Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil is a free/open source prototyping tool. It gives you the ability to create prototypes of web applications and desktop applications and GUIs in the same way that Balsamiq does. It works on all platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

I’ve personally used it to create web application product prototypes and also website designs. For me, the biggest advantage is how easy it is use and the built-in set of templates and stencils are great. It felt like I could prototype a whole app within a few days.

Creating a wireframe with Pencil is quicker and easier than trying to create a pixel-perfect prototype. What’s cool about Pencil is that it’s very easy to use and it can export each page as a PNG file which you can upload and share with others.

An interesting feature is the ability to export the whole set of wireframe pages as a set of web pages, making it easy for others to view. Combined with the inter-linking between pages that is possible, you can use Pencil to create a prototype that walks users through the different use cases and flows within your app.


Android stencil for Pencil, the open source competitor to Balsamiq

Pencil provides stencils for Android and iOS so you can create wireframes for mobile and smart phone applications. Not only can you use it for wireframes and prototypes, you can also draw diagrams like flowcharts which are useful for documenting the various states and transitions within your app.


If you’re a developer you may be interested in the work the open source developers are doing on pencil, you can click here to check out their code repository.

Yoga, Facebook’s opensource crossplatform layout library

Facebook has released a new library, written in the C programming language that is a layout engine for GUI applications. It is called Yoga and it is aimed at web developers who have used the CSS flex box layout styles. It is possible to use the library with Java, C#, and Objective-C and can be used with React Native.

It handles laying out widgets in grid patterns or other layout styles using flex box styles like flex direction and flex wrap and alignment.

It is possible to integrate Yoga into an existing layout engine.

It’s an open question as to where this fits in if you’re using GTK or Qt to develop a desktop or mobile application.

Open Source IFTTT: Trigger Happy

Trigger Happy is an open source alternative to IFTTT (If This Then That) which is a way of connecting and integrating multiple services on the web through their APIs.

Right now it supports these services:

  • Evernote
  • Github
  • Instapush
  • Pelican
  • Pocket
  • Pushbullet
  • Todoist
  • Trello
  • Twitter
  • Wallabag

Integration services like IFTTT, Zapier and now, Trigger Happy are vital to an ecosystem of apps, and they make web apps far more useful.

For example, you could create a trigger with Trigger Happy that when you create a card in Trello, a new issue will be opened in GitHub.

The Open Source Development Model makes it easier to solve other people’s problems

Or at least that’s what Daniel Pink suggests in this article. While he doesn’t specifically mention open source development, he does mention Wikipedia as a loosely collaborative model that can help us solve problems faster and better:

  • Rethink the structure of your firm.

    Perhaps loose alliances of distantly connected people – think Wikipedia or a Hollywood film – can produce more creative products and services than fixed rosters of employees in traditional arrangements. And maybe those consultancies, which all of us love to malign, are offering a valuable service after all by providing distance for hire.

This is the reason why sites like StackOverflow have taken off and have answered millions of people’s questions about programming. The distance between you and your local coding problems is short, meaning you think about your problems more concretely. On StackOverflow, the problems you are helping to solve are further away from you, and according to this research, this lets you think about them more abstractly.

Continue reading “The Open Source Development Model makes it easier to solve other people’s problems”

librsvg will attempt to use Rust!

The librsvg  is going to be slowly converted to Rust.

This is exciting news for developers who are looking to learn Rust and it’s exciting for the free/open source software community. Librsvg is used by Wikimedia to render SVGs on Wikipedia, a fairly vital tool.

What’s exciting is that librsvg has received bug reports for bugs that are related mainly to the use of the C programming language:

Every once in a while someone discovers a bug in librsvg that makes it all the way to a CVE security advisory, and it’s all due to using C. We’ve gotten double free()s, wrong casts, and out-of-bounds memory accesses. Recently someone did fuzz-testing with some really pathological SVGs, and found interesting explosions in the library.

So it will be interesting to see how well Rust can prevent these sorts of errors and how easy it will be to port a C library to Rust.

In the article there’s an example of converting C code to Rust code. Very cool and looking forward to the results. Hopefully this will encourage more open source developers to pick up Rust alongside C!