TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Near-Time's Flow

Volume Number: 21 (2005)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: Review

Focus Review

by Lesa Snider

Near-Time's Flow

Peer-to-peer Content and Knowledge Management for Panther

What do you get when you cross iChat, Safari, an RSS news reader, Microsoft Word, Adobe GoLive, and a handful of other popular productivity tools? You get Near-Time Flow; an extremely fascinating and powerful content/knowledge management, collaborative workflow solution for Panther.

Released this past June post-WWDC, Flow is virtually impossible to categorize as a single piece of software. After spending some quality time with it, though, you come to understand that it is part WYSIWYG web editor, RSS aggregator, word processor, outline tool, email client, and then some. This unique, hypertext-based software is targeted to both individuals and work groups of any size. It's an authoring tool, a gathering tool, an organizational tool, a collaboration tool... it should have a big red S emblazoned on its box!


Figure 1. Your Flow Space lists Folios, Shared Spaces, other Flow users within those spaces, and available servers.

Creating, gathering, and organizing

Life within Flow happens in two windows simultaneously, metaphorically dubbed Flow Space and Folio. From within your Flow Space you can create multiple Folios specific to your projects that can be shared or kept private. Once you've created a Folio, you can add any type of file by dragging it into the Pages pane of the Folio window where everything appears in an orderly list that can be arranged to suit your needs. Add RSS feeds, web pages, images, and other documents and enjoy the bliss of managing, viewing, and commenting on them all in one convenient place, within a single interface. It even dutifully alerts you when an updated RSS feed is available by placing a blue dot beside it. To gain an appreciation of how easy and powerful the Folio metaphor is, visit Near-Time's web site and watch the QuickTime movies illustrating several of Flow's key features.

You can also create new content in either text or HTML format, yielding a native Flow document. I found the Ruler option to be quite handy in this process, though text formatting is handled via a drop-down window similar to--and as inconvenient as--that found in Keynote. You can link content pages together by simply dragging them from the Pages list to the Content area of another. Add web pages and RSS feeds by dragging the URL straight into your Folio from a browser's address bar.


Figure 2. From within a Folio you can view content assets such as live URLs and more.

Sharing and publishing

Not only does Flow allow you to gather and organize all of your project documents, it gives you the ability to share and publish them out to others as well; Flow users or not. These options include:

  • sharing Folios through Rendezvous or other internal network
  • sharing Folios through Real-Time's server with other Flow users (available for free for one month after purchase, then $29.95 per year thereafter)
  • publishing Folios in web site form to an iDisk or other server

Once a Folio is shared, all files--even those of external origin--are transferred back and forth between the Flow users within a Shared Space. The touch of a button activates a manual sync, though Flow checks periodically and notifies you of any content updates with the aforementioned appearance of blue dots. Unfortunately, a major flaw showed up during testing when Flow became confused as to who had edited the last version of an Excel spreadsheet, and caused both my colleague and I to lose changes the other had made. Similar losses occurred with comments made on an Adobe InDesign file. The sharing process worked flawlessly with native Flow documents, RSS feeds, and web pages.

Flow supports version tracking on all content through a convenient date/time stamp bar at the bottom of each Folio document. Not only can you see when a document was edited, marked, or commented upon, but you can also see who made the change. I was impressed to find that Flow also accounts for differences in time zones between users in a Shared Space while testing its collaboration features with my colleague on the East coast. The Folio workspace itself would benefit from more standard controls for text editing (bold, italic, etc.) instead of the drop-down menu, as well as some visual cue as to what mode one is in, especially when invoking changes. I kept forgetting to click the Make Changes button at the bottom of my Folio window while trying to add comments to a document.

The publishing aspect of Flow is effective, allowing the creation of visually pleasing project web sites with a single button-press, enabling the sharing of Folios between those who use Flow and those who do not. We experienced a few problems when publishing a Folio to an iDisk: native Flow documents, linked URLs and RSS feeds uploaded flawlessly; however, attached files (Excel spreadsheets, InDesign documents, etc.) were included only part of the time--sometimes they would be uploaded to the server and sometimes not. To Flow's credit, it gleans iDisk data from your System Preferences; however, you must manually enter your iDisk password. Flow failed to snag it on both my and my review partner's system.

Smart Folios, blogging, and searching

Another impressive Flow feature is the Smart Folio option. By creating rules you can automatically and dynamically aggregate information from various sources. The concept is similar to Smart Playlists in iTunes and is at least as useful, especially as a project expands both in size, and number of team members involved.

If you are interested in the ever-expanding world of blogging, you will find Flow's options to create content and publish to Moveable Type, TypePad, Wordpress, or Blogger extremely useful. Simple, one-button uploads to your blog may be a compelling reason to give Flow a try.

Flow's sophisticated Search feature performed flawlessly. The best way to appreciate it is to open an existing Flow document (e.g. the included User's Guide), and then query it using a search panel that looks suspiciously like the one in Panther's Finder. It then creates a brand new page with all the results listed, highlighting the search terms as hyperlinks back to the appropriate section of the documentation. One can easily imagine how publishing this page to other Flow users would facilitate work on specific aspects of any project.

Final word

As a single, individual project management and authoring tool, Flow largely lives up to its claims. You can easily and effectively collect and manage the assets of a particular project within the Flow Space and Folio metaphors. As long as you're working with assets that Flow understands and can edit, it is also an effective collaborative tool, making the sharing of project documents between development teams and departments much easier than via email.

Flow's kryptonite, if you will, seems to be only when you mix in files that the program does not understand and must handle as attachments--that's where it became less reliable. The program is priced to be accessible to anyone who has serious collaborative needs, and is powerful enough to be at the top of the line of a new category of productivity software, once a few of the inconsistencies are worked out. To get a full appreciation for what Flow can do, you will need to climb a significant learning curve, though the trip is worth it to access the software's power for your projects.

You can try it for 30 days for free by downloading the trial version from the company's web site at http://www.near-time.com. The cost for a single seat is $99.90, and a ten user license is $859.95, a respectable value to be certain.


Lesa Snider is the owner of Flying Fingers (www.flyfingers.com), a creative new media firm specializing in web site visibility. She provides private and corporate training and consulting on web site marketing techniques, interface design, and search engine optimization, as well as a variety of design disciplines.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 2.69.0 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Evernote 6.9.1 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
jAlbum Pro 13.5 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more
jAlbum 13.5 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results - Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Google Chrome 53.0.2785.143 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Chromium 53.0.2785.143 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 53.0.2785.143: [Security Fix] High CVE-2016-... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.1.7.1524 R8 - Financi...
Save 20% on QuickBooks Pro for Mac today through this special discount link QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track... Read more
Sierra Cache Cleaner 11.0.1 - Clear cach...
Sierra Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for macOS X. SCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many macOS X functions. Novice and expert... Read more
Default Folder X 5.0.7 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more
Safari Technology Preview 10.1 - The new...
Safari Technology Preview contains the most recent additions and improvements to WebKit and the latest advances in Safari web technologies. And once installed, you will receive notifications of... Read more

Pumped BMX 3: Beginner tips and tricks
There’s a whole lot more to Pumped BMX 3 than meets the eye. Your goal is to perform a wide array of sweet flips and tricks, but that’s easier said than done. It takes well practiced timing and coordination, and the game doesn’t really explain that... | Read more »
Cybird’s latest release - BFB Champions...
Launched in the UK in early September, BFB Champions’ newest update is loaded with great new features, and looks set to outshine the original version by taking it out of soft launch and giving it a new lease of life. | Read more »
3 apps to boost your focus
As someone who works from home, my workspace is a minefield of distraction. Cats, tasty snacks, the wind blowing past my window, that cleaning that I suddenly can’t put off any longer. If I let distraction takes its course, I find that soon half... | Read more »
Pumped BMX 3 (Games)
Pumped BMX 3 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The final instalment of the smash hit #1 rated BMX game is here! Following on from the insane success of Pumped BMX 2, Pumped 3... | Read more »
4 games like Burly Men at Sea to inspire...
Burly Men at Sea is out today and it looks a treat. It tells the tale of three Scandinavian fishermen who leave the humdrum of their daily lives to go exploring. It’s a beautiful folksy story that unfurls as you interact with the environment... | Read more »
3 reasons you need to play Kingdom: New...
Developed by a tag team of indie developers - Thomas "Noio" van den Berg and Marco "Licorice" Bancale - Kingdom is a vibrant medieval fantasy adventure that casts players as a king or queen who must expand their empire by exploring the vasts lands... | Read more »
JoyCity have launched a brand new King o...
Great news for all of you Game of Dice fans out there - JoyCity have just released a brand new limited edition pack with a really cool twist. The premise of Game of Dice is fairly straightforward, asking you to roll dice to navigate your way around... | Read more »
Burly Men at Sea (Games)
Burly Men at Sea 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Burly Men at Sea is a folktale about a trio of large, bearded fishermen who step away from the ordinary to seek adventure. | Read more »
3 tips for catching the gnarliest waves...
Like a wave breaking on the shore, Tidal Rider swept its way onto the App Store charts this week settling firmly in the top 10. It’s a one-touch high score-chaser in which you pull surfing stunts while dodging seagulls and collecting coins. The... | Read more »
The beginner's guide to destroying...
Age of Heroes: Conquest is 5th Planet Games’ all new turn-based multiplayer RPG, full of fantasy exploration, guild building, and treasure hunting. It’s pretty user-friendly as far as these games go, but when you really get down to it, you’ll find... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

CAZE Annouces New Zero 5 Case for Jet Black i...
Hong Kong basd CAZE has announced Zero 5 case for iPhone 7/ 7 Plus, one of the world’s thinnest clear hard cases, measuring just 0.5 millimeters. CAZE has been producing and improving the Zero 5... Read more
Nest Egg Inventory App for iOS Offers Conven...
Campbell, California based Winprogger LLC has announced the release and immediate availability of Nest Egg – Inventory 4.1.22, an important update to their easy-to-use, yet comprehensive inventory... Read more
Factor4, LLC Launches Apple iOS and Android G...
Factor4, LLC, which offers gift and loyalty services to the SMB marketplace, has released free mobile applications that enable merchants to process via all Apple and Android devices. The Apple and... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Apple refurbished 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $50
Adorama has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini (Apple sku# MGEM2LL/A): $449 $50 off MSRP To purchase a mini at... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $759. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook... Read more

Jobs Board

Systems Architecture Prototyping - *Apple*...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Akron,...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Hardware Design Validation Engineer - *Apple...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Systems Architecture Prototyping - *Apple*...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- South B...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.