When it comes to sharing photos, there is no doubt that Flickr is the tool of choice. But what about web sites or more web focused images? There has been a desire from the creative community to have a tool that allows people to save, categorize and share content they find on the web.
Ember is a tool that was built to meet that exact need.
Developed by the team at Realmac, Ember is a full fledged web application built with the intention of being your online digital scrapbook.
Ember is the best way to share your design inspiration with the world — from webpages to screenshots, design to illustration, Ember is built for creatives looking to build an online design scrapbook.
If you’re not familiar with Realmac, they are the team that developed RapidWeaver and LittleSnapper for OS X. But don’t let that fool you — Ember is a full fledged web app that can be used no matter what operating system you prefer.
Functional and Social
Whether you simply want a place to store the web pages and images that inspire you or if you want to share them with the rest of the world, Ember can meet your needs. It has enough functionality to compete with other image sharing services, yet the interface is simplistic and doesn’t get in the way.
Site Wide Features
Similar to Flickr, Ember allows you to explore the images that have been added by its users. The options are seen across the top of the app in the main menu. Explore, Images, and Categories are the three ways to access the existing publicly available content.
Explore will give you a page that breaks the images down by tab. The Images page is time sensitive, giving you the most recently added images first. And lastly and most obviously, the Categories page separates the images by category.
Ember was built with a focus on the social aspects, and that is obvious when using the pages related to your account. Each user account has 4 main pages: the Dashboard, Images, Collections and Favourites (That’s no typo — hailing from the UK, the Realmac team honours the Canadian spelling of words. Sorry to American readers for any confusion). Each page contains information related to your account.
Again, similar to what you’ll get in your Flickr Home page, the Dashboard gives you an overview of all the activity related to your account. The page is broken down into 4 sections that contain your most recently uploaded images, the most recently uploaded images of all the people you follow and all the activity related to your account (new followers and favourites etc.).
The Dashboard gives you a handy overview of all the stuff that may be of interest to you and — like most social-based applications — shows you what the people you care about have been up to.
Like most image or photo related applications, Ember loads a set number of image thumbnails on your Images page. And like Flickr, each image has a few pieces of metadata beneath each thumbnail: the date the image was uploaded, the comments posted about an image, how many times it was viewed and how many times it has been “Favourited”.
Along the top of the image, the user is given 4 options: you can Favourite the image, view all the sizes of the image, add it to a category (global), or add it to a Collection (personal). The user has these options available whether it is their own image or one uploaded by someone else.
Additionally, each image page contains the following information about that image:
- Privacy status (public, people I follow, secret or private)
- The number of times the image has been viewed
- The date the image was uploaded
- How the image was uploaded (web, LittleSnapper, or LittleSnapper for iPhone)
- The rating of the image (0 to 5)
- The image type (screenshot, websnap, photo, illustration, mockup, iSight, iPhone or other)
The Images page gives you everything you need to work with your snapshots.
Collections and Favourites
The last two tabs available are straightforward. The Collections page is where you can create collections of images or view your previously created collections. These are publicly viewable.
Although not exactly a feature per se, your user account is a big part of how you use this application. Each page has various options that are all account related.
The first item to touch on are the plans that are available. Once again, Ember’s membership structure is very similar to that of Flickr. You can stay with a free account, but then you are limited to 30 uploads per month. The next step up is the Pro account which features unlimited uploads.
The Pro account also allows unlimited collections and does not display the ads that adorn the site with a free account (or not account at all). And at $24 a year, the price of the Pro account is low for what you get.
Along the right hand side of each page, you will find all pertinent metadata for an image as well as several options for the account of the logged in user. Other than the dashboard, each page displays a summary of the user — sometimes your own account, sometimes the owner of the image you are viewing — that shows how many follows or followers the user has, as well as the total number of images the person has in their Ember library.
Also, when viewing a particular image, the sidebar contains an image stream which contains the current image centered between the next image and previous image in that person’s stream.
There are a few last options available for each image. For OS X users who have LittleSnapper installed, you can export an image from Ember into LittleSnapper. Unfortunately, when I try to use this option, I only get a blank image in my LittleSnapper library.
You can also tweet a link to an image from the sidebar. And lastly, there are several options for linking to each image listed in the sidebar: a direct URL, HTML code and forum code. Copy and paste the appropriate code into an external site to add your image.
A Viable Option?
Is this a good tool? Definitely. Some may feel that since Ember so closely resembles Flickr, you may as well stick with using just one of the two services. And without a doubt, Ember was designed to mimic Flickr. In fact, I grew tired of typing the line, “And similar to Flickr”.
But if you can get past the fact that the two apps are so close to the same and embrace the idea that they were created for different purposes, Ember is a joy to use. Being a young app, there are some bugs that still need to be worked out. But the ease of adding images into your library, especially for OS X users, combined with the social aspects make Ember a great tool to use.