viticci

Federico Viticci – 7067 posts on MacStories

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Apr
17
2014

Dropbox Acquires Loom

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With a notice posted on their website today, Loom, a photo storage and management service originally launched in July 2013, announced that they’ve been acquired by Dropbox and will be joining the company.

Often regarded as “what Apple’s Photo Stream” should have been, Loom was designed to keep one library of photos in sync across devices, with support for albums, full-res versions of the original files, and more. Built to let users delete media from their local devices, Loom featured support for both photos and videos, with automatic upload functionalities in a native iOS app and a desktop uploader for OS X.

From Loom’s original description:

We needed something that works seamlessly. A personal media library that is the same wherever you go, and there when you need it. Something effortlessly expandable, that can grow with your library, so you never run out of space. Easy to organize and manage, giving you complete control.

That is why we built Loom. We’re making it quick and easy for you to access and manage your entire photo and video library on every device, without taking up local storage space.

On April 9, Dropbox officially introduced Carousel, an iPhone and Android app aimed at replacing a device’s local Camera Roll with Dropbox photo storage. Carousel displays photos with a vertical grid of thumbnails reminiscent of Loom, and, like Loom, it supports both photos and videos stored in the cloud; unlike Loom, Carousel doesn’t have iPad or web clients for now, as it’s limited to an iPhone app with basic web sharing features. Loom allowed users to manage uploads on their computers with a desktop uploader, an option that is already available in the official Dropbox app for OS X with automatic Camera Uploads.

From Loom’s announcement:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

Loom allowed users to set up a free trial with 5 GB of storage and the possibility to extend free space to 10 GB through referrals; the service had both monthly and yearly plans starting at $4.99 and $49.99 respectively for 50 GB of storage.

For existing Loom users, Dropbox has built a migration tool that will transfer photos from Loom to Dropbox; Loom storage will be converted to Dropbox storage for free users, while Loom Pro customers will keep the same storage on Dropbox for free, for a year. Existing Loom users will be able to continue using the service until May 16, 2014; users will also be able to request an archive of their libraries with original photos and videos in a .zip archive.

Loom marks the second acquisition by Dropbox in the past month — in late March, the company acquired social reading app Readmill for an undisclosed sum.

Apr
17
2014

Photos+, which I first covered in December when Second Gear launched it on the App Store, has today been updated to version 1.1, adding Dropbox integration and finding a new home at SilverPine Software.

Photos+ 1.0 was a simple Photos.app replacement with viewing features that supported EXIF metadata for location, time stamps, and more. From my original review:

Photos+ provides an alternative way to view photos you’ve taken on your iPhone if you don’t like the new Photos app of iOS 7. Photos+ doesn’t have any time or location-based sorting feature – it’s a mosaic of large photo thumbnails displayed in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest). There are no settings, no filters to exclude screenshots from the list, and no special gestures to learn. As you scroll, you can tap thumbnails to open photos in full-screen; when you want to dismiss a photo, you flick it up or down like a card.

Photos+ 1.1 has kept the app’s straightforward approach and visualization of photos, but thanks to Dropbox integration it can now look for photos inside a Dropbox folder. Photos loaded from the Dropbox retain the same options of local photos: you can view metadata, share photos, and open a location panel to see where a photo was taken on a map. Obviously, the app requires a few extra seconds to load a full-resolution photo from Dropbox — thumbnails are loaded at a lower-res to speed up the experience — but everything else works just like the old app.

Unfortunately, I can’t use Photos+ 1.1 with my current Dropbox photo management workflow because the app doesn’t support sub-folders: the app can only load photos stored in a single folder (like the default Camera Uploads one in Dropbox), and this means that I can’t currently use Photos+as a photo viewer for my photo collection, which is organized in folders for years and sub-folders for months. I understand that most users who rely on Dropbox for photo storage and management usually keep photos in one folder, but I think it’d be nice to provide a setting to specify where and how the app should look for photos in your account (Carousel, released last week by Dropbox, shares a similar problem).

Photos+ 1.1 is available on the App Store.

With a relatively minor 5.7.2 update released last night, The Iconfactory added an ingenious Edit Tweet button in Twitterrific for iOS, cleverly sidestepping Twitter’s lack of official support for such functionality with a native integration. (more…)

Skala for Mac isn’t ready for its public debut yet, but Bjango, makers of Skala Preview and iStat, have today released Skala Color, a free plugin for the OS X Color Picker that comes with useful options for designers and developers and that offers a glimpse of features that will be included in the final Skala app.

Skala Color is a standard OS X color picker, so it works with most Mac apps. Skala Color is free, to help spread the word about Skala, our upcoming design tool.

Once installed, Skala Color adds a special color picker tab to the system-wide OS X color panel, which has supported a plugin architecture for years now (notable examples include Panic’s Developer Color Picker and Jesper’s Hex Color Picker). Skala Color combines a traditional color picker UI with sliders for opacity and 4x precision hue. The hex code of the color you’re currently previewing is available in the middle of the window with a button to quickly copy it in the clipboard; if you already have a color code in the clipboard, Skala Color will automatically recognize it and let you preview it in the picker with the click of a button.

With Skala, Bjango wants to build a “precise user interface and icon design tool”, and today’s Skala Color provides a sneak peek at the development and design-oriented options that will likely be part of the final product. Color codes can be displayed in standard hex, but you can also use Float and CSS RGB/RGBA/HSVA/HSL, as well as NSColor and UIColor formats – Bjango wants to offer options for web, iOS, OS X, and Android developers, so whether you need to pick colors for an iPhone app or a website, Skala Color will come in handy.

Skala Color is available for free from Bjango’s website; you can check out Skala’s teaser page here.

In post published yesterday on the Editorial forums, developer Ole Zorn shared more details on Editorial 1.1, announcing some features he's been working on for the update, such as the ui module, which will allow users to create custom interfaces inside Editorial:

It's not just a module, there's also an integrated visual editor for setting things up without code, and in Editorial there's also a way to build UIs around workflows, without having to write Python at all (though you can also mix and match). Before you get the wrong idea: This is in no way a complete wrapper around UIKit or some kind of Cocoa bridge, so you won't be able to do a all the things you could do in a native app, but it provides a (hopefully) easy-to-use and pythonic way to create UIs that look and feel “at home” on iOS, and it's possible do some relatively advanced stuff with custom drawing and touch handling.

For Editorial, I tend to think of this as a “plugin” interface that allows the creation of workflows that are nearly indistinguishable from native features. Obviously, this won't be for everyone, and there will definitely be a learning curve, but given what I've seen this community come up with, I'm pretty confident that it will enable some people to really push the limits of iOS text automation (and others to reap the rewards via shared workflows).

I can't stress this enough – the new module fundamentally reinvents the way you can build visual workflows in Editorial, and I can't wait to share more about the workflows I've been working on.

Make sure to check out Ole's post for screenshots of Editorial 1.1 on the iPad and iPhone.

Jason Snell offers a great take on the tech press' obsession with an Apple iWatch:

So in the end, why do we want Apple to make an iWatch? Because it’s fun to see new products from Apple. Because we want to try one out and see if we like it. Because we like to buy new gadgets. Because we want to complain about how Apple got it wrong. Or because we’re residents of the financial sector and see everything in the context of growth, like a predator that can’t see the prey standing still right in front of it.

Even more ingenious is the way Carousel surfaces photos it thinks you’re most likely to want to see. To start, the app scans every photograph in your collection for human faces. Based on the qualities of the mugs it detects, it assigns each picture a “smile score.” The one with the highest ranking for a given event is displayed with a double-size thumbnail, serving as a sort of hero shot for that subset of pics.

Wired's Kyle Vanhemert talked to Gentry Underwood about some of the UI details in Carousel – as I wrote, there are some fantastic touches in the app. The way thumbnails are generated and deployed is quite clever.

Apr
14
2014

Screens 3 for Mac Review

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Since 2010, I’ve been using Edovia’s Screens for all my VNC needs: an elegant client with a polished interface and just the right amount of options, I’ve always been a fan of Edovia’s focus on elegance and simplicity combined with touch controls.

The iOS app has changed quite a bit over the years: notably, with iOS 7 Edovia took the opportunity to completely redesign Screens with a cleaner UI and updated gestures, adding on-disconnect actions, hot corners, and trackpad mode with subsequent updates that continued to strike a good balance between feature additions and intuitiveness. I don’t need to access dozens of Macs remotely every day – I only log into my local MacBook Air (when I’m in bed or in another room) and my remote Mac mini – but I know that Screens for iOS has everything I need.

Screens 3 is Edovia’s latest update to their Mac client, originally released in 2011. A free update for existing Screens 2 customers, Screens 3 is available both on Edovia’s website and the Mac App Store at $34.99, but only the Mac App Store version can offer iCloud sync across devices; because of this limitation, I recommend buying Screens from the Mac App Store.

(more…)

With an update released over the weekend, musiXmatch — my favorite lyrics discovery tool for iOS — added support for video playback on iPhone, faster performance for older devices (iPhone 4 and 4S), as well as a new way to quickly get lyrics for the song that’s currently playing in the Music app. (more…)