Using DropBox for Near-Real-Time Collaboration

Using a file-sharing-in-the-cloud system such as DropBox can greatly reduce the pain of sharing your wireframes with other stakeholders, for review or collaboration. In this blog post we show how two little hidden features of Mockups make this process as smooth as butter.


What is DropBox? #

DropBox is the easiest way to share and store your files online. Think of it as a shared folder on steroids. Its simplicity is a thing of beauty. I have been using it for months to transfer files between my desktop and the balsamiq servers, to share files with contractors and whenever I need to quickly post something to the web. I highly recommend watching the video on their home page or taking a quick tour. Chances are you'll sign up immediately. Oh, and it's free for up to 2Gb of storage, and very cheap after that.


Scenario #1: developer working with a client #

Say you are developing software for someone with the help of Mockups and DropBox. You already set up a shared DropBox folder with your client, so that you can share files easily back and forth.

Now whenever you need to make a change and send a new image to the client for review, all you have to do is use the "Export All to PNG..." feature and tell Mockups to save all images in the shared DropBox folder.

exporttodropbox

Your client will receive a notification of the files that changed and be able to see the changes immediately. The BMML files live somewhere else on your hard drive, the client only gets the PNG images. Oh, and Dropbox also keeps a copy of every version of the files, so your client will be able to see how the mockup evolved over time. Bonus! :)

Here's a quick screencast Peldi made to illustrate this workflow:


Scenario #2: Working Together #

Now say you are working with someone who also has Mockups for Desktop installed. In this case, you can save the BMML files in DropBox directly! You both open the same file in Mockups at the same time, and whenever one of you makes a change and saves the file the other person will get notified (usually in less than 5 seconds), hit the "Reload the File" button and see your changes immediately, just like that!

To repeat: in order to share a change all you have to do is save your mockup normally...DropBox will take over and send it around, then Mockups will notice and everyone will see your changes, in SECONDS! Magic! ;)

Here's a quick screencast I made to illustrate this workflow:

This is especially handy if your mockups contain images, as you only need to save them in one place (I have an "images" folder under each of my DropBox folders)...so you'll no longer need to zip your bmml+image files before sending them around...in fact you won't be emailing anything around anymore! :)

Obviously you could use any other folder-sharing technology with Mockups to achieve the same results...but I doubt it will be as polished and easy to use as DropBox is. :)

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2013 04:09PM PDT