With the release of its API in February, users were finally able to interact with their Instagram network outside of their phones, as developers began pumping out web apps. Several good ones have surfaced recently, like Webstagram, Instagre.at, and Gramfeed, and each has its good and bad points and different layers of functionality.
Extragram takes these web apps to another level, providing a slick and easy to use interface for all of the social aspects of Instagram, along with a few (very cool) extra features like location and tag-based discovery modes, keyboard navigation, and real-time notifications.
For those unfamiliar with Instagram, it’s a mobile photo app-slash-social-network that has enough juice to be compared to Twitter. It allows you to take beautiful pictures easily, share them with others via popular social networks, and connect with other Instagram users — viewing their photo streams, liking, commenting, following, and being followed.
Extragram blasts by other Instagram web apps, offering more functionality, a better interface, and some additional features that will keep you playing. We take a look at Extragram, in depth, and discuss what makes it better, where it could improve, and why you will want to use it.
Extragram vs The World
Extragram focuses heavily on the user experience, with an interface that is easy on the eyes and a breeze to navigate. It also does a good job of getting out of its own way. Extragram gets right to the point, presenting the photo content first, whereas competitors like Gramfeed and Webstagram clutter up the initial view of their apps with unnecessary information about your Instagram account and their own service.
Views and Navigation
There are three ways to sort photos in Instagram, and Extragram has them all: what’s popular, your feed, and photos you’ve uploaded. Extragram goes a step further, however, adding a Discover mode that allows you to sort photos by popular or recent tags, hot profiles, what’s happening near you, and recent users. These are great ways to discover new content and users to connect with and are complimented by another Extragram feature, the Map View.
In Map View, you can browse the map as you please, dragging or searching manually, or allow Extragram to use your current location to get map pins of photos that have gone up around you recently. Click on a pin or on one of the items below the search bar, and the grid below the map view gets filtered down to that user, which you can interact with as usual. It’s a fun way to find new users local to you or in an area you’re interested in.
Side note: If you have enabled location sharing in Instagram, a small map will appear below your photo’s detailed view, showing the world where you were when you took the picture.
Extragram also has the Grid and Filmstrip views which are common in Instagram web apps. The grid view shows the photos in columns that vary depending on window size, with a small photo of the user on the bottom left, and like/comment counts on the bottom right. Hovering over a photo presents a rising overlay with the picture’s caption.
Interacting with the photos in Grid View is another way Extragram stands out from the competition. Webstagram, for example, allows likes, but you have to load a photo’s detailed view before you can see or add comments. Gramfeed doesn’t even allow liking until you go into the detailed view, and it opens photos in a new window — which is annoying at best. Another Instagram web app, Instagreat, does allow liking from the front end, and has its own interesting navigation scheme, but doesn’t allow commenting at all.
In Extragram you can do everything right from the Grid View. You can like photos by clicking the heart beside the like-count, and when you click on the comment bubble, a small window pops up within the web app that shows a comments tab where you can see comments and add your own. You can also click on the avatar of users who have commented, which opens an @Mention button that automatically adds the mention to the comment box, saving you a bit of typing.
The pop-up window also has a Likes tab that contains avatars of users that have liked the photo. Click on the avatar to see that user’s photostream, or hover over it and click the ‘@’ that appears to mention that user. In both instances, you can do multiple @mentions.
When you click on an image in Grid or other Views you are taken to the detailed image page. This page has a comments box off to the right side that works in exactly the same way as the pop-up, which is a nice bit of consistency on the part of Extragram. Filmstrip View is pretty much the same as the detailed page, except that there is a strip of additional images below that allows you to continue browsing. Both the detailed page and Filmstrip View also provide the name of the filter used on the photo when it was uploaded to Instagram.
Keyboard Navigation – Love It and Hate It
Extragram keyboard navigation as a means of quickly navigating through photos, especially in Grid View. Pressing arrow keys moves a green border around the selected image and other shortcuts like pressing ‘C’ opens the comments pop-up. Just type in your comment and press enter to submit. ‘Esc’ gets you out of the comments window if you change your mind.
Unfortunately, the keyboard navigation feature feels a bit unfinished. For example, if you want to view the details of a picture from Grid View, hitting enter doesn’t get you there. This also doesn’t work in Map View, although it’s supposed to, according to the Extragram blog. Pressing enter in Filmstrip View, however, does open the next image, which is almost exactly like the detailed page, so it feels like something is missing from other Views’ navigations.
Filmstrip View works pretty much as advertised, but not being able to use the comments shortcut to easily jump to the comments area takes away from the consistency described previously. Hopefully Extragram will smooth out keyboard navigation soon, and add shortcuts for likes and other app features.
Sharing, Privacy, and Real Time Notifications
You can use Extragram to share your favourite pics on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr. I’m not sure why all of the Instagram options, such as Posterous and Foursquare, are not included, but that will hopefully be remedied in the near future.
You can share your own photos, but a nice feature is the ability to share other users’ photos if they have sharing enabled in their Extragram account. If you see a share icon to the right of the comments bubble in both detailed and flimstrip view, click it, select your networks from the pop-up, and click ‘Go’. To enable sharing, use the Privacy tab in your setting.
Real time notifications are another nice addition to Extragram, letting you know when other Instagram users comment on or like your photos.
Extragram is the best web app interface for Instagram to date. It has all the social features of Instagram packed into a design that is both beautiful and well thought out. Extra features like Discovery mode and Map View add even more value, and make you want to stay in the app and play for a while.
While there are still a few things that need work, like more seamless functionality in the keyboard navigation, if you want a fun and easy way to interact with Instagram on your laptop or desktop computer, you won’t go wrong with Extragram.