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It was with mixed feelings that we switched to the Font Awesome icon set with Balsamiq Mockups 3.
Our original icons were hand-drawn by Peldi's wife Mariah so they had special meaning to us.
But creating new ones and keeping them updated as logos changed (our Twitter icon was three generations old, for example) was time consuming and didn't provide as much value to our customers as adding new features and fixing bugs.
And then Font Awesome came along and it was free and, well, awesome. We used it internally and added it as an easy-to-install icon pack on our Extensions page and our customers loved it too.
In our Beta feedback forums our users started talking about integrating Font Awesome when we decided to remove the Account Assets feature. So Peldi contacted Dave Gandy, creator of Font Awesome, and asked him if we could use them in our tool.
From: Giacomo Guilizzoni firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 6:28 PM
Subject: Hello from Peldi from Balsamiq!
To: Dave Gandy
This is Peldi from Balsamiq. We make a wireframing tool called Balsamiq Mockups, maybe you've heard of it?
We have noticed that quite a few of our customers use your awesome Font Awesome set of icons in conjunction with our tool. There's even a github repo of someone who made it easy to do.
We are working on a new version of Mockups, and were wondering if it would be possible to include your Font Awesome set as a built-in set, replacing our homegrown (and much inferior to yours) set.
I looked at your licensing page and it looked feasible, but I thought it'd be worth maybe having a quick chat first?
What do you think? I am excited about the idea, as it would give our users a standard set of icons that their developers would understand immediately...and probably also help cement Font Awesome as "the standard" for app and web design, even more than it is today. :)
I am in CET, and happy to meet any time.
His response was delightfully straightforward.
From: Dave Gandy
Date: Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 6:34 PM
Subject: Re: Hello from Peldi from Balsamiq!
To: Giacomo Guilizzoni email@example.com
Heck yeah. Go ahead and throw them in. It’s as open source as I can get it. :)
A few days later Peldi had swapped out the old ones for Font Awesome and remapped the labels so that existing projects with icons wouldn't break.
We were a bit giddy here when we used the first Beta build with the new icons. Getting so many great icons all at once felt like Christmas to us.
We'll also be updating our icon set whenever Dave updates Font Awesome. So, now, if you want us to add icons to Balsamiq Mockups, request them in Font Awesome and they'll make their way into our product!
We hope you're enjoying the new icons. And, if you're nostalgic for the old ones, we've made them available for download as custom icons.
The ability to create components and re-use them across different mockups is one of our most highly requested features.
Some people call this "master templates", others call it "reusable widgets". We're going to call it "Components".
It all started with Michale Bourque's request a year ago...we wrote two FAQ answers about it showing a workaround to achieve part of it using images, but those approaches don't quite cut it.
We are finally ready to tackle this problem head-on, and we'd like to ask for your help.
We created a public myBalsamiq project containing our ideas for a possible implementation of the features that we think will collectively solve all the different use-cases related to reusing objects.
If you could take a few minutes to look around and give us feedback on it (by leaving comments under each mockup), we'd appreciate it.
We also included a draft of an implementation roadmap, with releases along the way. That's the mockup I would start from.
Here's the link to the project: https://our.mybalsamiq.com/project/143
Send it to your UX-savvy friends! :)
We are eager to get started on the implementation, so if you have some feedback, don't be shy! :)
Incidentally, this will also help us test myBalsamiq, so if you hit any snags in the process of reviewing and commenting on the mockups above, let us know! :)
Together we can make this very important feature as good as it can be. We hope you'll want to pitch in with your ideas! :)
Peldi for the Balsamiq team
Hi there. I just finished coding a new feature which I think you may like.
You can now use the following notation to format only certain parts of your control's text:
Here's a screenshot of what the above text looks like in a Paragraph control, for instance:
The shortcuts will work almost everywhere, where it makes sense.
You can escape *, _, [ and ] characters with \*, \_, \[ and \], so if you want to write "this [is] some text" and don't want the "is" to become a link, just type "this \[is\] some text".
This is a big change so before I push it live I'd love it if some of you could help me test it by installing the pre-release build and playing with it for a few days (as always, no guarantees). If everything goes well, I'll put the change in this Sunday's weekly 1.5 release, update the help page and all that good stuff.
For feedback, post it here or on GetSatisfaction (there are a number of threads about this feature already).
I constantly get asked if I know any good Flex developers, and I am tired of answering "I wish!" :)
So if you do Flex development, please fill in the form below so that I can send some work your way in the future.
Lone freelance developers only please, no agencies.
Fill out my Wufoo form!
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A fellow software entrepreneur emailed me today with this question:
My question is, as I am trying to get an application of mine built in AIR, and it is commercial software, with features disabled that I want enabled after entering a license key.... since AIR sends out your whole SWF file that can easily be decompiled, what do you recommend doing to protect your IP since it's basically being given away free with every download? It could also be easily cracked I assume.
What he is referring to is the fact that Adobe AIR application files are really in essence simple Flash movies (SWF files), zipped up. SWFs are, and have always been, fairly easy to decompile, which means that you can run the SWF through a piece of software which will spit out the original source code for the application (what he refers to as "your IP" in the question).
He suggested I answer in a blog post, so here it is.
My short answer is this: I don't do anything to protect against decompiling, and I'm not worried about it.
The following is my current thinking on software piracy and what to do about it. These are just my current views, I don't claim them as great ideas of my own. It's just what I have learned so far, from different people, books, blog postings, etc.
Also, I realize that the rise of SaaS might make this less relevant in the future, but who knows...I think the future is hybrid, we'll see.
I don't like generalizing, but here it goes. I believe there are 3 main categories of software users when it comes to purchasing software versus stealing it: "those who'll buy", "those who might buy" and "those who will never buy".
I the pie chart below I refined it a bit to 5 categories, and since I don't know how big they really are, I intentionally made all the pieces the same size, except for the yellow one, which I believe is the biggest one:
Let me describe each piece before discussing how I approach each one.
I try to please each segment of the population with a different approach:
To sum it up:
A couple of months ago I was explaining to my dad how I try to be as transparent as possible, sharing my revenue numbers, designing my features in the open, blogging about it all, etc. I believe it builds trust in Balsamiq and frankly I wouldn't want to do it any other way.
At the end he asked me: "Ok, I think I get it. But what is "your secret"? What's the thing that, if someone stole or copied from you, would mean catastrophy for your company?"
I thought about it for a second, and I realized that there isn't a single thing.
Mockups is a simple product, a good coder could create a clone of it in a couple of months starting from scratch. Someone could post a crack for my licensing algorithm on a BitTorrent site today.
I don't think either would spell catastrophy for Balsamiq.
People buy products from companies they trust and respect, and who treat them well in return. People buy software if they know that the people behind it care for your success while using it. They want to see the software improved continuously and with a passion. They care about a sensibility for usability and attention to details.
These aren't things one can steal.
I believe Balsamiq is successful so far because of all that I do every day: the site, the blog, the promotions, helping customers, listening to their ideas...and of course improving the product with new features and bug fixes. It's one big puzzle, every piece contributes to the whole (what Geoffrey Moore calls "The Whole Product Model").
I am a huge fan and avid reader of the Business of Software forums, a community of small software vendors. Here are some links on this topic taken from there. As you can see, none of my ideas is original or revolutionary, though there is some debate about these topics...
Here's another article, which I have only scanned quickly but seems in line with my views: Piracy and Unconventional Wisdom
While I was writing this post I thought about checking if Mockups had in fact been cracked without my knowledge and was available for download somewhere.
So I did some research, and while "The search of balsamiq was not successfully" [sic] on Astalavista :), I did find something on TorrentTractor. Check it out, one of the files is 833Megabytes! Now, the original Mockups for Desktop file is less than 3Mb right now...I pity the fool who downloads almost a Gig of crap, likely full of viruses, trojans and who knows what...I couldn't have done a better job at polluting the hacker sites myself! :)
I want to leave you with a quote from Pete Santangeli, which I think sums it all up nicely: "the best way to slow down your competitors is to give them your source code".
[UPDATE: someone just anonymously posted my licensing key generation code in a comment to this post, which I deleted. Anonymous hacker: congrats, you are better than me! :) I'm sorry you didn't post your name or I would have sent you a picture of a medal or something. I have deleted your comment because, like I say in the post above, I am trying to convince people in the "yellow group" to move towards the green area...not make it too easy for them to go towards the red (Balsamiq is how I am trying to make a living after all). I hope you'll understand. I'm going back to work now...]
Hi there, sorry for not blogging for a while (a whole 10 days!), but I've been pretty busy with both Balsamiq work and life in general: after 3 months "on vacation" traveling around Italy, real life is starting here in Bologna: we are buying furniture, unpacking boxes, dealing with immigration for my American wife (so fun!)...plus our little one started school last week, talk about milestones! :)
Anyways, a quick update to list the improvements and bug fixes I made since the last "update" post of August 31st:
So if you haven't upgraded in a while, maybe today is a good time to do it? Download and install Mockups for Desktop, for Confluence or for JIRA now! ;)
Things are still going really well for Balsamiq. Today is exactly the 3-months mark since launch, and Mockups keeps getting rave reviews and tweets. Sales are growing nicely, and the combined income from the 3 different products makes for some exciting variations week by week. I'd love to share more but I promised I'd save it until revenue reaches $100K, and I'm only half-way there. Oops, did I say too much? ;)
Two other BIG things are going on:
Thanks for reading this far and have a great day!
Hey there, the title pretty much says it all, but here's a picture too: :)
I also fixed a bug with Mockups not showing up on startup when you used it on a secondary monitor and don't have it plugged in when you launch it again - an edge case, but pretty bad if it happens to you. :)
Get the latest versions (for Desktop or Confluence) if you want these updates!
After getting a nod from my superstar customers, I have changed the default file extension used by Balsamiq Mockups for Desktop from XML to BMML. It stands for Balsamiq Mockups Markup Language, and it's still the same human-readable XML format you are used to (the file format didn't change, only its name).
What's in it for you? See for yourself (58 seconds, no-audio):
Now you can double-click on one or more mockup files and they'll open...you guessed it, in Balsamiq Mockups for Desktop! No more cursing at Internet Explorer or Dreamweaver...no offense! ;)
Plus now you get a nice little smiley-face icon for your mockup files, which should make them easier to spot if you have a very messy desktop like I do.
While I was at it, I also added a handly drag-files-to-Mockups-to-open-them feature, which you can see demonstrated in the video as well.
It's important to note that you'll still be able to load and save files with the XML extension if you'd like. In other words this change is backwards compatible.
I will be rolling out this BMML change to Mockups for Confluence and for JIRA as well in the next few days, which should help you disambiguate mockup attachments from the rest.
Oh, this should also help Steve Moyer and his Maven plugin, bonus!
So what are you waiting for? Install Balsamiq Mockups for Deskop 1.1.52 now!
In case you are following, next week I'll be focusing on improving the Mockups for JIRA alpha (I need your feedback!) and another little project I'll tell you more about soon. ;)
Hi there, I just added a new feature to Balsamiq Mockups for Desktop, which I hope will help you integrate it in your workflow even more.
In short, you can export your UI mockups from the command line.
Here's the syntax:
Balsamiq Mockups export <inputXMLFilePath> <outputImageFilePath>
exports the provided xml file to a PNG file
Balsamiq Mockups register <organizationName> <serialKey>
registers this Mockups copy with the provided serial key info
Balsamiq Mockups unregister
un-registers Mockups from this computer
You only need to register your copy once per machine, then you can export PNGs from your Mockups' XML files whenever you need to.
The export process is near-instantaneous, and you should only see a quick "flashing" of the app.
Will you use this feature? What for? Email me and we'll write a nice case-study blog post about it!
Many thanks for Steve Moyer for the idea, the support and the feedback during the implementation. He is building a plugin for the Maven build system which will allow the automatic generation of Mockup PNGs during the "site" phase. These PNGs can be referenced from other project documentation, or the Mockups can be viewed from an automatically generated gallery of thumbnails. Stay tuned for updates!
The new feature is already live in today's Mockups for Desktop build. Go get it!
On a personal note, I loved building this feature because it took me back to my mostly-linux days of college...I love the Unix phylosophy of "many small, specific, well-written and flexible tools working together to achieve great things"...turning Mockups into a tool that fits in that ecosystem makes my inner geek very happy. :)
P.S.Today's build also fixes a few other issues: DataGrid headers are now properly gray, I added a Close All function, the editor shows up properly in large mockups, and finally the location of the last opened or saved mockup is remembered properly now.
As you can see, Balsamiq Mockups for JIRA is pretty close to becoming a reality.
The build is approaching beta-quality: if you'd like to help me test it, email me and I'll send you a link with instructions.
On the licensing front, Mockups for JIRA is going to cost $799 per JIRA installation, regardless of what version of JIRA you are running. I think it's a fair price, and I already validated it with some prospective customers. I'd still like to hear more opinions on ir, so please email me or add a comment if you'd like.
Also, if you have comments on the way I integrated Mockups on JIRA, let me know! I am not a JIRA guru so I might have missed out on some useful integration feature opportunities.
I was shooting to have a 'for sale' version at the end of October, but since I am early I might move that up to the end of September.
P.S.Once again, without Jonathan Nolen's precious wiki docs, email and IM support, this product wouldn't exist. You, my friend, are brilliant, and I thank thee! :)
The Mockups Blog is where we announce new releases and share what we're working on. Everything about Balsamiq Mockups.
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