By Neil Bennett | on July 13, 2009
Price: 185 . 250
Pros: Keeps projects organized; behind-the-scenes time tracking and versioning; works almost seamlessly.
Cons: Won’t appeal to all creatives; lacks support for some applications, such as QuarkXPress.
The flowchart runs from left to right. Your project file (such as a Photoshop PSD, InDesign INDD or After Effects AEP) sits in the centre with its constituent elements to the left and any exported files to the right. For any file in your Map, you can view a thumbnail or open it up for an instant preview. You can scroll through the pages of a PDF, though not InDesign files.
You can also have a look at each file's internal attributes (above) -- these aren’t traditional metadata, but data relevant to the type of file it is. You can see the names of layers within PSDs, fonts and colour swatches within InDesign and Illustrator files, compositions within After Effects projects, and so on.
All of this information is searchable through panels in both the main Flow application and the Flow dashboard. So if you’re looking for a Photoshop composition but all you remember is that it had a layer called ‘Woman in Red’ in it or used the Plantin font, you can search for these.
The Search function let you find projects and elements, with options for searching not only by the name of the project, but also by names of layers, compositions, swatches or fonts.
Most of the time with Flow you won’t need to search, though. If, for example, you want to find a stock shot of a woman in a red dress that you comped into a PSD that you used in a brochure, you open the brochure in Flow and trace back to the original image. Flow remembers where that image was when you used it, even if it’s not accessible anymore – so can tell you what the name of the CD or external drive it was on so you can dig it out.
Moving around the Map is swift and easy, using the spacebar to Hand tool-move around and Cmd/Ctrl and your mouse’s scrollwheel to zoom in and out. There’s also a clickable overview in the bottom left, in case you get lost.
The flowcharts can get very large on complex projects, but they never get messy, due to the clear visual interface. Flow colour-codes different node types and greys out elements nodes that aren’t on the same to the selected file, and groups similar types of files together if there are more than 15 (or an amount you set) attached to a single project file. This clean layout is especially important if you expand the ‘stubs’ below media files that show which other projects they’re connected to -- say, to check where a logo is used either before you change it, or to quickly see which projects files need be opened and updated with the new version.
You can bookmark Maps of current or regularly used projects to quickly access them -- and share Maps with other Flow users on your network. With only a single licence, we couldn’t test this, but apparently it works without needing to be set up, through GridIron’s own networking technology.