Ask DN: Designing on a Windows PC.

over 6 years ago from , UX Designer

Hello all!

I would like some advice from you seasoned designers out there! I work for a very "Windows PC" type of organization, and I need software in order to put together UI designs for prototypes. At home I use a Mac and Sketch 3, and I think I would need to put together a strong case for them to give me a Mac here (we aren't a design company). So, in the meantime, I need something to design on.

They are quite willing to give me a licence for Adobe Photoshop CC, is this a decent substitute for Sketch? I know you can get some cool tools like Craft plugin by InVision to help prototyping (much like Sketch), so I feel OK about that. Is there any other plugins that will help or thing else I can use? For wireframing, we use myBalsamiq. The whole web app thing will work will for me. But which is the best? UXPin?

I'm also looking in to the free beta of Affinity Designer for Windows. Is this a good tool for UI design, and is it better than Photoshop for UI? Eagerly awaiting Adobe XD for Windows!

Thanks in advance!


  • Nelson TarucNelson Taruc, over 6 years ago

    First, a question: In terms of your workflow, how do you need to pass the design off to the developers? Are you just giving them style guides or do they need artifacts they import directly into their development ecosystem? The answer to that question probably dictates the tools you'll need.

    Second, let's challenge the assumption that your organization won't let you work on a Mac. After all, Macs can run Windows software, so if anything, an investment in a Mac is the best of both worlds. Should you ever need to scale up and hire freelance help, the ability to collaborate with other designers who do work on Macs gives you extra flexibility.

    Anyway, if your organization truly values design, an investment in the tools that will make you work fastest and create your best work should be a shared goal. You can even frame it as an experiment, and (if you're passionate enough about working on a Mac) defray some percentage of the cost to sweeten the deal.

    That said, rather than focus on the tools you need, focus on designing the most efficient workflow between design and your pass-off points, and once all parties have bought into that process, then invest in the tools that best support that workflow. Good luck!

    2 points
    • Gareth Lewis, over 6 years ago

      Thanks Nelson. I'm still very much finding my feet st the moment. I used to do programming before focusing on front end development and UI design, and now I'm transitioning to UX.

      We are at a very early stage of a major project, and at the moment, I'm just trying to build up support for adopting a proper UX / user centred design process. I'm trying to find the right tools for sketching, wireframing, up to high fidelity mock ups. We are likely to pass this work on to another vendor to develop eventually. Not sure exactly how everything is going to work yet, but I'm the closest thing that the organisation has to a UX team!

      As for Mac, they are not against it. Some devs have used them in the past, but we are a not-for-profit and so has to justify every penny spent. I have been pushing for one.

      Thanks for the advice!

      0 points
      • Nathan HueningNathan Huening, over 6 years ago

        "but we are a not-for-profit and so has to justify every penny spent"

        I would hope that any organization has to justify every penny! Or it won't be an organization for long.

        0 points
        • Gareth Lewis, over 6 years ago

          Haha. You are right! What I meant is that we get money from donations and as a not for profit we also need to reinvest any profit we make back into the organisation so need to be completely transparent in where we spend our money. I still reckon I should get my Mac though!

          0 points
  • Lee Campbell, over 6 years ago

    I would give Figma a try, it's extremely close to sketch, except the plugins, and it's in browser. Could be a viable workaround until you got a mac.

    1 point
  • baked potatobaked potato, over 6 years ago

    Adobe Illustrator + Bloks plugin is pretty neato for quick mockups. Photoshop for pixel-accurate renders.

    Invision's Craft is no longer available or supported on Windows.

    1 point
    • Gareth Lewis, over 6 years ago

      Thanks for the suggestion. Was really hoping to use Craft to put some real data in my mock ups from some JSON exports. Darn.

      0 points
  • Jim Owens, over 6 years ago

    Dave Rupert from the Shop Talk Show has been working in windows and writing about it, for reasons that he explains early in the series, for over a year now. You might want to check out daverupert.com. His stuff is more development-focused but may be of interest.

    0 points
  • Alexander Adam, over 6 years ago


    Why not give Gravit a spin (https://gravit.io)? Currently still web based but soon coming to every platform: https://blog.gravit.io/gravits-new-direction-340304d644dd

    Gravit was build in the spirit of Fireworks and many ex FWlers are already using it, let me know what you think :)

    0 points
    • Gareth Lewis, over 6 years ago

      Thanks Alexander,

      I didn't realise that I'd created an account for this before and completely forgot about it. Just revisiting the app now, and it's actually very good. Thanks for the suggestion!

      0 points
  • John Jackson, over 6 years ago

    I cannot recommend any Windows-based design tools, because I've been a Mac guy for the past 3-4 years. But when I did use Windows, I worked with Photoshop CS6 (if I remember correctly).

    It sounds like your organization less about UI/UX and more about money. It doesn't matter that they're a Windows shop. You should never use a specific platform because "it's what we do." That creates issues. You use the tools that you need to perform the task at hand.

    You're not going to hunt a bear with a squirrel gun because "it's what we use." If your company's stakeholders value great end results, they should have no problem dropping $1500 on a MacBook Pro.

    Anyways, I guess I'd go with Photoshop if I were forced to use Windows.

    0 points
  • Brian HintonBrian Hinton, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Really you have a TON of options on Windows. Apple and Apple based apps are trending right now so obviously more options are available on a Mac, and subsequently you will find more help for those packages at the moment.

    Axure, UXPin, FramerJS library sans UI, XD(eventually), Inkscape, FreshPaint (if you have a tablet) etc.

    I would worry less about the tool(s). The best tools are your head, some paper, and a pencil. Any software that can push around pixels will work. I'd vote for Affinity over PS for UI work.

    0 points
  • Jeppe Reinhold, over 6 years ago

    If your PC can handle it, you could use Mac in a VM. I had great success with it for half a year, before getting a MacBook. The VM can be quite laggy though, but it was certainly better than using Photoshop/Illustrator.

    I recall using this guide from MacBreaker for the installation.

    0 points
  • Dan BurzoDan Burzo, over 6 years ago

    Not to toot my own horn, but you could give Moqups 2 a try :-)

    0 points