App.net (ADN) is a relatively new online service that many people think of as just an alternative to Twitter: a place to post short messages and to read the messages of people you follow. But App.net also offers a number of other services, including group chat rooms and—my favorite—a place to store and share files.
Specifically, every paid App.net account starts out with 10GB of space, with a file-size limit of 100MB, while free accounts get 500MB of storage with a file-size limit of 10MB. Paid members can increase their total storage through new-member referrals. (Speaking of which, if you’re not using App.net yet, and you’d like to give it a try, you can get a free account using this link.)
App.net’s file storage is designed to be app-neutral—you can access and manage your storage from any app or service that uses the App.net File API, including Web apps and any App.net clients that support the feature. The most common use of this storage, so far, is for sharing files—photos, videos, PDFs, you name it—with other people. Many ADN clients include features for uploading files and then linking to them from within messages posted to the service, but you can use your ADN storage to share files anywhere: email, IM, and even on other social-media services such as Facebook or Twitter.
The easiest way to do this is by using a dedicated Mac app. I’ve tried several, and my current favorite is Orangutango’s $8 Swing 1.0.2 (Mac App Store link). If you’ve got a file you want to share, you just drag and drop it onto Swing’s systemwide menu icon. The menubar icon fades in and out during the upload. When the upload finishes, you hear a confirmation sound and see a Notification Center alert. Even better, the direct URL to that upload, for sharing the file with other people, is copied to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere.
(Swing also provides a couple other ways to upload files. If you’ve copied a file to the clipboard, you can choose Upload Clipboard from the Swing menu, or press the corresponding keyboard shortcut; alternatively, you can right-click or Control+click an item in the Finder and choose Upload With Swing from the contextual menu’s Services submenu.)
One of my favorite details here is that if you copy a folder in the Finder and then choose Upload Clipboard, Swing automatically compresses the folder and uploads the resulting .zip archive, providing you with a shareable URL for that archive. Another nice touch: If you hold down the Option key while uploading a file, the file is automatically deleted from your drive once it’s been successfully uploaded.
By default, Swing gives you full ADN file-storage URLs such as https://files.app.net/1/89087/adqUFYEnI4x0NptwRsifV5EfvuL-8D9dnpy4DTd9NtvnNf1WSKp1KSpuzC4LZpq1MVNjqbPSkEaTY0WR4nKgKYRQn_3BcSNT8qVWwr8BdPpR-PE8kg51B6aHr_kcZVY03JGNQWhAZadtmrTbrOfrNPWfsF_PHbPezqV2MTzVkOEHpKNxdh58lHemNn0VgIlpf; however, the app offers an option to enable Swing-shortened URLs. In this example, Swing converted that unwieldy link to the more-manageable http://swng.it/2GxEsD.
Swing’s systemwide menu shows your current ADN-storage usage, along with a convenient list of the five most-recently uploaded files; choose one from the menu to copy its URL to the clipboard, or Option-choose an item to open it in your Web browser. Choose All Swings from the Swing menu to see a list of all files uploaded to your ADN storage; right-click any file to copy its public link, open it in your Web browser, or delete it from your ADN storage. (You also get convenient keyboard shortcuts for these actions.) Unfortunately, this list shows only files you uploaded to ADN using Swing—it doesn’t display any files you uploaded using similar apps, Web apps, or ADN clients. However, if you have Swing installed on multiple Macs, all your Macs show all the files you uploaded using Swing.
If you’ve got multiple ADN accounts, you can enter all of them in Swing’s preferences in order to upload files using any of those accounts. However, Swing’s menu doesn’t provide a quick way to switch between accounts. Instead, you must open Swing’s preferences window and double-click an account to activate it as the current upload account.
A useful Swing option automatically uploads any screenshots you take on your Mac. If you frequently share screenshots with colleagues, on the Web, or on a social-media network, this feature makes for the easiest way I’ve found to do so: Simply take a screenshot, wait a couple seconds, and then paste the URL into whatever app or text field you’re using to share the screenshot. (Utilities/services such as Cloud App offer a similar feature, but I prefer ADN’s resulting sharing page, which doesn’t have any cruft, and doesn’t require extra steps to download files.)
One downside to the screenshot feature is that if you’ve got something important on the clipboard and you take a screenshot, Swing automatically, and immediately, replaces your clipboard contents with the URL of the uploaded screenshot. (Yet another reason to use a multiple-clipboard utility. But I digress.) I wish Swing offered an option to not automatically copy the URL for screenshots. Also, the current version of Swing requires that your screenshots use the default OS X screenshot-name format—if you’ve used a third-party utility to change that naming convention, Swing won’t automatically upload your images. The developer is working on improving this feature to recognize modified screenshot names.
If you frequently post to App.net, there’s a good chance you share files and images in your messages, and Swing makes it easier to do so. If you’re not yet an ADN user, I encourage you to use the free-account link, above, to check it out. Even if you don’t use it for Twitter-like messages, the file storage can come in handy, and the ADN developers continue to regularly add new benefits and features.