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.

Update [April 17]: 9to5Mac has noticed that Apple has updated their CarPlay website with a section highlighting that Pioneer and Alpine will also support CarPlay. This confirms previous reports that Alpine will also begin selling a CarPlay compatible console later this year.

Pioneer has announced that it will bring Apple’s CarPlay to five of its existing aftermarket dash consoles via a firmware update. The update will be available early this summer, making Pioneer the first manufacturer to offer CarPlay on an aftermarket console system.

Pioneer’s years of expertise integrating smartphone connectivity into the automotive environment has provided us the opportunity to be among the first to offer CarPlay to drivers,” said Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “By providing an aftermarket option, Pioneer’s 2014 in-dash multimedia systems give many iPhone owners the ability to add CarPlay to their current vehicles.”

The Pioneer consoles that will support the CarPlay firmware update include the AVIC-8000NEX ($1400 SRP), AVIC-7000NEX ($1200 SRP), AVIC-6000NEX ($900 SRP), AVIC-5000NEX ($750 SRP) and AVH-4000NEX ($700 SRP), all of which are currently available from retailers today. Reports from Nikkei earlier this week suggest that Alpine Electronics will follow suit by launching their own CarPlay-compatible console in the Fall, with an expected price between $500 and $700.

CarPlay, which was formally announced last month after an initial introduction at WWDC last year, is an infotainment system designed so that cars can integrate with iOS devices and allow drivers to reply to messages, answer phone calls, listen to music, and more. Although CarPlay comes with support for touchscreens and control knobs featured in most cars, Apple has also placed focus on CarPlay’s Siri support. Drivers can use Apple’s voice assistant to control music playback and ask for directions with Maps, compose new text messages, make calls – all while staying focused on the road as much as possible.

[Nikkei, via MacRumors]

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…)

Apr
11
2014

Reeder 2 for Mac beta

Nine months after being pulled from the Mac App Store following the Google Reader shutdownReeder for Mac, Silvio Rizzi’s popular desktop RSS client, is back with a public beta that offers a glimpse at the app’s new service integrations, refreshed design, updated gesture navigation, and new features that will come in the final version.

During the beta stage, Reeder 2 for Mac will be free to download from Rizzi’s website.

The Reeder 2 beta builds on the design foundation of the old Reeder for Mac and the latest Reeder for iOS to offer a mix of new functionalities and tweaked layouts that should be familiar to both audiences. In July 2013, Rizzi pulled Reeder for Mac from the App Store due to the discontinuation of Google Reader (the RSS service that powered Reeder 1.0) as he couldn’t ship compatibility updates in time for Google’s deadline and preferred to jump directly to a 2.0 update that, however, is taking longer than expected. Originally announced for Autumn 2013, Reeder 2 for Mac still isn’t feature complete according to Rizzi, but he’s confident that the public beta should provide a solid preview of the changes he’s been working on while also serving as a way to gather feedback for what will become a paid app on the Mac App Store. (more…)

At a press event held in San Francisco this morning, Dropbox announced Carousel, a new dedicated gallery app that combines all of a user’s photos and videos from all connected devices in a single interface. Carousel will be available both as an iOS and Android app, separate from the main Dropbox client but based on the same storage space.

During the event, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston announced that the company has now 700 employees and over 275 million users, who rely on Dropbox to store a variety of personal and work files, documents, and media. With Carousel, Dropbox allows users to look at photos and videos stored in their accounts, which are automatically sorted by time and location: large thumbnail previews group related items together by location, while a timeline scrubber at the bottom allows users to quickly navigate through time to view and select old photos.

According to Dropbox, Carousel is faster than Apple’s built-in Photos app when dealing with hundreds of files even though they are stored in the cloud, and not on a user’s local device. Carousel is built with sharing in mind: the app makes it easy to select multiple photos and send them to another person directly from the app alongside a message; the recipient can then view the full-resolution photos, and optionally save them to Carousel.

Dropbox has long enabled users to automatically upload new photos from their devices through the official Dropbox client, but Carousel marks the company’s debut into the photo and video management space with a dedicated app that’s been specifically created for upload, management, and sharing outside of the Dropbox client.

From the Dropbox blog post:

It combines the photos in your Dropbox with the photos on your phone, and automatically backs up new ones as you take them. Carousel sorts all these memories by event so you can easily travel back in time to any photo from any date. And unlike other mobile galleries, the size of your Carousel isn’t constrained by the space on your phone, which means you can finally have your entire life’s memories in one place.

Carousel will be available for free on the App Store later today. We’ve embedded the official promo video below.
(more…)

Drafts, Agile Tortoise’s note-taking app for iOS with support for customizable actions and workflows, has been updated to version 3.6 today, adding Google Drive integration, new clipboard actions, and a handy option to automatically back up a user’s action library to Dropbox every few days.

Google Drive joins Drafts’ existing Dropbox and Evernote actions as it’s based on the same concept: the app can now create text files in your Google Drive account, append/prepend text to existing files, or replace text; every tag that is normally supported by Drafts (such as placeholders for timestamps, date, draft line, or clipboard) will work with Google Drive actions that you can create in the Settings. In my tests, I was able to quickly send text from Drafts to Google Drive by adapting some of my old Dropbox actions, which created a new .txt file in Google Drive and inside a specific folder (Drafts has preference to specify a parent folder for Google Drive actions); overall, if you’ve ever wished you could easily send plain text to notes stored in Google Drive, the addition is welcome.

Append and prepend actions have also been added to Drafts’ iOS clipboard integration: just like with built-in third-party services, Drafts can now append or prepend text to the contents of the clipboard — a feature that may not seem immediately useful, but that could open some interesting possibilities when using the clipboard as a workaround for the lack of automation features in iOS apps.

Aside from adding background refresh support for iOS 7 (for notes stored in the app across the iPhone and iPad versions), Drafts 3.6 also adds a setting for auto-backup: if activated, the app will save actions every few days to Dropbox without having to remember to export an action’s library manually.

Drafts continues to be a must-have utility for text automation on iOS, and version 3.6 is available now on the App Store for the iPhone and iPad.