GridIron Flow: Ridiculously cool workflow management

Unless you buy After Effects plug-ins, you’ve probably never heard of GridIron Software.  That’ll change.  This small Ottawa-based developer has unveiled one of the slickest, most potentially transformative applications I’ve seen in years.  My enthusiasm comes from what it could mean to Photoshop & Creative Suite customers.

Called GridIron Flow, the new software is designed to give you “Mind of God” knowledge of where your files are, how they’re related, how long you’ve been working on them, etc.  It consists of two things: a system process that runs in the background, tracking events while consuming minimal resources; and a front-end application (see this pair of screenshots) that displays files & data about them.

Let’s say you copy some vectors from Illustrator and paste them into Photoshop.  Flow, running invisibly in the background, notices the event and sees that there’s a relationship between the AI and PSD files.  When you pop open the Flow browser, you can see a connection between the files–even though Photoshop & Illustrator themselves don’t store or track a link.

If you then place the PSD into, say, After Effects, create an AEP file, and then render an FLV, Flow will create a workflow map–a chain of connections from one file/project to the next.  Right-click any of these files in your Finder/Explorer & Flow will show how they’re related.  If you try to move or delete a file, Flow will pop a message to mention that the file is related to others, offering to show the relationship.  Upshot: fewer broken links due to accidentally misplacing assets.

Okay, that’s cool, but it gets more interesting.  Now let’s say you edit your PSD a little, save, edit, save, etc.  Flow (not unlike Apple’s Time Machine) can be automatically versioning your files.  Although only the current version shows up in your Finder/Explorer, in the Flow UI you can see previous versions.  You can use a movie-style scrubber to move your project back in time.

Here’s why this is a big deal: All the data collection and versioning is automatic and invisible, which is the only way designers will benefit from it.  Creative people want to create, not type in metadata, fill out timesheets, etc.  If you force them to do data entry; to work in highly regimented projects; or to use wonky, restrictive tools for check-in/check-out, they’ll generally kick like mules.  (I know: I did just the same thing.)  The beauty of Flow is that it’s like an airbag–unobtrusive unless and until you need it.

I think that if you’ve ever used multiple design tools together, when you see Flow in action you’ll get the value in a hurry.  (I’m told GridIron will post a demo video soon, as that’ll make things much clearer.)  I’m waxing their cars pretty hard, so let me say for the record that I don’t have any formal relationship with these guys.  I was really excited by the concept when I saw an early version last summer, and we’ve been talking with GridIron about how to make Adobe tools play really nicely with Flow.

If this sounds like it’s up your alley, check out the additional feature notes on their site, and maybe sign up for the beta program that’s starting this spring.

PS–The GridIron guys have created a cute little video that sets up the problem they’re trying to solve.  I like that “goatee” has become universal shorthand for “designer.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

0 thoughts on “GridIron Flow: Ridiculously cool workflow management

  1. I was turned onto this software a couple of days ago. And have been meaning to blog about it. This is a great tool. Love the effort involved to visualize the process of creating a great result.

  2. Seems to me Adobe should hurry up and buy those guys, their product and their brains.
    A feature like this integrated in Bridge could be what made guys like me actually start using it and not just se it as a somewhat redundant file-browser/RAW converter ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I was going to do a post on Flow myself but knew you were going to dive in and give it more justice than I. As a guy who does use After Effects, I love the stuff that the mad scientists at GridIron come up with. Their approach with Flow is going to be really exciting as more and more people realize they have to start getting a handle on all of the media that is being created.
    So…you may not think you want/need this, but time may show a lot of us otherwise.

  4. It sounds great, but they’re a bit light on details. Is this mostly set up for individual users, or can it be set up for group project workflows? Is the versioning compatible with tools like Subversion, or is this proprietary tech? Does this support Flash and Flex?
    [All good questions, and I expect to see more info from GridIron soon. In the meantime I’ll pass your questions along to them. –J.]

  5. Does an AI file placed in Photoshop as a Smart Object maintain a link to the original AI? I thought it did…
    [No, the AI file gets embedded into the PSD. If you edit the Smart Object, Photoshop kicks out a copy of the AI file to a temp folder, then sucks it back in. –J.]
    Flow has a great looking UI. That (rather than Bridge or Lightroom) is the UI direction Adobe should go for.

  6. Please Adobe, buys this from these guys. This is great. Then use it for Project management so when I collect a Pr file, it will grab all the Ae items. Or an En collection will grab all the original files in r and Ae.

  7. I’m pretty sure we will be seing more and more of this kind of sofware on the market.
    There really is a need for it.
    Photoshop is simply the best for image editing, but at some point you really need higher level type of tools… and version cue/bridge are not helping adress scenarios that imply higher level management from a “editorial” point of view (a bit different than version/project management).
    By exemple, for my current project, even if it’s not live/editable, i have generated a graph representation of our illustrations relationship in GraphViz and wich was incredibly usefull (i’m currently missing time and ressources to better integrate the graph generation in our tools). Data represention is very important when you deal wich lots of data! ๐Ÿ™‚
    We had already two type of cms/tool (one for workflow/ production and the other for the content of the images(layer content of the psd is validated against a database representation).
    The workflow and hierarchical nature of these two tools are missing the expressiveness of the graph generated from GraphViz.
    There is no systems that adress all the needs and integrating the different systems is really source of headaches! ๐Ÿ™‚ (just keeping the file server, cms and database syncronised by exemple).
    I would be really happy to find a conference where developpers would share their experience in the use of such sofware (or developpement of their own in-house system).
    I attended a first professionnal conference last year (fitc), and i was a bit deceived that there was no presentation on asset management (in general, not just related to photoshop).

  8. Brett
    We will be announcing additions to Flow shortly that deal with collaboration, workgroup environments etc.
    The product is designed to be fully compatible with Source Code systems (like Subversion, CVS etc) that are used in Designer – Developer situations.
    The product will be fully compatible with Flash / Flex.
    There will be more on our website closer to the public beta in the spring. (Although a demo video will be up soon!)
    GridIron Software Inc.

  9. In contrast to some other users requests, Adobe please don’t buy this company. Let these guys create their all universal program that works with Adobe and Apple apps and probably a lot more. I would hate to see this become Adobe only. I would love this to see all my AE files I used in a Final Cut edit etc. Or all the pictures I use in Cinema 4d.
    [The value of Flow is that it can handle many diverse workflows, spanning numerous apps and file formats. Therefore I don’t think that any owner would want to harm that value by restricting format support. –J.]

  10. this is definitely a much needed tool for designers. How long have we waited for this? Thanks to Grid Iron for taking on the challenge!
    And Jim – I agree – the interface rocks. It was designed by a groovy bloke named Mark Coleran –
    // jayse

  11. Does an AI file placed in Photoshop as a Smart Object maintain a link to the original AI? I thought it did…
    [No: the file is embedded. When you go to edit it back in Illustrator, you’re actually working on a temp copy that’s deleted once you complete the edit. –J.]

  12. It is all good, but…
    I love the video and I thought ohh what a great software for a designers and so, I am so jealous that there is no such software for post-production company like the one I am working in. I mean Photoshop, Illustrator and even AE is a good, but I love love to see if it could incorporate flow of the such products as Shake, Final cut ( probably already ), Nuke, Maya, Motion ( too probably already, I don’t know), Boujou etc. In that case it will get even bigger market share in creative professional world.
    Anyway I sing up for the beta and I see. One step at the time.

  13. I’m also wondering whether this stretches to include audio workflows, & their interactions with video workflows: Nuendo, Pro Tools, etc.

  14. Any further word on this baby? I need this yesterday! It looks brilliant. I hope they’re not bought out entirely by Adobe or someone elseโ€”that always seems to kill the inventive spirit of independent developers. Better an angel investor comes along and allows them to keep doing what made them successful in the first place.
    [You can sign up for their beta. –J.]

  15. Seems like the Finder should work like this. Advanced file versioning and workflow management built in.
    Apple should buy them out, or let Adobe buy them and then Apple buy Adobe =]

  16. The shipping product incorporated a ton of suggestions and wishlist items from many of us on the beta program, so it ended up even better than we could have expected. Couldn’t imagine working without it now.

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