MetaLab, an interface design company that also produces a few products, has just unveiled a major new redesign of its collaboration app, Flow.
Flow got lots of attention when it launched two years ago, with reviewers calling it “a beautiful tool” and even “the most beautiful task management app yet.” In a Web industry obsessed with good design and simplistic, even minimalist “undesign,” that’s high praise indeed.
But two years is a long time in the world of the Web, which is why it was time for a substantial overhaul, MetaLab chief executive Andrew Wilkinson told VentureBeat.
“We built Flow for ourselves, and we used to be a 15-person team,” Wilkinson said. “As we grew — now 55 people — we realized that the product just wasn’t built for larger, more complex organizations.”
As a result, the company’s overhaul has focused on making Flow work better for bigger companies — the kind where every employee juggles multiple projects, belongs to several different teams, and needs lots of sharing and collaboration features.
Above: For comparison, here’s what Flow looked like up until last night.
Image Credit: Screenshot by VentureBeat
The primary change is the addition of workspaces, which replace the old continuous list of real-time updates with one that can group your projects into separate spaces.
“We also redesigned and reengineered the whole app from the ground up — including the mobile app — so it’s easier to use than ever and stupidly fast,” Wilkinson said.
MetaLab’s creation of Flow echoes another popular collaboration app, Basecamp, which was also created by a design company, 37signals. Like 37signals, MetaLab takes the somewhat counter-trendy tack of requiring its customers to pay for what it believes to be a valuable service.
MetaLab now has “thousands” of paying customers, each of whom pay $10 per month or $99 per year to use the service — though pricing will be rising to $19 per month and up with the new version. Wilkinson says that over 150,000 people have tried the app, using its free trial, but you cannot use the service for free after the 30-day trial period.
(Incidentally, 37signals cofounder David Heinemeir Hansson, aka DHH, will be speaking at VentureBeat’s upcoming DevBeat conference — so you won’t want to miss that if you’re an aficionado of easy-to-use, elegantly-designed, and stupidly fast Web software. Register now.)
To make the upgrade, MetaLab took Flow offline starting about 7 p.m. Pacific and brought the new version online this morning.
Read on for the full list of new and updated features in Flow, direct from the team at Metalab. Screenshots? We’ve got those, too.
Workspaces: Everything is organized into workspaces, making it super easy to keep everyone on the same page and to onboard (and offboard) teammates.
Dashboard: Keep tabs on what everyone’s doing in the workspace from the Dashboard or focus on activity from the tasks you’ve subscribed to. The Dashboard feed acts like threaded email notifications, grouping same-task activities together and letting you respond with a comment inline.
Shared Upcoming: View everyone’s due tasks in the new Upcoming calendar view.
App Pane: Tasks and day lists appear instantly in the app pane, allowing you to still view and manage task lists on the left.
Soft Deletion: No longer do you have to click past a confirmation dialog every time you delete a task. If you accidentally delete one (or many) you instantly recover it or down the line from the Dashboard.
Invite-only Lists: You can keep lists private from other workspace members by making them invite-only.
List Filter Bar: Quickly filter any task list by list, person, tag, or keyword.
Linked Repeating Tasks: Repeating tasks are now linked, letting you view all copies of a relating task in a single list.
Attachment Viewer: View all attachments in a task in a full-screen viewer. If your window is wide enough, the attachment view sits next to the task pane to let you read the feed and leave comments while viewing attachments.
Smart Quick Task: There are QTs for every list section—not just manually sorted lists—and are now as robust as the task form.
New Mobile View: The mobile view has been rewritten with performance in mind. We’ve also added more views, including the mobile dashboard, to make it super useful.
New Feature Tour: Onboarding your team has become much more instructive, spotlighting key features and explaining how to perform basic functions.
Workspace Guests: Invite guests to workspaces who are only given access to the lists they’re invited to—perfect for temporary teammates.
Shared List Sidebar: The order and grouping (formerly “Folder”) are shared amongst everyone in the workspace.
List shortcuts in focus: Since everything is shared, we add functionality for members to save shortcuts to their most-used lists in the Focus menu in the sidebar.
Internationalization Support: We are now set up to add support for other languages.
Complete Retina Support: Using a combination of font icons and retina graphic assets, we’ve made Flow 100% compatible with retina displays.
Improved responsiveness: Improved drag and drop: Using the latest HTML5 technologies, we’ve been able to greatly improve the performance and reliability of dragging and dropping. You can even drag and drop tasks between browser windows!
Faster API: All API requests have been optimized to be as fast as we can make them.
Faster Load Times (smart caching): Combined with the faster API, our smart browser caching means everything loads almost instantly.
Faster search: It’s much faster.
Infinite scrolling calendar view: We’ve optimized our calendars for computers, removing the restrictions of standard calendar pickers that force you to click through months.
Subscribed List: We’ve promoted our Subscribed (formerly “Followed”) list to the Focus menu; it also performs much better .
New Activities: We’ve added activities to handle more edge cases like people leaving lists or workspaces and automatically re-assigning their tasks.
No task descriptions: As we focus more on teamwork, we’ve decided to remove task descriptions, which weren’t being used by many people and were often written like comments. Instead of writing task descriptions in the task form, you can simply tab to the comment form where you can also attach files and save the task.
No List Navbar: In favor of the task pane on the right, we’ve removed the navbar from all lists. The new filter bar can let you filter lists by list, person, and tag like the navbar once did.
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