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GUI design app targets embedded devices

Dec 8, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 31 views

Ottawa, Canada-based Crank Software is shipping a Linux-ready, cross-platform GUI development suite for embedded R&D designers. The Eclipse-based Crank Storyboard Suite includes an embedded GUI design and prototyping application called Crank Storyboard Designer and a runtime component called Crank Storyboard Embedded Engine, says the company.

The Crank Storyboard Suite is built on C, but its Eclipse-based GUI programming environment enables UI designers "with no programming experience to drag-and-drop their UI designs" into a working storyboard, says Crank. The team-oriented application suite lets designers work on their designs in parallel with, yet independently from, the engineers doing the C coding, says the company.

Crank Software itself uses the software to develop designs for consumer electronics, industrial devices, and automotive head units, but "the solutions are not limited to these industries," says the company.

Crank Storyboard Suite
(Click to enlarge)

The Crank Storyboard Suite enables portability of UIs across different x86, ARM, and PowerPC hardware platforms and CPU versions, says Crank. Similar portability is touted for supported operating systems, which currently include Linux, Windows CE 6.0, QNX, and VxWorks. (Surprisingly, Crank does not specify Windows XP or other x86-only versions of Windows, but says its engine is "OS-agnostic.")

Crank Storyboard Designer, showing direct import of PhotoShop images
(Click to enlarge)

Crank Storyboard Designer offers look-and-feel prototyping, enabling designers to run simulations of the interface, including a variety of embedded interface formats, says Crank. Identical visual representations of graphical content are said to be carried through from simulator to embedded target.

Designed for rapid development, Designer supports parallel design, test, and development efforts, says the company. The application offers a scripting engine, and is said to support all popular graphics formats, as well as direct import from Adobe PhotoShop (see image above).

Crank Storyboard Designer
(Click to enlarge)

The Crank Storyboard Embedded Engine runtime component, meanwhile, provides source code access to developers for profiling, optimization, testing, and validation, says Crank. Written in C, it is said to offer debugging, traceability, and performance metrics features, and is divided into four management components: I/O Event, Action, Screen, and Render.

Crank Storyboard Embedded Engine architecture

Additional Embedded Engine features and benefits are said to include:

  • Animation support and screen transitions
  • Custom gesture support
  • Linux version supports graphic rendering in SDL, Frambuffer, and DirectFB.
  • Small footprint minimizes impact on performance
  • Utilizes hardware acceleration where available
  • Plugin architecture allows for scalability
  • Clean communication API allows for easy integration into systems
  • Testing and regression hooks built in
  • WebKit integration

Stated Graham Spencer, project manager, Paradigm Advanced Research Centre (PARC), "The Crank Storyboard Suite enabled us to quickly prototype and simulate our user interface while providing consistent results across hardware platforms and operating systems."

Stated Jason Clarke, VP of Sales and Marketing, Crank Software Inc., "Today, UI designers use one development tool and the embedded systems engineers use another. The linear, back-and-forth approach often means R&D teams miss their market window."


The Crank Storyboard Suite Storyboard is available immediately, and evaluation versions are also available, says Crank Software. More information may be found here.

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