Adding and Arranging UI Controls
- Editor Overview
- Editing UI Controls
In this video you’ll learn the most common tips and tricks for working with controls in Balsamiq. Snapping, aligning, cloning, arranging, it’s all here. We promise you’ll make up the 6 minutes spent watching this video in no time. Watch in full screen!
Adding UI Controls
You can also duplicate controls already on the canvas using copy and paste or the duplicate command (CTRL/⌘+D). ALT/OPTION+ drag will also duplicate controls and allow you to place them using your mouse.
Note: Full list of keyboard shortcuts here.
Selecting UI Controls
There are a few different ways to select UI controls. If you are familiar with graphics software, these should be of no surprise.
- Clicking on a UI control selects it
- Dragging a rectangle which encloses many UI controls selects them
- SHIFT+ CLICK on a control adds it to the selection
- CTRL/⌘+ CLICK on a selected control removes it from the selection
- Hold ALT to ignore items behind the mouse and drag-select, as shown in this video:
To select a control that is behind another control, right-click on the top control to bring up a menu that allows you to select controls behind it.
Note: To see this and the other techniques in this article demonstrated in a video, see this tutorial on Tips for Working with Controls.
Moving UI Controls
Once you have selected one or more UI controls, there are a few different ways to move it on the canvas.
- You can drag it with your mouse (hold down SHIFT to maintain the original horizontal or vertical position)
- You can "nudge it" one pixel at a time with your keyboard's ↑↓←→ keys
- You can move it with bigger steps (10 pixels) by holding down SHIFT and using your keyboard's ↑↓←→ keys
- You can move controls to be aligned in one direction by using the align tools shown below
Snapping and Smart Guides
When you move objects on the canvas, the editor tries to suggest alignment relative to other objects on the canvas using smart guides. This makes alignment a little easier and makes your wireframes generally look neater.
If you ever want to temporarily disable this feature, you can hold down CTRL/⌘ while moving or resizing, and snapping will be turned off.
Resizing UI Controls
Resizing the selected controls is easy. You can just grab any edge or corner of the selection rectangle and drag it.
If you want to constrain proportions while dragging from a corner, hold SHIFT while dragging.
You can also use the keyboard to resize selected controls. CTRL/⌘+ALT+↑↓←→ to resize in 1px increments, CTRL/⌘+ALT+SHIFT+↑↓←→ for 10px increments.
Another way to resize some controls to their "natural size" is to use the Auto-Size function found in the Property Inspector.
To resize one or more controls to match the size of another (to be the same width or height), you can use the "Resize To..." function in the Edit menu.
Select multiple controls and use this option to size all the selected controls to match the narrowest, widest, shortest, or tallest control in the selection.
Aligning UI Controls
You can align and distribute (space out) controls by selecting multiple controls and right-clicking to bring up the menu shown below.
The same options are shown in the property inspector when multiple controls are selected.
Layering UI Controls
You can layer controls as if they were pieces of paper on the mockup canvas. To do so, you select the controls you want to layer and select one of four layering commands available via the right-click menu or Property Inspector: Bring to Front, Bring Forward, Send Backward, and Send to Back. Keyboard shortcuts are also available.
Locking UI Controls
Locking a control's position on the canvas can be useful for background controls that you want to stay in place. You can lock a control by selecting it and choosing "Lock (control name)" from the context menu, or by clicking the lock icon in the toolbar.
While the control's position is locked, the properties can still be changed from the Property Inspector.
To unlock a control, right-click on it when your mouse cursor is over it.
Note: When selecting multiple controls (including a locked element), you can only move the unlocked ones by grabbing one of them to drag the selection.
Deleting UI Controls
To remove some UI controls from the mockup canvas, select them and hit the DELETE key. Alternatively you can select "Delete" from the Edit menu.
Rotating UI Controls
Some of the UI controls can be rotated via the Property Inspector (the label, image, and icon controls, for example), but many can't. If you are used to generic drawing tools this might be surprising. This limitation is intentional, and not due to programming complexity (it's not hard to add technically).
The reason we don't support rotating all controls because we believe that in 90% of cases, it is not needed in wireframes. In fact, adding the ability to rotate any control will likely result in wireframes that are very hard if not impossible to implement by the development team.
If you feel that you need to rotate any other control, let us know on this forum thread and we'll discuss whether to add it together. A workaround would be to rotate a control in a drawing application and then import it as an image.
Grouping UI Controls
Sometimes you might want to group some controls to better align them or move them all at once. To group a set of controls, select them and hit CTRL/⌘+G on your keyboard or use the Group command in the Edit menu or toolbar. The controls will change color to purple to indicate that they are grouped. Once grouped, the controls will behave as one when moving or aligning. To ungroup controls, press CTRL/⌘+SHIFT+G on your keyboard or use the Ungroup command in the menu or toolbar.
You can double-click on a group to "enter it" and edit its contents. A small floating breadcrumb bar will indicate that you are editing a group and allow you to navigate back out of the group (you can also use ESC). Groups can be nested, as shown below.
Here's a video that shows grouping in action:
You can give a group a name via the Property Inspector. This can be helpful when you have a lot of groups and need to "know where you are" when you edit their contents. Naming groups is also useful when creating Symbols.
Cropping Groups and Images
It is possible to crop (mask) a group of controls to only show a selected portion of it. When a group is selected, a crop icon will show in the Property Inspector. Click on it to edit the visible area of the group.
The video below illustrates how to use this feature.
Note: To crop a single control, select it and group it (yes, a group with only one element). You will then be able to crop it.
You can also use the crop tool to create image sprites, useful to create button state variants, for example. This video shows how you can use a “sprite” image in Balsamiq to create multiple icons using a single image.
"Drawing" Basic Controls
There are three controls that you can add to the canvas by "drawing" them with your mouse while holding down a letter key. To quickly draw a rectangle on the canvas, hold down R and drag your mouse. Holding down T instead will draw a block of text, and Y will produce a line of text.
See the video below for a demonstration.
After you've added these controls, you can easily convert them to other controls by using the transform menu.
- Editor Overview
- Editing UI Controls