The summer is drawing to a close for many and the summer vacation season is also near the end. The need to share all of your great vacation photos with your family and friends is becoming more apparent and now is the time to do it. You could of course just email all of your photos to family, but that would be cumbersome and boring. While there are many online photo sharing websites, you might like something with a little more flare. Hoping to bring that little something extra is Photo Album by FlippingBook.
Photo Album allows you to transform your photos into sharable photo albums. The goal of Photo Album is simplicity and ease of use, but does it live up to that expectation? That’s what we’re here to see.
Photo Album by FlippingBook allows you to create photo albums using predesigned templates and share them through the Albm.com service. Photo Album uses the Albm.com service to add the upload and sharing functionality. You can download it for free from the Mac App Store, and if you decide you like it enough to go pro, you can buy their extended version for $19.99 as a separate download. The free app comes with 100 pages for your albums free, which should be more than sufficient for most needs. The pro version is where the shine starts to disappear, as it gives you 300 pages per year, and you then have to purchase more pages in-app, an unheard of restriction on standard Mac apps. The only good thing is, the pro version also gives you printing, pdf support, extra included themes, and other features, so it still might be of interest.
Getting started with Photo Album first requires that you sign up for the Albm.com companion service. Signing up for this service is pretty much required if you want to take full advantage of the upload features of Photo Album; the app is designed simply to let you create albums that you upload to their service, though with the pro version you can print albums or save them as PDF and use them elsewhere. Even then, you’ll still have to register for Albm.com before you can get started making an app, even if you intend to print it or save it as a PDF.
After you sign up for the Albm.com service, you will need to create a new album and name it. You will also need to choose a theme for your album as well. Once you have created your album, it is time to drop in your favorite photos at last.
At the core of Photo Album is the ability to take a few of your photos and turn them into somewhat mediocre photo albums that you can share via the proprietary Albm.com service. Besides that core feature, you actually can’t do much with Photo Album.
Photo Album comes with several themes that range from nice to down right cheesy. The good thing is that they have a “Theme shop” which contains more themes that thankfully are designed to an obviously higher standard. Those themes, of course, will cost you extra money. The “Theme Shop” uses in app purchases for those on Lion and you can manually use a credit card on Snow Leopard.
You can also make minor adjustments to the theme that is set to the pages. Once you click the edit button, you can choose between a set of very limited arrangements for your page.
You can also scale and move your images so that you can get just the right fit inside the frame.
There are no sharing options available inside the app; you must use the Albm.com service to do any sort of sharing. With the service, you can embed the html into a website or blog. You can also use your public album link to share on Twitter or by email. Sharing via Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn is also possible via the service.
Interface & Design
The interface of Photo Album is questionable at best. Many of the features are layered behind hidden buttons and menus. With these features so hidden, you do not even know you have the option to scale a photo or edit the layout of a page. Also the design is a heaping helping of the latest trend, hardwoods, linen, and traditional Aqua elements. Mixing the linen with hardwoods and adding in your traditional Aqua elements is very disorienting. There is no cohesiveness in the design and it leaves much to be desired.
Since you really cannot use Photo Album without reluctantly signing up for the Albm.com companion service, I will dive into the design of it as well. The design of the web interface is not bad and it is cohesive. The photo album is presented in a nice way by making it front and center. Overall, it is a good effort.
If I had to sum up my experience with Photo Album by FlippingBook in one word, that word would be disappointing. I feel this app is all wrong. To get any functionality out of Photo Album, you must sign up for the Albm.com service which is proprietary and does not have easily set security features, which makes me uncomfortable to place my personal family photos on the site. Even if you dislike the Albm.com web service, you have no choice but to use it. The included themes are pretty lackluster and some even verge on cheesy. The design is haphazard and in-cohesive and also includes a healthy assortment of well-hidden features and buttons to confuse the user. Photo Album goes against easy and simple and verges on downright upsetting. Out of 10, Photo Album gets a 5. There are too many areas of improvement that I could not possibly list them all, but I would start with giving the app functionality without the web service.
What is your favorite Mac photo book app? Do you agree with my review? I certainly want to know exactly what you feel, so comment below and get the conversation going!
Editor’s Note: We typically would only publish reviews of apps we’d actually recommend, but since this app is actually fairly highly rated in the App Store, we thought it’d be good to let you know our thoughts about it after trying it out. And in short, the app might be fine for making basic online photo albums, but if you’re looking for more than that, you really likely will want to look elsewhere.