  8. / Reply

    Thanks for this list, I am trying to evaluate the WireframeSketcher and like it so far.

  9. / Reply

    when i reach on this post i try only one which is “WireframeSketcher” and i think most of the freelancers should download this.

  10. / Reply

    No mention for Balsamiq?
    http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups

    • Vish,
    • December 13, 2012
    / Reply

    Thank you for telling me about “Pencil”.

  11. / Reply

    I’m new to the concept of Wireframes though I definitely know that prototyping solves most of your problem in understanding the architecture and data flow in your website.
    One question that I’d like to ask here is it anyway related to the prototyping model of a SDLC model?

  12. / Reply

    You have missed MockupBuilder tool (http://mockupbuilder.com/) that also has desktop offline version.

  13. / Reply

    Hello, if you want to make a wireframe offline with your favorite tools discovers http://say-ui.com It’s an ultimate add-on library for any UI/UX interface designer, ai or project manager. Available on Adobe Indesign CS5.5/CC, Illustrator CS5.5/CC, Photoshop CS5.5/CC (Mac & PC) & Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2011 (Mac & PC). Best regards. Clemence.

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