Over the last three years Cognitive Ink has delivered hundreds of Axure software training sessions.
We share our first thoughts on the new Axure 8 (beta).
Cognitive Ink has reviewed Axure 8 in some detail and though we haven’t covered each and every piece of new functionality, there is a lot to be getting on with already. Granted, features, functions and user interfaces are likely to still change as the beta proceeds.
Bottom line? We’d consider Axure 8 is a welcome update makes welcome changes to the user interface by fusing redundant views and panels. Alongside the more obvious user interface changes, a significant number of new features or parameters are added.
However, some of the features are starting to reach programming feature parity, which begs the question, do we now have a type of visual programming tool? If not now, at what point does Axure becoming a visual programming environment? Does this hamper the original goal of rapid prototyping? What is the difference between prototyping and development? Should their be a difference?
A number of questions, the answers of which may not always be clear to everyone.
We’d like to take you on a quick tour of the changes, from what we consider to most impactful changes to the least. Granted, this means you may need to hunt around a little to see all changes to a specific area, but we think it is worth the cost of understanding what will most likely change your workflow.
So let’s dig in and have a look.
The core user interface has been touched significantly. Panels, panel labels and more importantly, locations for specific parameters have been changed. Most obviously, the page inspector has been fused with the widget inspector into a single view. This distinction always seemed spurious and it is a welcome change.
Actions & Events
Axure has added a number of new events and actions.
New actions include:
- Fire Event
- Set size (which includes anchors)
- Set adaptive view
New action parameters include:
- Set size anchors
- Move boundaries (Boundaries for move actions (as defined by either a point on the canvas, or by an equation). Causes move actions to stop work when the condition is met
- New ‘Show’ animations (Flip)
- Apply animations in sets.
New events include:
- OnLoad for all widgets
- OnSelectedChange / OnSelected / OnUnSelected
None of these changes fundamentally seem to affect the baseline operation of the interaction system, but many of them (especially rotate and set-size) are very welcome.
Groups made on the canvas are now a real thing, rather then just a design artefact. They show up in the page index and actions can be lodged against the entire group. We think this is helpful, if only for avoiding using hotspots to unify action across a widget composed of many independent shapes. We worry though, that it makes it harder to keep track of where interaction logic lives, which was hard enough already.
Fundamentally, any planar (x/y) shape can now be created using either a pen tool, conversion of existing shapes to custom shapes or using transformation commands (e.g. Combine, Union, Fragment) on shapes to create new and unique shapes. Crazy fun.
The Snapshot shape is a tasty little shape that may revolutionise large scale flow diagramming, by giving up updated snapshots of anything on a page.
Repeaters are still among the most powerful and perhaps under-utilised shapes in Axure. They have gained several tweaks, including the ability to fit content in the exported prototype based on varying content size. This was an annoying bugaboo and will be helpful. Does this help with repeater accordions? Not sure.
In Beta 8 there seems to be a removal of Default vs. Custom styles sets for global style editing. Instead, there is one base style set and you edit it. We think this makes things easier, though you will be fundamentally altering your default widget styles as you edit the global style editor.
We especially like how styles are much easier to update with a “New style” or “Update style” button. Change the style on the page and hit “Update.” Nice workflow improvement.
For those that keep asking, you can now control each separate boarder (e.g. Top, Bottom, Left, Right).
Smaller tweaks to the environment mean that toolbars are pretty much gone, which means a lot more right click and keyboard control work now. There is also a normalisation of toolbar look and feel between Mac and PC appearance.
The default widget library now has new default styles. Looks nicer, but isn’t a fundamental or ground breaking change.
There are a significantly improved set of controls to allow better printing. We think this is important, even if we try to push most of our work virtually, rather then printing. Printing options include:
- Paper size choices
- Showing print guides
- Scaling parameters
- Page / Master selection for printing
There are minor module / panel label changes. Nothing to lose sleep over.