Fluxiom is one of those web apps you seem to keep bumping into. It was first glimpsed back in November when the demo trailer was released and put up on Digg. Humming with a slinky jazz soundtrack and oozing shiny surfaces and fade effects, the two-minute teaser did everything to get our juices flowing so, when the possibility of an account dropped through our door we were happy to test it out.
What is it used for?
Fluxiom is a digital asset manager. So if you’re working from home, from the office, or in collaboration with a team, you’ll probably find a use for it. If you find yourself emailing documents here there and everywhere in a bid to stay up-to-date, then you’re sure to find Fluxiom useful. Simply upload the files, fire up your web-browser and they’ll follow you from machine to machine like a lovesick puppy.
The User Interface
The user interface is mouth-wateringly pretty. Once logged on, it’s hard to pay attention to anything other than just how utterly gorgeous the UI is. It’s universally adored wherever it goes too. At a sneak preview back in December there were actually gasps when it first went up on screen.
Tagging, uploading, downloading and sharing are only a slide-out-panel away and both fast and easy to use. Users and permissions are managed on a separate screen and asset previews are displayed in a scalable popup window.
We tested Fluxiom on IE6, Firefox 1.07 – Windows/Mac and on Safari and found no perceivable difference in look or performance across any of them. Anyone worrying about a Mac-bias has nothing to fear.
Download times are quick and initial startup takes about 5-10 seconds across a 500k connection. Memory usage is pretty much the same as other web apps. On our XP machine, Firefox 1.07 ticks over on about 21Mb of RAM and goes up to 35Mb after loading Fluxiom. GMail by comparison works at 32Mb.
The layout is clear and uncluttered although the fonts seem too small, making it difficult to read the text. Increasing the text size in Firefox didn’t seem to do much to rectify this.
The app will unpack a zip file upload although you can burn quite a lot of server time during the process. Full text search through Word documents, Excel files and PDF’s is also very impressive and worked quickly on the few files tested.
Uploading and Downloading
It’s a bit frustrating that you can only upload one file at a time. In order for Fluxiom to really fly, it’ll need some sort of drag-and-drop uploader tool. Also, we couldn’t figure out how to use the Tags functionality. This is either because it’s in Beta (and not finished), or because it’s not intuitive – it’s hard to tell at this stage. However, once you start your upload, the progress bar is quite handy.
Downloading is very simple. All you have to do is select the files you’d like to download, and click “Download”. If you select more than one file, it zips them up into one file for download.
This is by far one of the most amazing usability features that Fluxiom has to offer. If you want to select multiple files, you simple click and drag, as you would on your desktop. We’ve never seen this on a web app before, and it is quite an achievement.
Fluxiom makes it really easy to share your digital assets with others. All you have to do is select the files you want to share, click “Share”, type in an email address and choose from three options:
- Send link – Send a password and a link to download a .zip archive of the assets
- Send attachments – Send an email with the assets as file attachments
- Use my email client – Open a new email in my local email app with a password and a download link
Fluxiom allows you to subscribe to a global RSS feed for your digital assets. Whenever someone adds a file, your RSS feed gets updated. This is super useful, but we think this feature would be much better if the RSS posts included a URL to download the file.
Fluxiom has a nice feature for looking at your image files. Simply select the file, and click “Preview”. It opens up a new window with the file displayed, and some brief file info. The coolest thing about this feature is that you can resize the window and it dynamically resizes the image, to fit inside the window – nice touch.
Judged against traditional web-applications, Fluxiom is very fast.. There is almost never any page refreshing and despite actions feeling occasionally sluggish, they are nonetheless lightning fast compared to a page refresh.
The use of AJAX in Fluxiom is a real bonus – not so much because it makes it quicker (which it does) but because it makes the experience much more pleasant. With critical functionality only a slide-out away it is far easier to get things done than in traditional cluttered web pages.
Traditional apps often cram so much into a page that it’s hard to think, let alone work. Fluxiom uses AJAX brilliantly to keep such tools discretely stowed until the moment they’re required.
Although the UI is always intuitive, it can be a little confusing on the functionality side of things. The filtering buttons are unhelpful and often make you unsure of exactly what you’ve done at any given time.
The steps required to tag an asset are easy but not obvious and the drag and drop addition of editing privileges to users is unintuitive and somewhat gratuitous.
The asset window needs occasional refreshing, however, it’s not clear when you should do this. This is something that you’d expect to be automatic rather than user-driven.
The true test of any application is how well it does the job. How much easier does it make your work? Someone using the software long term can only really give the answers and on a day-to-day basis as this is where Fluxiom will come into its own.
As a web application in its own right though, Fluxiom is a knockout. It works across all the major browsers, is responsive, incredibly pretty and leagues ahead of traditional form-driven interfaces.
Pitted against other web apps, Fluxiom is a real winner. It occasionally suffers from being slightly difficult to use, in some respects, but far less so than any other web app. At the end of the day, its speed and beauty far outweigh any of the niggles.