Review: Fluxiom

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.

Screenshot of Fluxiom interface

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.

Screenshot of Fluxiom's User Management screen

Technical analysis

Cross-browser performance is very impressive. Much of Fluxiom is built on Script.aculo.us which itself is built on Prototype and the different frameworks really deliver.

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.

The Features

Uploading and Downloading

Screenshot of Fluxiom's upload window

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.

Screenshot of Fluxiom's uploader bar

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.

Drag Selection

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.

Screengrab of Fluxiom's drag-and-select feature

Sharing

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:

  1. Send link – Send a password and a link to download a .zip archive of the assets
  2. Send attachments – Send an email with the assets as file attachments
  3. Use my email client – Open a new email in my local email app with a password and a download link

Screenshot of Fluxiom's sharing capability

RSS Feed

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.

Screenshot of Fluxiom RSS feed

Previewing Assets

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.

Screenshot of Fluxiom's Preview function

The Highlights

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.

The Lowlights

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.

Conclusions

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.

Rating

  • Software name: Fluxiom
  • Maker: Wollzelle
  • Price: Starts at 9 Euros per month
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Comments

0 comments on “Review: Fluxiom

  1. Pingback: I Blogged This » Blog Archive » ThinkVitamin.com is Live!

  2. Hi Sam,

    Vitamin has its own inbuilt versioning system which allows you to upload wholly new versions of assets. As far as I know it doesn’t plug into any external systems though.

  3. Peter: Cool that Vitamin has its own versioning system… ;)

    Sam: As Peter said, you can upload new versions of individual assets, and revert to older versions (at any time you can download and preview any version of the asset).

  4. I’m glad to hear about the versioning support but Istill have some more questions.

    What file type support is there? Is it just for images or can you post PDFs, DOCs, and font files for that matter?

    Is fluxiom just for group asset sharing or is there also a permissioning schema for client access?

  5. Nice web app but too expensive and I do not see much reason for a company to use this service for the following reasons:

    - why would anyone up and download his files to a web server
    A quality stock photo is at least 10 MB long. It seems to me insane to store all those big files on a web server and download them when needed over the Internet.
    - Windows Vista will provide an excellent search and file oganization feature. I am not sure if Windows Vista will be shipping with WinFS.
    - ther are many cheap alternative web apps (especially image galleries) that can be deployed on intranet server and you are not limited by disk space.

  6. Another nicely looking clon without idea behind it and EXTREMLY overpriced.

    What i should pay for? Design? It`s service, not art gallery.

  7. Andrew:
    - “why would anyone up and download his files to a web server?”
    like Peter said in this article: “Simply upload the files, fire up your web-browser and they’ll follow you from machine to machine like a lovesick puppy.” – i like that one.

    - “Windows Vista will provide an excellent…”
    hm. excellent features – but no release date ;) And it won’t solve the “Internet” problem you mentioned before

    - “there are many cheap alternative web apps…”
    yep – thats the point – you can choose the web app according to your wishes – fluxiom is primarily meant for teams. With versions, previews (including color-profiles), full-text-search, tagging and rss it is more than just a data storage.

    Elias:
    Sure you have to pay for the design too. It’s part of the development process.

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  9. Any possibility of releasing it as an app I can install on my company’s internal server? If so, could it tie in with existing intranet software via XML-RPC?

    I see it doing wonders in a large design department, both on the internal network and externally for outside contractors. While having it on the internet offers flexibility, having it on a local network will help a great deal with speed and redundancy.

  10. Pingback: Fluxiom at Brandon’s Blog

  11. I read a while back that Fluxiom will NOT be available for internal use. It’ll only be a hosted solution.

  12. Companies likely to use something like this will most likely have pretty high spec internet connections.

    Sure it’s not for everyone, but having a central store for digital assets is a massive benefit for design agencies and the like.

    A couple of places I have worked would have loved something like this but were unable to set up the infrastructure necessary to allow “client access” to the asset library.

    Looks like a reasonable solution to me and didn’t strike me as particularly expensive either.

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  15. I tried the trial, and cancelled. Here’s what I wrote to them:

    Hi,

    I found your product today “fluxiom” and at first I was excited, it seemed like exactly what our organization was looking for. I signed up to the Pro package. At first it started out good, the branding was nice I could make it look like our corporate site. And then it just went downhill.

    I added an asset. Then I logged out and logged in as a test user I had made and attempted to delete that asset. Asset deleted! Uh, what? How could I just delete another users asset? Surely there must be some security preventing people from deleting other peoples stuff. I searched high and low, through google and your blog. Nope nothing.

    At this point I realised you had no online help pages. Just a blog. Hmm $133 a month and no help files? Something is wrong here.

    Then I dig deeper. I want to use fluxiom to be able to give my customers access to some of our assets, mainly press photographs etc. So I look if I can set up groups, and set only certain assets viewable by certain groups. Can I do this? No? Uh… something is very wrong here. Basic security is not present.

    Lastly I try to tag an asset. I spend 10 minutes trying to find how I do it. Only on reading someone ELSE’S website do I find I have to click the arrow in the top right corner to change to “administrative mode” to add tags. Very unintuitive.

    But then Ah Ha! I think, “Administrative mode”, that’s where all the features have been hiding. So I go back to the user and group management page, thinking I would be able to click the arrow and access all the features above, like real security permissions. ….But no, the arrow is gone.

    And so goodbye fluxiom. I don’t really know what point you have, you’re a neat little gadget, certainly not worth the monthly fee, you promise a lot, but offer little. I am sorry I wasted 3 hours on you this afternoon.

  16. I’m glad to hear about the versioning support but Istill have some more questions.

    Is fluxiom just for group asset sharing or is there also a permissioning schema for client access?

  17. Well many thanks to the app. it makes on te get to the images easier like picasa. sorry for my bad english but i hope u understand what I say peter:)