December 02, 2010

What if Dropbox offered time tracking, versioning, & more?

Answer: You’d have something like the just-released GridIron Flow 2.0.  It can save your butt, for free. Why would you not start using it immediately?

The company has radically redefined what was already a unique & very powerful piece of software, enabling file sync & collaboration on top of automatic versioning.  Oh, and instead of costing a couple of hundred bucks per seat, it’s now free (!), with paid upgrades if you need more capabilities.  Read on for details.

I praised Flow 1.0 as being like an airbag, staying out of your way until it saves your bacon–by automatically versioning your files (think realtime Time Machine, with beautiful Adobe integration).  Trouble is, because the app is so unique, it’s sometimes hard for people to wrap their heads around & pay for up front.

The barrier to entry, however, is now zero.

The free product, Flow Essentials, tracks all files in a creative project and displays them in a visual map. You can now define projects and identify teams of people that will be part of the workflow. Flow 2 Essentials enables realtime collaboration, enabling users to add notes to nodes on the map, and to send emails (linking recipient to the node on that map) to the team or a subset of the group. The map allows you to see who worked on each asset, the size of the asset, and any attached notes.

This is all provided, along with 4GB of online Overflow storage (the Dropbox-style part), for free.  Unlike Dropbox (of which I’m a fan, by the way), Flow doesn’t require moving assets into specific folders; you can move and rename them while staying synced.

They also offer three premium services, each for $10/month per user, or $20/mo./user for all three (no contract required):

  1. Time Manager allows you to review the time you have invested on each asset, and provides a control feature to allow amortizing total time across multiple projects. It also displays percentage of time spent in each creative application and offers a manual entry mechanism that allows you to include time that is not file based (e.g. design & client meetings, phone calls, etc.).
  2. Versioning enables automatic file versioning & allows you to lock, delete, branch or drill down on any specific version. Versions are saved locally by default.
  3. Overflow shares not only the asset but versions of that asset as well. The premium service adds 50GB to the 4GB of storage provided for in Essentials.

Why am I promoting this app?  Do I or Adobe get some kind of kickback for sales? Nope. It’s just that having been a Web designer in a big agency, I know the pain of lost/overwritten files & the drag of filling out timesheet.  What’s it worth to help fix those problems?  More than the cost of a few coffees a month, I’m guessing.

If you take Flow for a spin, please share your impressions via the comments.

Posted by John Nack at 9:35 AM on December 02, 2010
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