Collections review

The developers of Collections say that they challenged themselves to rebuild Finder - or more generically, the file browser - for the Internet age. It’s an ambitious remit and the tool they’ve created doesn’t quite fit that bill. But it does show some promise.

Collections is a free desktop application that enables you to connect to a selection of popular social and cloud services, then retrieve your scattered content from them. At the moment Google Drive, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are directly supported. You’ll need to add each service individually using your username and password for each one.

Once hooked up, Collections pulls some of the content from each of those services. In the case of Instagram and Twitter it grabs everything. With Facebook, only photos, video and a list of your friends is retrieved. The program has an integrated web browser so you can view tweets, images and inline video directly within the app.

If you’re wondering about your local files, they’re catered for too. Go to Finder and select a file that you’d like to add to Collections. Using the keyboard shortcut CMD SHIFT S sends the selected file to your Collections inbox. The same goes for web pages when browsing with Chrome or Safari.

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Once the app’s stuffed with content, you can begin arranging it. Collections lets you make folders called, funnily enough “Collections”. A collection or feed can be viewed in a variety of ways - as thumbnails, plain lists or detailed lists. A bit like a file browser, in fact.

One of the most interesting things about the app is that it allows you to share individual items or collections with other people. You can “add” other users to an item, giving them permission to view, either via email or using Collection’s own database of members.

At this stage in the review, Collections is sounding pretty good. It’s shaping up to be a unified file handler, a layer that sits over the services you use. But this is also where the cracks begin to appear.

It’s actually a lot easier to share material on the parent services Collections connects to than it is from within Collections. Though you could argue that the built in browser works around this limitation, the implementation isn’t consistent. Other tools have buttons that let you share material to social services - why not Collections?

You won’t find all the service support you might expect here either. There’s no Pinterest, no Dropbox integration and no iCloud. These would be essential for the app to be seriously considered as a cloud based file manager for the Mac.

Another issue, while we’re thinking about Collections’ apparent modernity, is that collections behave like folders and look like folders. In other words, items can only exist in one collection at once. Where are the tags? It seems like a retrograde step to impose hard folders on tools that already have more effective and modern methods of categorisation built in - like Google Drive.

Overall, it’s an app with a lot of promise and some welcome features but this feels like beta software rather than a final release.

OUR VERDICT

The modern file browser, according to the chaps behind Collections, brings together the files you have scattered across cloud and social services. That sounds like the kind of Finder we’d like to see and, if it worked as well as Finder, it’s a tool we’d love to use. Collections has potential, but it needs more work.

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