Even with an abstraction layer already in place, changing the graphics engine threw up some unexpected and subtle problems (otherwise known as bugs and strange visual artefacts) that had to be dealt with, delaying the new release.
But GUI Design Studio version 4.3 is finally here, in both Professional and Express editions, along with a new Viewer. All can be downloaded from here on our web site.
For users of versions 4.0 to 4.2, this is a free upgrade and the Viewer is, of course, always free.
What’s new in version 4.3
1. Fresher App
The application has been given a make-over with fresher icons, neater rendering and anti-aliasing of certain graphics elements.
2. Workspace Background Options
A new preference option has been added to set a background to the design workspace from a number of presets that include a flat colour or tiled image overlaid with optional horizontal lines, vertical lines and dots. The “Orange Grid” preset is shown above.
3. Sketch Visual Style
A new “Sketch” visual style option that is supported by most of the elements. Like all visual styles, it works with any colour scheme and default font. Here’s a sample in “Vista Graphite” colours and “Elemental SF Black/1.0″ font:
“Pumpkin” sketch is nice:
Or, how about a groovy colour picker with “Lucida Handwriting” as a default font:
4. Image Slicing to Maintain Corners
Bitmap images now support slicing to provide resizable background images for custom elements, such as buttons, and fancy CSS3-style borders. Up to 9 slices can be created using left, right, top and bottom slice margins.
The regions in the margins are preserved as far as possible while the remaining regions are either tiled, stretched or aligned according to the existing Placement options. The Alignment options are also now enabled for tiling rather than always aligning to the top-left corner. Using centered alignment with tiling provides a nice balanced effect.
5. Line Segments
New Line Segment elements have been added with various options for shape, text label and arrow heads. They’ve been design to fit together in interesting ways:
6. New Shapes
New Shape elements added with various fill and border options, plus transparency and drop shadows. These are intended to supersede the existing shapes in the Text category and offer more flexibility:
7. Monochrome Display Options
Project Options now allow you to design or present with elements and/or images displayed in monochrome to focus attention on content and layout and avoid distractions caused by colour:
The monochrome effect is applied to whatever colour scheme you have active so different colour schemes will result in slightly different monochrome styles. The effect can also be applied to any of the visual styles. Annotations and Storyboard elements remain in colour.
Hyperlink text also remains in colour because you normally want to draw attention to these click-able elements in designs.
Static Text elements now have a “Treat as Hyperlink” option. Since all text elements may be used as a navigation source, the only consequence of this is to force it to draw in colour when monochrome drawing is selected. Existing text elements automatically apply the hyperlink option if they are underlined when loaded. The new option lets you turn this off. New text elements only set this option if they are Hyperlink elements. Again, the option can be removed if necessary.
1. Due to the graphics engine replacement, certain elements may look very subtly different. Some rendering should appear smoother. Standard font sizes have been adjusted to improve their display. If the new display is too slow, uncheck the new “View | High Quality Display” menu option to see if that helps.
2. Sound files (.wav) now show up in the Project File Tree and can be added to designs like images using drag and drop or double-clicks. A new “Design | Add Sound File…” menu command has also been added.
3. Icons can now be disabled and display as a dimmed monochrome version of the icon. This means command buttons can now properly indicate their enabled state. Note that the new monochrome display option may make these indistinguishable.
4. [Pro only] The “Prototype” tab has been added to most of the remaining element property editors for the Pro edition. This adds flexibility for conditional states and avoids the need to use an additional parent container element (where a transparent Rectangle was often used). Note that the Enabled Condition may not apply to the element itself (if it doesn’t have a Disabled state) but it may apply to child elements that it contains and the condition will filter through to them.
5. [Pro only] The Enabled and Visible Condition fields on the “Prototype” tab in the editor have been swapped around so that the Visible Condition is first and will get the cursor in many cases when the tab is opened. Visible conditions turn out to be more widely used and this changes saves a lot of tabbing key presses in some design cases.
6. Resize Anchors are now turned off by default to avoid visual distraction, since they are an intermediate to advanced feature. They are best turned on only when needed (Shift+F8 hotkey to toggle).
7. The light green box to show the default representative element can now be turned off from a new “View | Default Element Box” menu option. Use this if you are primarily interested in screen design or if you need to export an image without the box showing. For now, the darker box for an explicitly set representative element is always displayed.
8. Text Button elements with preset actions (Accept/Cancel/Close) now display that action as part of the tooltip in the Elements palette.
9. [Pro only] “Set Data” now closes pop-ups. This means that menu commands can now execute “Set Data” to activate UI changes.
10. Default properties and rendering tweaked for many elements including Design Grids, Menu Bars, Toolbars, Status Bars and Web Pages.
11. [Pro only] After generating a distribution file, the “Open Containing Folder” button now also closes the dialog to save another click.
12. The behaviour of the Project File Tree has been improved to maintain the best scroll position after operations such as opening designs, duplication, deletion, etc. Previously, the tree might scroll after such operations making it harder to locate where you were.
13. The Project File Tree context menu now contains an additional, default “Open” or “Add to Design” command to make it clear to new users what double-clicking will do and also make those operations obvious. The “Properties…” command on the workspace context menu has also been marked as the default command for clarification of double-clicking elements.
14. Other Menus tweaked to improve availability of design commands.
1. [Pro only] Generated HTML documentation now translates headings within design descriptions as <h3> tags instead of <h1>.
2. [Pro only] Images in generated RTF and PDF documentation are now greatly improved in quality.
3. Fix to clipping of modal pop-ups when running prototypes in certain cases involving multiple, nested components.
4. Fix to up-shifted tab content for Tab Bars and Ribbon Bars under certain circumstances, especially when a prototype is first run.
5. [Pro only] Problems interacting with Tree, List and Table elements that have been placed on top of Components have been fixed.
6. Handling of clicks when running the prototype has been improved to fix the problem of double-clicks blocking single clicks. This will make certain interactions more responsive.
7. Icon files containing large 256 x 256 PNG images are now handled better. Essentially, they are now ignored instead of causing problems (but may be fully supported in later versions).
8. Components that have been moved or renamed now show up properly when loaded from a design distribution project (.gdd file).
9. Zoom to Fit (Numeric keypad ‘/’ hotkey) now excludes the background canvas to improve the fit.
10. Exported prototype images are now correct when using an emulated screen size.
11. Sounds now stop playing when the prototype exits.
12. File icon associations in Windows Explorer should now be correct. These are registered each time the application is run. Note that .gdd files are only associated with the Viewer.
13. Minor memory leak fixed.
Now that we have a stable version of 4.3 released with such a major change to the products inards, we can move forward with some of the developments we have in store for the next version.
Many thanks to all our beta testers and everyone else that has reported bugs or requested new features. Watch out for announcements of our new public forums to help make us respond better to new feature and change requests!