The last time I took a look at App.net’s file storage, I took a look at Swing, a Droplr-like app for easy file sharing using the social network’s storage API as its backbone. I loved it (and still use it), but also saw the need for an app that could leverage ADN’s API to act more like Dropbox.
Dropbox, Sort Of
Filebase is reminiscent of Dropbox in some ways. Not unlike Dropbox, it acts as a repository for any files stored in ADN’s cloud. It also makes them accessible. Think of the app like a gateway to ADN’s servers where you can upload, download and share files. You can even upload and share the contents of your clipboard, a feature power users might find useful.
But the app is different from Dropbox in a lot of other ways. First of all, unlike Dropbox, it doesn’t sit in a folder on your computer. Filebase is an app that looks like a Finder window, but it isn’t. Unlike Dropbox, it doesn’t live in your Mac’s menu bar and it isn’t always on. It’s also Mac-exclusive.
ADN’s API is open, so all it takes is a savvy Windows or iOS developer to get something like this on other platforms, but for now, Filebase is the only app of its kind I’m aware of. So files stored in Filebase are only useable in between Macs. If you have Mac at work and home, you’ll find it to be an incredibly useful service, but users who don’t have more than one Mac will only really find it appropriate as a cloud-based backup solution.
The advantage, of course, to using Filebase over something like Dropbox is privacy and security. ADN isn’t interested in what you store on its servers, and they have no intention of selling your information because you’re likely already a paying customer.
Separating Filebase from the Pack
Filebase does have some functionality that separates it from Dropbox and other similar cloud-based storage apps, though. The major difference lies within its Preferences pane, wherein you can choose the hotkeys you want to use to share content publicly on ADN. You can set your hotkeys to be available system-wide, with the caveat that the beta software doesn’t check for sensible hotkeys (Command Z is totally okay, as the screenshot suggests).
Filebase is also different because of its support to ADN, which you can post to directly from the app. This separates it from Swing, which allows you to upload but doesn’t include a fast way to post to ADN directly. In the case of Filebase, if there’s a photo you’d like to share, you can quickly drag it into the app and immediately tap the Share button and choose App.net.
Finally, what makes Filebase really useful as an ADN client is the ability to download files to your computer that you uploaded from other devices (such as an iPhone). Let’s say you shared a photo to ADN from Felix on your iPhone. It’s available right in Filebase when you get back to your computer. Every file you’ve ever uploaded to ADN is available within Filebase, which makes it really handy to have for efficiency alone.
About the Beta State
At the time of writing, Filebase is at version 0.5.1, precisely half-baked. Pete has provided a lovely summary of the app’s shortfalls on the download page, even including a note that the app “has a stupid icon” — no arguments there. As far as I’m concerned though, Pete’s awareness of and dedication towards fixing the problems mostly negates them.
And for what it’s worth, the software is incredibly stable as it is. Animations aren’t buttery smooth when I resize the app, but I haven’t had any issues with files not uploading or downloading. The app works completely as promised, with the exception of the issues Pete’s specifically made a note of.
That being said, there are a couple small things I hope Pete addresses by version 1.0 that he doesn’t list.
The first thing I’d like to see is a menu bar tool for the app. I don’t need anything fancy (or want anything fancy), but something like Dropbox’s current implementation would be great. It would also be a handy way to note the app’s activity. Dropbox’s menu bar addresses this problem with a checkmark or a blue loading icon, and I think Pee’s service could benefit from something as simple as that.
I’d also like the option to run in the background and open it automatically when I log in. Instead of having a dock icon, I’d like to be able to choose between an icon in the menu or the dock (or both). That way any file activity I have on ADN is always ready to go on my Mac.
It would be nice if the app supported multiple accounts, so tapping on the username in the bottom right would allow quick access to separate files. And finally, I wish I could choose a folder on my Mac to always keep synced to the service. I’ve got 10GB of space with my ADN account, and it’d be an easy way to use it for a useful backup of important files. Pete does say that AppleScript support is coming, so that might assuage many of my concerns and make it easy and convenient for power users to really put the app to work.
I’m really intrigued by Filebase. I think the potential is there in the app for it to be a great all-in-one file solution for ADN users on OS X, but I do have a long feature request list. As it is, it’s a very good beta that is only going to get better with time, and it’s free. Filebase is an easy way to keep track of all the files you’ve stored on ADN’s network without hogging your Mac’s resources — an essential app for everybody on App.net.