Ever since Threadsy closed up shop, I have been looking for a great aggregator that pulls together my email and social networks. And I tried a lot of services which offered an alternative, like Unifyo and Smak. But this isn’t something I wanted to pay for, and most apps had limited features for the free accounts.
So when I came across Alternion, I had a bit of a tough time believing it would actually work for me. I’ve been using it for well over two months now, and I can say that it really does end up being a major time-saver, although there are some features that I would still need before making the switch completely.
What does it do?
Alternion claims to put all your social web and email in one place, creating a personal dashboard of sorts. The sheer number of services it supports is mind-boggling. You can connect multiple accounts from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Flickr, Picasa and 220+ other social networks, along with adding IMAP and POP emails. The sheer breadth of app support alone is enough to make Alternion a winner in many people’s books.
Sign-up is super simple and once you connect your accounts, you’re basically ready to go. Alternion will take a while to bring in content from all your feeds and email accounts, so go have a cup of coffee while it does that.
Your Personal Dashboard
There are five aspects to Alternion: Home, Photos, Videos, Contacts and Messages.
This is where you’ll get a ‘News Feed’ of all the social-inclined networks you have connected. I say social-inclined because it’s not just restricted to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn; updates from friends on Picasa or YouTube will also show up here. Every single thing your friends share will be populated in this one wall, which can be viewed as a tiled Pinterest-like layout or a standard stream. I preferred the tiled view, called ‘Justified’ in Alternion. And yes, you can filter the feed by contact, as well as publish a new post to all your networks from a single window.
It’s a lovely, simplistic interface that would have been a great app by itself, regardless of the extras offered. But personal correspondence is a missing factor. There’s a tab to see Direct Messages from friends on Twitter, but nothing like that for messages on Facebook; a big miss, if you ask me. How am I supposed to see my Facebook messages in Alternion then?
This is self-explanatory, but photos aggregates images shared or posted by your friends. The one down-side here is that all of the photos are listed; so if a friend shared an album on Facebook, all of the images will populate your feed and not just one image that can be clicked to view the rest of the album. However, you do have the option of sorting your feed by ‘Album’, which will only show albums shared by friends. And finally, Alternion also gives you the ability to upload multiple photos to its server, add titles and descriptions, and share them to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa. I loved this part!
There are restrictions, though: 15 MB per photo, 100MB uploads at a time, and 300MB of uploads per month.
The Videos tab works similarly to photos, showing you the movie clips shared by friends on different video-sharing services as well as social networks. YouTube videos can be sorted using the service’s default categories such as Comedy, Gaming, Science & Technology, and more, but this works only with YouTube. No Vine or Vimeo support, at least not yet.
This one’s a biggie. Alternion goes through your friends and contacts across all the social networks and emails to bring them under one roof. Indeed, it’s the best way to see all your contacts in one place. The really sad part, though, is that there’s no mechanism to manage your contacts. I would have loved it if there was a way for me to merge two contact cards together, or delete a duplicate, or edit them in any way I see fit. It’s great that I can see all my contacts together, and one click takes me to their latest feed, but I want to do more!
This is perhaps the one aspect that sets Alternion apart from other aggregation tools: email. The ‘Messages’ tab will let you see all your emails from different accounts — be it multiple Gmail addresses, Outlook, Yahoo or your company IMAP — in one place. And while that’s great, especially coupled with the integrated Contacts tab, I did miss the Threaded view of Gmail as well as its robust search features. Once you get used to Threaded conversations, you can’t go back and right now, that is the biggest deal-breaker for me to use Alternion full-time.
While there are several aspects of Alternion that need improvement still, remember that it’s still in beta, and a lot of the features I talked about might make it through in the final version.
So should you go for it right now? Well, email aside, I think it’s still a great social web manager with its ability to take all your feeds and put them in one pane, along with segregating photos and videos in different tabs. And the integrated contacts hub is quite cool when you want to quickly look up a contact across various networks.
But as of now, where it falters is in personal correspondence. Email aggregation, while good, isn’t great yet, and Twitter is the only service where you get Direct Messages. If you are okay with going to original sites for these misses, then Alternion is good to go right now.
Alternion links over 220 social profiles and email accounts to create your own personal dashboard7
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