Instagram has become a very popular service and app on the iPhone, by allowing you to create and share vintage-looking pictures with your social networks and check the recent pictures from your friends. Unfortunately, though, there isn’t really a way of interacting with the service on your computer. Instagram’s developers know this and have made their API available to anyone who wants to create an app for their service.
The app that we are reviewing today is a beautifully designed companion for using Instagram on your Mac. It’s called Carousel and it looks very promising. Does it deliver?
Apps that aim to bring the Instagram experience to your Mac have become quite popular recently, and we’ve seen several released. We reviewed an app called Instadesk a while ago, that also brings Instagram to your Mac, but in a fairly different way to the app we’re reviewing today. Instadesk is very conventional- it sort of feels like an “old” app. Carousel is very different, you’ll see why.
The setup process is pretty simple. You can buy the app for $4.99 on the App Store, and the first time that you use it you’ll be asked to put in your login info for Instagram. After that you are set, and you can see your feed and interact with it.
The first thing that you’ll notice is that the app is very, very pretty. It looks clean and simple, and has sort of a vintage look to it. It also goes with the mobile theme of Instagram by keeping big and mostly graphical buttons instead of a bunch of text buttons. It feels like an app that you might have found on your iPad.
The window has a wood frame instead of the usual graphite color, and the background has an old-school grey wallpaper pattern. It gives the app a very elegant, unique feel.
On the bottom you have a toolbar with three buttons that allow you to switch between your feed, the popular pics and your profile. Also in this toolbar is a refresh button. That is pretty much it- the app does a great job at keeping things simple, and getting rid of features that just take up space and create a confusing environment.
Viewing Your Feed
Your feed is shown vertically. You can see small frames with the picture and a bar with useful info like the user who uploaded it (along with a small image of their icon) and the date, place and number of hearts and comments it has. Oddly, the title of the picture is not shown and is nowhere to be seen, not even in the sub-menus.
The pictures are shown fairly wide, and this makes for a great way to view them. If you want to see them even bigger, you can double click them and you’ll get a preview window where you can pull it up full-screen or send it to iPhoto. The comments are displayed on a different window when you click on the text box icon, and from there you can write your own or watch the old ones. The love button works the same.
The keyboard shortcuts seem to be very well-integrated to the app — there’s one for everything and they are easy to learn. You can, for example, love a photo by just typing “L”, or comment on it by typing “C”.
Also worth mentioning are the beautiful themes that come along with the app. While the default one that we described previously is very impressive, the other three ones don’t fall behind. There are also Growl notifications, which is a very nice touch.
Of course, you can’t do things like post pictures, but that’s because the API won’t allow it and you can only do that through the iOS app. As far as lack of features, there doesn’t seem to be much to complain about. If anything, it’s a bit annoying that the title of the pictures isn’t displayed anywhere noticeable, while you can see things like the place where it was taken and the time it was uploaded.
There are also some things that apps like Instadesk have; but this one lacks; like albums, slideshows or a user finder, but those are features that I’m sure most of you won’t use – I know I don’t, at least not very often.
Carousel does a great job at keeping the most useful and primordial features, and getting rid of the ones that only make the app confusing and complicated. Unlike Instadesk, you’ll find your way around this app in just a few minutes.
We continue to see more and more of these amazing apps that mix the simplicity of mobile apps with the usefulness of desktop apps – much like we predicted back when Reeder for Mac came out. This is the way that desktop apps are heading, and developers need to embrace it and adapt to it because it’s getting annoying having to deal with conventional apps when you can have beautiful and simple apps.
So, which one do you prefer? The rather dull and old, but cheaper Instadesk; or the cooler looking and super simple, but expensive Carousel? I’d rather keep Carousel, to be honest. What about you? Do you like these new apps that feel like mobile versions, or would you rather keep the more conventional app style?