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Distributed creative teams face the unique challenge of having to collaborate on a product without being able to quickly and easily access files and works in progress via an on-site file server or intranet system. Emailing files to one another can get messy very quickly, and if you’re not careful, you’ll have multiple versions of the same documents in no time.
Fluxiom is a web-based digital asset management system for creative teams that offers a nice, visually rich interface and the ability to scale depending on your needs. It has a number of useful features, and there’s a free version available, so I wanted to see if it could function as a tool for helping people collaborate on a wide variety of media including text, photo, audio and video.
Right away, you notice that Fluxiom is clearly content-oriented. By default, you launch into your assets page, and you can upload files there either using the web interface, or using fluxUp!, an app that makes uploading multiple files easier. If you’d rather not install any software, you can always zip a number of files together and upload the whole archive via the web interface. You can also upload entire folders via the fluxUp! app, which I think gives it a huge advantage over other similar web apps for file sharing.
Once you’ve uploaded some media, it quickly becomes apparent how well-designed Fluxiom is. Interacting with your uploads feels a lot like using a native OS X desktop app like iPhoto, and because of this, there is almost no learning curve to the software. There’s a search field prominently displayed in the top left-hand corner; you can choose either thumbnail or list view; and you can filter your assets using a number of pre-set fields using convenient buttons running along the top of the asset pane.
As in iPhoto, you can also preview each asset you upload. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Fluxiom even supports PSD previewing, which is a huge benefit for graphic and web design teams hoping to use the app. To test the limits of file type support, I uploaded a RAR archive and a Flash file (.fla). Both uploaded fine, but neither could be previewed, though Fluxiom did know what the Flash file was, at least.
Tags & Stages
You can add tags to any uploaded media for easy searching and organization. That will really come in handy when you start dealing with large volumes of media. While Fluxiom does not have folders for organizing media, the “Stages” feature presents another good way to drill down and focus only on the media relevant to your specific purposes. Stages is designed to help you share a limited set of material with a particular client. So if you’re designing an ad for someone, you can create a tag for that project, assign it to all relevant media, and then create a stage using the tag. You can then email a link to that stage which, once the correct password is entered, will allow them to view and download the media you’ve designated.
Stages is also a great way to parse out media for individual assignments to different team members. This is especially useful if you’re working with a consultant or external contractor, since you can then ensure any IP not pertinent to the task at hand remains safely out of reach.
Fluxiom is not only a great way for you and your team to share files amongst each other and with clients, it’s also a great way for others to share files with you. Using the “Dropbox” feature, anyone can upload a file or files to your account, so long as they have the proper address and can confirm that they have a valid email address. Media uploaded via this method is then stored in a queue where you can choose to accept it, thus moving it into your main asset library, or reject it, whereupon it is deleted.
I can think of a thousand different uses for that feature, with the most appealing to me being a submission form for photographic or illustration work for contribution to a publication or web site. Fluxiom even makes it easy for you to post your Dropbox link on your web site so that, if you want to, you can open up content submissions to the general public.
Pricing & Conclusions
Because of how easy it is to share and receive files via Fluxiom, and because of custom branding and API access, this is one of the most impressive and scalable asset management systems I’ve seen in a web app, and especially one that offers a free account. Paid accounts range from €9 (about $12.50) all the way up to €169 ($235) per month, and offer a variety of storage/user limitations. Definitely give the free account a shot first, since it may be enough if you just want to use it for yourself, but I think creative teams will quickly see the value of an upgrade.
Share your opinions on Fluxiom in the comments.