An in-depth Look at Ember, The New Digital Scrapbook

If you have been a reader of Mac.Appstorm for any considerable length of time or you consider yourself fairly up to date with the Mac software world, chances are that you are familiar with Realmac Software. The team that brought you Analog and Clear have been working hard for several months to bring you the sequel to their LittleSnapper app, and it’s called Ember.

LittleSnapper, which is no longer available from either their website or the App Store, was a digital scrapbook and screenshot tool for your Mac, and Ember is here as a revamped and exciting update to replace its older brother. Let’s take a look and see how it holds up in the competitive screenshot app market.

Digital Scrapbook

Ember allows you to save and organize images and screenshots into collections in the hope that it will become your digital scrapbook on your Mac. The idea is simple: be the hub of all your images and screenshots, yet it leaves itself open to be used in a myriad of possibilities as the user sees fit.

I started using Ember to help with my fitness and gym workouts. When researching about workouts online I could snap the specifics of the workout and when it came to going to the gym I could decide what I want to work on, and then browse through my ‘Workouts’ collection. I followed the same route when looking for new equipment; Ember allowed me to store my favourite weight benches from Amazon, and I knew I could always come back to it a few days later once the pay check came in.

Filling your library

The most important part of having a digital library and making it useful is filling it with the appropriate material. Whatever way you choose to work with Ember there are numerous ways that you can get your images into it. LittleSnapper users can easily import their libraries to Ember, so fear not if you are worried about a transition.

Ember Library

Ember Library

Screenshots

The most obvious way to get content in your library is using Ember’s screenshot tool. It allows you to capture Fullscreen, Timed Fullscreen, Area and Window images – it is available through a button in the app, or in the menubar.

Snapping from within the app

Snapping from within the app

From the web

One of Ember’s best features is capturing images from the Web. You can use its extension for Safari or Chrome and snap whole sites to your library, or use the built-in browser to snag your desired image. Both work well, but I feel the extension could do with some work; for example you can currently only snap entire web pages, whereas there is a great tool in the built-in browser that lets you snap a specific section of the site, and it works surprisingly well. Dragging and dropping images from the browser also imports the images to the library – a great time saver if it’s just small parts of the site you need.

Built-in browser's selection tool

Built-in browser’s selection tool

Subscriptions

Subscriptions are a completely new part of Ember that it’s predecessor never saw. They are what it looks like, subscriptions to your favourite websites via RSS, and you can easily save them directly into your library. If you’re struggling for inspiration, Ember comes with some recommended sites to add to your subscriptions.

Subscribing to your favourite sources of inspiration could be a great way to use Ember

Subscribing to your favourite sources of inspiration could be a great way to use Ember

Local import

The last way to import is by dragging and dropping files on your computer into the app like you would when you are moving them around. It’s quick and easy, and lets you fill up your library with images painlessly. If I could add one feature on how you add images to your library, it would be that you could have live folders as seen in Pixa, that would allow you to link folders on your Mac to Collections in your Ember library – this would make Ember much more convenient for me, knowing I had all my images in one place.

Annotations and Sharing

Of course one of the biggest benefits of a digital scrapbook is that it is much more versatile than its paper counterpart, and perhaps the best tool to take advantage of that is the annotation of your images. Unfortunately this is one of the only places that I think needs some adjustment.

In what I assume was an effort to simplify and streamline the process, the editing features have been reduced to text, freehand tool, crop and rotate. It has left me wanting more flexibility, and ultimately I think it falls short in this aspect compared to other apps like Skitch which has more colour choices and shapes like arrows that often times work better on a computer than freehand tools.

The colour palette and editing tools

The colour palette and editing tools

On the plus side I think that these minor flaws are the sort that most apps have when they enter the market, and should the team want to, could be fixed fairly easily.

When you are done with your image, Ember has some pretty powerful sharing options with a number of services like Twitter, Messages and CloudApp, all just a few clicks away. Furthermore you can drag the files out of your Ember library and into anywhere on your Mac.

Sharing options

Sharing options

Conclusion

Ultimately Ember is a powerful app that lets you keep a very well organized library of images and edit and share them as you please. The price factor is likely going to be a barrier to some, at $49.99 (£34.99) it is going to dissuade some, but for a large number of people I can see it being well worth the money. While it has a few flaws, I have great confidence in the Realmac Software team, and am certain we will see great updates in the near future that make Ember even better.

Overall, it is a fantastic update to an already great application, and could be your way to creating a perfect digital scrapbook for whatever your needs.


Summary

An update to LittleSnapper, Ember is your Mac's digital scrapbook — the place where you'll keep your screenshots and digital inspiration organized.

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