Ember is the latest in a growing lineup of Mac applications from U.K.-based Realmac Software, the independent developer behind the likes of Courier, Rapidweaver and hit iOS app Clear. Billed as a tool to create “your digital scrapbook” Ember is in-fact the spiritual successor to Realmac’s previous app, Littlesnapper.
Originally released back in 2008, Littlesnapper’s appeal was found in its proficient screenshot management. Building upon the already strong set of default screenshot-taking options found within OS X, Littlesnapper beefed up the capabilities, adding a handful of features set to make editing, storing and sorting your screenshots a breeze.
Fast forward to Tuesday’s release and the renamed version 2.0 of the application, Ember, hopes to build upon Littlesnapper’s foundation and go beyond that of a candid screenshot manager. The app is available in the Mac App Store for $49.99.
In the app’s new introduction video, there’s a strong vibe that Realmac hope to channel some of Pinterest’s growing appeal, showing off Ember as a way to collect more “real world” shots. Going beyond the typical use-case of capturing website shots, Realmac’s latest is presented as a way to also build collections of such things as interior design pics, fashion snaps or anything else you may be interested in.
Whereas iPhoto stores your photo memories, Ember’s mission seems to be one to store visual collections for anything and everything else. On launching the app this goal is put front-and-center with an initial description claiming that the app is intended to “help you collect images, webpages and screenshots that inspire you.”
When using the app for the first time you will be taken through a brief setup which asks you to install an optional browser extension (Chrome or Safari only), along with offering to import your data – if you have any – from Littlesnapper. After this welcome, you are presented with the application’s main window from where you can start dragging in pictures, sorting through your collections or snapping shots.
Very much like its predecessor, Ember sports a clean, straightforward design, with legible controls, clean type and clear icons. Navigating around and becoming familiar with the app won’t cause you any trouble and won’t take you long — the app is broken down into just three main views: your library, your subscriptions and a built-in browser.
The library is where you will spend most of your time, as this is where all your collected shots live. Getting a snap into your library can be done either by dragging an existing image into the app, or by taking a screenshot using the built-in tools.
Ember lets you take a screen capture of either an individual application window, a specific area of your screen (shown above), or the entire screen. You can also snap the entire screen on a five-second countdown — handy for when you need to take action, such as capturing the look of a hover state, or an animation in action, on a website.
Once a shot is in your library there are a few ways you can sort it. The main method is to organize your snaps into folders — this simple cataloging is then supplemented by the ability to optionally add tags, a detailed description and even a website address to each picture. This ability to append a website address to each shot is a nice touch and one that proves useful in many scenarios.
With a screenshot in your library you can then easily annotate, crop and edit it with simple tools and share it with a healthy choice of options, including AirDrop, Messages, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and email.
Beyond the library is the in-app browser, providing a quick way to grab a shot of a website without having to leave the app. I didn’t find myself using this feature to much, as I tended to be snapping in my actual default browser as-and-when I felt the need to save something. However, Ember’s in-app browser does have the neat ability to resize a website down to tablet or smartphone size — a handy feature for capturing websites at different breakpoints, but something that feels sincerely niche in an app seemingly trying to reach broader appeal.
Ember’s subscriptions feature is what truly sets it apart from its forefather Littlesnapper — adding the ability to view screenshots from external sources, via an RSS feed. The app comes pre-loaded with a list of suggested subscriptions, such as popular Dribbble shots, National Geographic snaps, the editor’s favorites from 500px and more. Of course adding your own image sources is what makes this feature stand out, and it’s here where the Pinterest and Tumblr vibe truly comes into play. With the subscriptions feature it’s clear that Realmac is hoping to push the appeal of Ember to a wider creative audience.
Building upon what came before it, Ember offers a smart, well-designed and functional way to organize and sort your digital images. Yes, at its heart it may still be “just a screenshot manager,” but overall its simple offering boasts plenty of appeal due to its straightforwardness.
The built-in screenshot capture tools found in OS X will fit the needs of many, but for anything other that the occasional throwaway screengrab Ember is easy to recommend — an uncomplicated app that’s a joy to use. Ember excels at doing at what it sets out to do.