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Axure & Protonotes: an alternative to Protoshare

January 14th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Update 2/27/09: Updated the HeadInsert script again to Version 1.3.  Read about the changes here.

Update 1/21/09: Added new version of HeadInsert which can ignore certain HTML files.

Do a Google search on Axure vs. Protoshare vs. iRise and you may find sponsored links from each of these products explaining why they are the best.  These three are the leading “designed for IA” options for wireframing and prototyping (I say designed for IA, as Visio, Omnigraffle, and other drawing/diagramming tools still have a strong following).

iRise was never an option for me due to the cost, so I have been using Axure for the past 8 months. I initially was able to use Axure for free thanks to their Good Student Program, and I found it to be well worth the cost when I entered the workplace. I have found it to be a great tool for wireframing, prototyping, and generating specifications.  While there is certainly room for improvement, particularly with specification generation, the community around Axure is engaged and growing, which means that new features and widget libraries are coming all the time.

I heard about Protoshare a couple months ago.  While I haven’t used it, I have read some documentation and viewed demonstrations.  Axure still seems to be more fully featured for wireframing and prototyping, but I was intregued by Protoshare’s reviewing features.  Then, while browsing the Axure forums, someone mentioned Protonotes, a free tool for annotating HTML pages.  As Axure produces HTML prototypes, it seemed like the Protonote script could be inserted to achieve functionality similar to Protoshare.  By inserting the script into each page in the prototype, team members and even clients could make comments directly on the prototype/wireframe, which can then be viewed in a central location.

The problem is that Axure generates a new HTML page for each wireframe, so large projects can easily generate 20+ pages.  Inserting the Protonotes script into the header of each one every time the prototype is recreated isn’t really feasible.  To that end, I wrote a small program that will allow users to automatically insert a script into the header of each HTML file for their prototype.

Just download and extract this Zip file.  Generate your Axure prototype and drop the HeadInsert.exe file into your prototype directory.  Run it, then paste your Protonotes code into the text box.  Leave the checkboxes checked (you don’t want Protonotes scripts in your frame management files) and press the insert button. For example, I pasted the following:

<script src=”http://www.protonotes.com/js/protonotes.js” type=”text/javascript”></script>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
var groupnumber=”##############“;
</script>

into all of my prototype HTML files.

I recommend making a backup of your prototype files if they are important, as there is no way to reverse the process short of opening each .html file and removing the code you inserted (though you can always regenerate your prototype with Axure). I am not responsible for anything unexpected that happens to your files, unlikely as this is.  It’s a pretty simple script, but if any errors occur, please let me know.

Zip file: HeadInsert_v1.2

inserthead2

  • http://www.clearwired.com Chris Rivard

    Hi Josh,

    I’m using Parallels and running axure in windows xp. I got all kinds of security warnings when I executed the script and the Protonotes code was not added to the prototype screens.

    Any ideas?

    Cheers,
    Chris

  • Josh

    Hi Chris,

    I haven’t tried the script with Parallels, so I’m not sure of the exact issues that such a setup may cause. .NET by default restricts access to non-local files, so if you are trying to modify HTML files on a mapped drive in Parallels, it probably won’t work unless you change your .NET security settings in the control panel. If you could provide me with some of the warnings and/or error messages you are seeing, I may be able to debug further.

    - Josh

  • Patrik

    I used your application in our project with great success.
    Funny thing was we had come to the same conclusion as you did when we first thought of using Protonotes in combination with Axure. But luckily for us you had already solved the problem.

    Thank you very much!
    /Patrik

  • Josh

    Thanks for the encouragement Patrik. I’m glad others are getting use out of my script. I just uploaded a new version (1.3) with some new features which hopefully make things even easier.

    - Josh

  • http://www.canoe.ca Pierre Lebrun

    Thank you for that application. We just started to use it, and the combinaison of your little applet, protonotes and axure give us a powerfull tool, enabling better long distance communication with the prototype! Thank you.

  • http://www.pietrodesiato.com Pietro Desiato

    Hi,

    I assume that is not possible to have a local copy of the js script, isnt’ it?

  • Josh

    Hi Pietro,

    I’m assuming you are requesting a copy of the C# source code used to create this tool. Right now, I am unable to make it available, but I may be able to release it in the future.

    - Josh

  • http://www.usercentered.de Lennart Hennigs

    This is REALLY neat! And it works like a charm!
    Thanks, mate.
    l.

  • Josh

    Glad you like it Lennart. Thanks for the post in your blog.

    - Josh

  • Nancy

    Thank you so very much… solved my biggest problem!

  • http://9years.net tmaeda

    Great work, Josh!
    Thanks!

  • Shira Luk

    Will this work on dynamic panels in axure?
    Can I stick a note on one of the panel’s states? or id its originally hidden, and then I set it to visible, can I stick a note on it?

  • http://www.joshuamorse.com Josh

    The protonotes script is embedded in an HTML page, so I don’t believe it will work on an individual panel. It may be possible by editing the HTML/JavaScript directly, but I’m not aware of an easy way to do what you are asking.