Friday, 26 March 2010

How the Annotator Tool from NBS was Developed

The suite of free NBS Tools has just passed testing and will go live next week for download. NBS Tools contains the three applications (1) Annotator, (2) Viewer and (3) Cost Tracking. Further details on each of these will be posted to this blog over the next few weeks.

This blog post details how the Annotator was developed.

Stage 1 - Back of an envelope sketch
The scan below shows a sketch that was done a little while back in a pub in London after a lunchtime discussion with one of our Advisory Panel members. The event was on a completely different subject, but the topic of annotating CAD from NBS had cropped up over a cup of coffee.

All of the main concepts can be seen in the notes on the sketch. The three customer names who had pushed for this development have been blurred out of the sketch to the bottom right. Note how the concept that this could also be released so third parties could integrate it into their software (API) is scribbled at the top of the page.

Stage 2 - Prototype
The next stage was setting one of our software developers away on developing a rapid prototype. This is shown below:

The basic functionality is in place here. This prototype was then demonstrated to get some early feedback and to help develop a brief for our software design team.

Stage 3 - Brief
The main feature list was then developed with the aid of further sketch designs and an MS Word document. The concept of embedding the guidance and the manufacturer information is now in the sketch. The ability to export to different formats such as CSV and keynotes is there too.

Stage 4 - Detailed Designs
Our Design Team then worked their magic in Fireworks to draw up exactly how the application would look (note it must be pixel perfect) - also detailed was the functionality and the user journey in an MS Word document.

The branding changed a little following these sketches, but what is shown in the screenshot above is pretty much how the final application turned out.

Stage 5 -Develop the Application
Our Software Development team then wrote the code to make the application work (hopefully) perfectly. QA tested it and along the way our Beta Testers had the chance to have an early look at this too.

And now it is finished and ready for release.

Related posts:

- Working with the exported keynote file with AutoDesk/Bentley products
- How software developers can integrate the Annotator into their own products


  1. Hi, it's great that you're going down this route of integration with BIM but in typical NBS fashion you've left Mac users out of the equation once again.

    Are there plans to support the leading cross-platform BIM apps: ArchiCAD and Vectorworks?

  2. @sysadmin
    In terms of the Mac - we are hopefully moving in the right direction. See the post on our upcoming online specification system:

    With respect to ArchiCAD and Vectorworks, we have been doing a bit here - but currently just for PC: