Formerly known as PicLens, I used to rely on Cooliris years ago to browse images and slideshows on the Internet in a more visual interface. Resembling a virtual wall with great focus on large, neatly arranged thumbnails for web content, Cooliris has always been one of the most interesting experiments in terms of browser integration and overall presentation. For the past few days I have been using Cooliris’ latest iteration, a universal app for iOS, and I am quite impressed with the results.
Cooliris also developed Discover, a Wikipedia app for iPad that turned articles into magazine-like layouts. The standalone (and free) Cooliris application is a new take on the old browser plugin, but it shares the same attention to detail and care for interface design of Discover.
Cooliris has always been about browsing photos, and this new iOS version is no exception, only it’s a more modern app that takes into account the changes that have happened to social photo sharing on the Internet in the past years.
Cooliris for iOS lets you browse photos from Facebook, Instagram, Google Images, or your local camera roll. Different photo sources as organized as “stacks” in the main screen (similarly to how iOS groups albums in the Photos app) and tapping on a source will reveal the familiar 3D wall that you can swipe horizontally to scroll photos.
I have found Cooliris to be extremely fun to use, especially on the iPad (3rd generation). Photos are crisp and optimized for the Retina display, and the app didn’t lag when I was scrolling fairly fast across my photo wall. You can pinch-open once on a photo to enlarge it, then pinch one more time to view it in full-screen mode. If you have uploaded high-resolution photos to Facebook (like I did for my recent trip to Amalfi Coast), you’ll be seeing detailed and gorgeous images on the iPad’s Retina display with Cooliris.
What I like the most about Cooliris, however, is how its features and interface facilitate a time-based approach to browsing photos. Because Cooliris has direct access via API to your Facebook and Instagram accounts, you can view any photo that was uploaded by you or shared in your feed. With Cooliris, I can easily (and neatly) go back to the first photo I ever shared on Instagram, or browse my latest Facebook album with the wall UI. Similarly, I can see all photos by my Facebook friends, photos shared in my timeline, or check out “photos of me”.
There are some things I don’t like about Cooliris. For instance, it lacks an option to copy photo URLs and I find the “conversations” sharing process to be confusing and somewhat convoluted (you can have private “conversations” with your friends over email, but they’ll receive a Cooliris link to open in the browser, where they can login with an account). The wall interface looks great, but its lack of a scrollbar puts some limitations on understanding how many photos are “beyond” the area that’s currently displayed on screen. It’d be nice to have an indicator to better understand just how long a scrollable wall is.
Cooliris is fun, it provides a good-looking way to browse your photos and go back in time, and you can even share local photos to Facebook. Cooliris won’t dramatically change my iOS photo workflow, but it surely offers a compelling way to relax and enjoy my Facebook and Instagram feeds.
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