I've seen several tools while searching job requirements and skills to develop before entering a job search. Here is my perspective and takeaways on research for some recommended and popular tools:
InVision is a product I've been really comfortable using. As a student, it's great in that it is free, but you are limited by the number of projects you are able to keep active. I suggest creating a video of a walk-through of your projects before saving the files out of the app. Plus, it's great to see a project come full circle in your portfolio. The blog also provided a ton of content that is actually valuable! The best part, it is designed to easily share a project across teams, so everyone can comment, test, and preview the project in real-time throughout the entire design process stages! Across the board, this seem most liked by companies of all sizes and individuals.
Balsamiq offers a trial mode for a free demo use. After that, it is $89 for a single user license. Balsamiq brags being easy to use with drag and drop functions, widgets and a rage of element editable by tools and photos. It does not offer multiple use to work on one project or work sharing, but could be feasible for individual projects.
Axure also has a free trial, but jumps to $289/license. The standard package allows users to sketch & create wireframes, flow diagrams, basic and advanced prototyping, mobile, and AxShare publishing. Tools and usability are intuitive, and the provided tutorials are helpful walkthrough guides around the program. Otherwise support with the system has been problematic for users because it offers no live chat features for quick help.
UXPin is another tool I've seen potential employers are looking for in an UX/UI/interaction designer's skill set. This one is subscription based, which could be a better option temporarily during the semester. UXPin provides a toolset for creating prototypes, wireframes, and mock-ups. Prices start at $19/month for basic plans. They also offer free e-books with some titles that look promising!
Omnigraffle is for artists, designers, casual data-mappers, and everyone in-between. It's designed for creating graphics, website wireframes, or mapping out software classes. The site doesn't show the process, but the final mock-ups look like something one could easily do in Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. Some features in the PRO version, like Xcode import, AppleScript & Actions support, and presentation mode seem more for product teams at startups (It's priced for them too at $200). There is a 14 day free trial, but standard packages start at $49.99.
JustInMind is considered an all-in-one tool, easily allowing designers and dev to build web and mobile mock-ups within the program. Code Free Application Prototyping is a great tool for visual designers. The model also allows for future expansion allowing expansion kits. Support and tutorials are available for quick and easy training. Pricing caps at $19, but you can get a free download too!
Marvel maybe the first tool I've seen that features wearables! Its free. Gestures and transitions are customization options. The platform supports direct uploading of certain image file types including PSD, GIF, and JPG, as well as third party uploading via Google Drive, Sketch, or Dropbox. Sounds great for freelancing and agencies, right? Just by taking a picture of your paper prototype, this tool's app can turn sketches into prototypes! Web and mobile wireframes and animations can be designed directly in this tool as well. Pay as much as $42 for an upgrade to collaborate with teams.
Origami is what I was really wanted to see — an Export Code option converts your visual design into written code samples for iOS, Android, or web. As a visual designer, this is AMAZING. It has a plugin to work with Sketch and Photoshop easily with a short cut after a just little setup. It’s also free, but in order to use it, you have to go through a few steps.
Go to Apple’s developer site
Register for a Developer account, or login if you already have one
Download “Graphics Tools for Xcode”
Once installed, you can find Quartz Composer in Macintosh HD > Developer > Applications > Quartz Composer. Again, it will be inside your Developer folder, not your main Applications folder.
Download the most recent version of Origami.
Heaton, Simon. "5 of the Best Prototyping Tools to Test Out Your Web and Mobile Designs – Shopify." Web Design and Development Blog. Shopify, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.<https://www.shopify.com/partners/blog/62745923-5-of-the-best-prototyping-tools-to-test-out-your-web-and-mobile-designs>.
Thompson, Russell. "Axure Review 2016." Comparakeet. 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. <https://www.comparakeet.com/best-wireframing-tools/axure-review/>.
Thompson, Russell. "Balsamiq Review 2016." Comparakeet. 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. <https://www.comparakeet.com/best-wireframing-tools/balsamiq-review/>.