Axure – Wireframes, prototypes and specs

I just can’t stop talking about this tool since I discovered it a month or so ago.

Axure allows you to design your user interface by dragging objects onto a page and manipulate them.  At first it feels like Visio: drag boxes onto a page, type up some text — and your screen/form is created.  But it is a lot more.

Using buttons, dynamic panels and object events you can create a pretty well functioning user interface of your project.

Once you have it all setup, click one button and Axure generates a fully functional HTML prototype that comes complete with HTML, CSS and image files.

Another button and, if you were diligent about including names and descriptions of your objects, Axure can generate a nicely formatted specs document in Word format.

The product looks deceptively simple but it is incredibly rich under the covers.  I’m constantly discovering new tricks and new ways to do things.  I wish I had a tips and tricks reference guide, the learning curve has been somewhat steep.

And, of course, having it work on Windows and on a Mac is a huge plus.

I have to admit that the license cost is a little steep too, but well worth it in resulting time and effort savings.

If you need to do be creating any type of wireframes, give Axure a try.  You can download a free 30-day trial version.  Currently, version 6 is in beta until the end of April.  This version is a huge improvement over the 5.6 version — more features and more power.


Mac Mail Plugin makes Mail useable

Finally!  There’s a Mail plugin that makes the Mail application useable.  Well, to tell the truth, it’s been around for a while but I have just found it.  It is new to me.

Enter WideMail, Widescreen Apple Mail Plugin.  The 3 huge improvements, for me, that it delivers are:

  1. Control over the message preview window and ability to have it on the right.
  2. Alternating row colors or row separators.  Row colors don’t quite work for me, but separators are great.
  3. Last but not least is the ability to control the height of rows.  Natively, Mail keeps individual messages on such shrunken lines that after a long day they all start running it together.  Now I can have rows nice and wide, messages are separated from each other — a much more eye-pleasing look.

At last I can stop thinking about running Outlook.


SafeCopy 10% off Discount Code

In February of this year, when Mozy announced its price increase, SafeCopy was running a 10% off promotion.  You just had to use the ‘switch’ discount code at checkout time.

The promotion was supposed to be over at the end of the February, but the discount code is still active.  I was able to use it this past weekend when signing up for SafeCopy.   So if you’re thinking of signing up with SafeCopy, use the ‘switch’ discount code.


Bye-bye Mozy, hello SafeCopy

Earlier this year Mozy announced a price increase effectively doubling my monthly subscription cost.  The new price was going to hit me on March 28th, so this was the weekend to stop procrastinating and select a different backup provider.

After some, not too terribly extensive, research I ended up going with SafeCopy.  While not unlimited, the price was right — 50 bucks a year for 200GB of data.  According to my Mozy statistics, I backup only about 60-some GB.  The decisive factor for me though was the ability to have multiple computers on the same account and to backup networked drives.  Most of my photos and music files are sitting on a networked Maxtor drive at home.  So, in addition to my primary laptop, I now have SafeCopy running on an old desktop tower at home, chugging through files on the networked Z drive.  I have no idea how long this initial backup will take again, several days, I’m sure.

One suggestion for SafeCopy: improve your Mac user interface.  Setting custom selection of folders to backup is a royal pain. Mozy has a great interface for selecting which files and programs to backup and which to skip.


What are you reading?

LinkedIn now has a “Reading List by Amazon” application.  If you add it to your profile, you can let people see what books you are reading, have read or are planning to read.

Look through the recent updates of your network or of the entire LinkedIn for that matter. Look through their reading lists.  People read nothing but business, management, technical, self-help and an occasional biography  books — in short, non-fiction”smart” books.  Nobody, almost not a single person, is willing to  admit to reading a crime thriller or the latest paperback smut novel.  We are supposed to be too important, too busy to have time to read fiction, which will not help us advance in our professional development.  Or, LinkedIn being a “professional” social network, nobody wants to show their personal side and admit to reading for fun.

Most likely, it’s a combination of both.  Some are proud to be too busy to read, they certainly don’t have time to read for fun.  And that’s fine.

But if you do read for fun, why not share it?  What are you afraid of?  People won’t think less of you.  It is OK to show a bit of your personality to the world.  It’s OK to be defined by something other than your resume.  People may appreciate knowing a different side of you, something more than a list of awesome jobs you had and schools you went to.  And it just might make YOU stand out just a bit from all the people with the same titles, jobs and certifications as you.

So go ahead, if you’re reading something fun, let others know.  And let me know.  I’m always looking for a good book to read next.

P.S., now if only LinkedIn were to figure out how to tie their application to my Amazon account and pull my books from there.


The Lazy Project Manager or Where Do I Fit In

I picked up this book by accident, looking through the top free Kindle books.  Of course, a project management book that has “lazy” in its title is bound to catch one’s attention.

If you’re looking for an advice on how to screw the pooch and be an effective project manager at the same time, this book is not going to teach you anything.  What it will teach you though is how to stop being one of those project managers who are always busy and yet accomplish little.  Instead, follow the 80-20 rule, focus your attention on what is really important and learn how to use resources available to you.

It is a hard lesson to learn.  If you’re used to being the doer, relying on yourself and delivering results, habit of doing the work yourself is a hard one to break.  To this day I have to remind myself to delegate.  Instead of piling yet another project on my plate (Oh, I can take a look at it tonight), let someone else take care of it.  It will get done and will free you up for other things.

The book is a quick and entertaining read.  Well worth its Kindle price of a whole big ZERO.

What caught my attention is this chart.

Now, I know that I am lazy.  And a few people have told me that they thought I was smart.  All of that makes me wonder.  If I believe the chart and if I believe those people are right, then…  I know how to be successful through efficient use of resources.  Just have to keep reminding myself that I’m lazy enough and I’m smart enough to be successful and to delegate.

And what about you?  Which quadrant do you fit in?


Look, ma. I’m in a book!


In THIS book

I was fortunate enough to be a reviewer of Packt’s new book in the IBM’s series: Lotus Quickr 8.5 for Domino Administration.