Briefs is a design tool for the busy developer who wants to show off their beautiful app without crafting a full-on prototype. Created by Rob Rhyne of Martiancraft, the professional-level tool is filled with features that allow you to bring your app to life without typing a single line of code. We will take a look at some of the salient features of Briefs below.
Timelines, Scenes and Actions
Timelines, scenes and actions are the heart and soul of Briefs. They let you re-create your app and demonstrate the interactivity that a series of still images can't manage. The Timeline is the container that holds all the scenes that you create. In most projects, you'll create one timeline for each device (iPhone, iPhone 5 and iPad) that you are targeting.
Each scene in a timeline is a snapshot of a screen or state in your app. It'll show the layout of your design, and you can have interactive elements like buttons that'll let you jump to another scene. These interactive elements are called actors and can be either a button, a text element or a hotspot. You make these elements tappable by assigning actions which let you pick the scene that you want the user to see. For example, you may have an image editing app that has a photo gallery. You'll want to create a "Photo Gallery" button on the opening scene and have it jump to the scene that shows the mockup of the photo gallery. You can assign different transitions and delays to each action, which will give your demo a professional look and feel.
BriefsLive and Player
Most of the work you do with Briefs is on the Mac, but the target device is the iPhone or iPad. Though you can demo your app on your Mac, Briefs has a convenient feature called BriefsLive that lets you see your app demo in action on your target device while you create it. All you need to do to use BriefsLive is make sure your iOS device and your Mac are on the same WiFi network and you have the Briefscase app installed on your iOS device. The Mac app will detect your iPhone and iPad and send your project to the device. You can then make changes on your Mac and test them immediately on your iOS device.
When you are done creating your demo, you can then deploy it to an iOS device for testing and demonstration using the Briefs player, which is part of the Briefscase App. You can transfer your demo directly to your Briefscase app or send it via email to anyone who wants to see the mockup. The recipient will need to have the Briefscase app installed on their iOS device to view your demo. The app is available for free, so it shouldn't be too hard to convince your client or investor to install the app on their iPad or iPhone.
Other Little Gems
There are a lot of nice touches in the Briefs app that'll make creating your demo a breeze. The layout of the app is amenable to quick and easy editing. The stage, which is your main work area, is in the center. You can see all of your scenes on the left and on the right is the inspector, which gives you detailed information on each element in a scene. Briefs has a nice overview view, shown below, that lets you see all of scenes and how they are connected. This view is perfect for reviewing the flow and organization of your demo.
Briefs ships with stock art if you need to create a mockup quickly. It also lets you import custom art work that you design specifically for your app. Last, but not least, there's support for versioning, so you can go back a version or two if you don't like your current changes.
Briefs for Mac is available for US$199 from the Mac App Store. The companion iOS app, Briefscase, is available for free. If you are professional developer, you shouldn't balk at the price. Being able to create a working demo of your app in just a few hours could be the tool that gives you the edge over your competition or that big chunk of VC funding.