Y Combinator’s demo day is coming up next Tuesday, but one of its startups has given us all an early surprise to tide us over. Collections is officially launching the public beta of its content manager Mac app today with initial support for Facebook photos, Instagram and Google Docs.
The free software aims to reimagine Apple’s Finder tool for the Internet age by pulling together your digital life into one convenient place. Think of it as a stripped-down version of Tweetdeck for content (e.g., photos and documents). It gathers together the feeds from your different accounts and lets you like or comment on the photos and edit the documents.
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We’re back in New York this November for the 4th edition of our growth-focused technology event.
“Managing your digital content is a frustrating experience because it’s scattered,” co-founder Jordan Lee said in an interview. “We want to put [users] back in control of their digital content by directly connecting them with these services.”
Collections has been in private beta for its first two releases, first with multi-account Google Docs support and then eventually Instagram. The company’s 5,000 testers have already synced about 5 million documents and photos.
The software’s still in its early stages so some of your favorite services aren’t integrated yet, but the team has plans to add local file support, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box in the near future. They’re taking a productivity-heavy approach, at least for now. A Windows version is also in the works.
“The ultimate premise of this application is that we want to allow people to bring content from different places and bring them together into collections,” Lee said.
Based on my test drive of the app, it would fit into my own life pretty well. It’s not a 1.0 release, so Collections is still rough around the edges. I ran up against a few UI quirks or missing key features. Given how big a goal these guys have set for themselves, the app’s not going to deliver all of it on day one, but the potential is definitely there.
By the way, the founders say they’re open to feature requests, so feel free to let them know what you think is missing.
Getting it up and running is pretty straightforward. Simply log in on the accounts you want to use and give it a few minutes to pull down your content. The app downloads a segment of your photos to your Mac and will grab more as you need them.
The left column of the interface lets you choose from your different feeds, and a second column is contextualized to display a list of your content. The rest of the window is left for your photo or document.
Personally, having a desktop interface for Instagram, similar to Instagrille and Carousel, is the most exciting feature. Keeping up with my photo feed can be a chore on my phone, so being able to scroll through and search on my laptop is clutch. If you’re active on both Facebook and Instagram, this app should be handy for you too.
Productivity hounds will definitely be interested in the Google Docs integration. A smart aleck over at Hacker News called an early version of the app “a desktop client for a web app that replaced a desktop client.” The description’s not altogether inaccurate, but it doesn’t take into account all the hair I’ve pulled out trying to get information I need off of Google Docs while on a spotty Internet connection.
It’s not for everyone, but I suspect most of us could benefit from having access to the content we need in a lean, no-nonsense desktop interface.
Collections is built by a two-person team, Lee and Tony Xiao, that met at Princeton. Interestingly enough, they met last year at a talk by Peter Thiel hosted by the campus entrepreneurship club. Earlier this year, they reconnected at the same venue after hearing Walter Isaacson discuss his biography of Steve Jobs.
The two are signed on to the current batch of Y Combinator startups and are also participants in Highland Capital’s Summer@Highland student entrepreneur program.
The founders are primarily focused on building the user base before moving on to monetization, but it’s likely they’ll adopt a freemium model similar to that of Dropbox and Evernote. Eventually, premium enterprise-focused services could be added to the mix.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for these guys at next week’s demo day.
Header image via Flickr / Sarah Elizabeth Simpson