Viewfinder: Powerful Flickr Search for Your Mac

With more than five billion photographs uploaded, Flickr is a global go-to site if you’re looking for images. There are all kinds of interesting ways of interacting with the site – I love searching for photos of an unknown destination before I travel there, and it’s always interesting subscribing to the RSS feed of photos tagged with your hometown, as you’re likely to come across unexpected ways of seeing your familiar environment each day.

If you have reason to search for images regularly, or if you simply enjoy hanging out on Flickr, then you might be pleased to learn about Viewfinder. The app comes from the hand of Fraser Spiers and his company, Connected Flow, who have also given the world of Mac apps the excellent FlickrExport for iPhoto and Aperture, and currently costs just £15 (though that’s set to increase to £18 when the next version ships).

Whether your interest is simply in seeing other photographers’ take on subjects you’re keen on, or you’re after images to use in your own blog posts and design projects, Viewfinder makes searching Flickr a simple and enjoyable process. Join us after the jump to find out more!

The Interface

Viewfinder has a very simple interface:

Interface

Interface

The crucial thing, of course, is that search box at the top left. You can click on the disclosure triangle beside the familiar magnifying glass to select whether your search goes through “all text” or searches only for specific tags.

Beneath that search box is the filter bar that lets you refine your search results to include or exclude Commercial items, those licenced under Creative Commons, or Derivative works. And then you can sort by Relevance, Interest, or Date, and select a minimum size for the search.

Working With Viewfinder

So let’s take a look how this works with a quick search for photos of where I live, Birmingham in the UK.

Viewing Image Results

Viewing Image Results

You can set the number of initial results returned in the application’s Preferences, and then use the ‘Show more’ button to view further results. Changing any of the criteria for the search instantly updates the results, and you can use the slider at the bottom-left to control the size of thumbnail images. Additionally, Viewfinder supports Quick Look, so hitting the space bar when you have an image selected brings up a larger preview:

Large Image Previews

Large Image Previews

I find this Quick Look functionality really valuable, and it tends to be the tool I use most when searching for images.

Double-clicking an image downloads the largest available size to your Mac – this alone could save regular users of Flickr plenty of time, since it can be quite time consuming to get to the correct size for your needs.

Buttons in the download window make it easy to set the image as your Desktop, send it to Keynote (make sure your presentation is already open in Keynote, or you’ll get an error message), reveal the file in Finder, or copy details of its attribution to the clipboard.

By the way, the beautiful frozen landscape I’ve chosen to focus on in my screenshots is by hartlandmartin. Check his page for more great pics of canals and landscapes of the English Midlands.)

Downloading an Image

Downloading an Image

Ctrl-clicking (or right-clicking) an image additionally lets you copy the Flickr page address, or copy the HTML block required to easily embed the picture in a web page. You can also drag and drop images from the Viewfinder window into other applications – an email message, say, or a document in Pages.

Conclusion

Viewfinder is another of those tools that’s designed to do a specific job, and does it very well indeed. Of course, you could just use Flickr’s built-in search features. Or you could use a tool such as Alfred to initiate a search from your desktop – of course you’d still be working on the Flickr site following this approach, but it might prove to be a bit quicker for confirmed keyboard warriors.

Where Viewfinder shines is in its workflow, which makes the process of moving images from Flickr into your documents or designs so straightforward and easy. And although Flickr has some great design features, you still have to deal with some (Flash) adverts, and with perhaps more visual information than you want to have to look at.

Viewfinder focuses the process of interacting with the site down to a single, uncluttered window, and simplifies various tasks down to single clicks. Just for the simplification and the streamlining that amounts to, I think it’s well worth the cost.

There’s a limited free version of the app available for you to test it out. It runs just like the full version, but only allows two downloads each time you run it, and downloads are delayed for 30 seconds. Give it a go, and let us know in the comments what you make of Viewfinder!


Summary

Viewfinder is a Mac OS X application that dramatically simplifies the process of finding, downloading and using images from Flickr.

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