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Freeware of the Week! [Flowr]

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Flowr LogoThings have been a little fraught, but I was determined to get my favourite freeware up and ready by close of play today. And if it is still Friday somewhere, that counts, right? I would ask my minions, but they are all at the pub. Luckily, the question will still be waiting for them on Monday if I have added them correctly to my Flowr account.

Flowr is another one of those handy collaboration tools that makes telecommuting and group work so much easier for freelancers and web workers. What makes it different is that it incorporates a number of Twitter-like features, such as @ replies and mentions. In addition to easy posting of links and status updates, you can also view your entire network’s updates in the same way as you view your Twitter stream, including the ability to separate them according to category: status, link, file, idea, question, event, to-do item, or even a poll of other users.

And yes! You can attach files to projects and updates in Flowr, in a much more convenient form than other collaboration tools I have come across. No more messing about with public Dropbox links and having to alert users when changes are made. Files that you upload can instead be edited Wikipedia-style by anyone you authorise to do so. Even better, when doing your updates, you can specify who is to receive them. They can either go out to your network, to yourself, or to a select group of people. There is also the option to give your updates tags so they can be easily grouped and categorised later.

Flowr, then, is essentially souped-up microblogging for teams. And it works wonderfully. The GUI is intuitive and easy to get to grips with. There is a Firefox add-on, an iPhone app, email integration and a desktop notification function to keep you up to date. The developer API hints that more good things might be coming soon, and you can use your public profile on Flowr itself as a virtual calling card to list your most important links and contact details. In short, Flowr is something that should have been invented years ago!

But Flowr isn’t totally free. At the moment, the free version of the application is limited to ten team members and two group memberships, which I think is fine for small management teams, but others might find constricting. There are also limits on certain features, such as the amount of storage you can have for your files, or whether you can run the application behind a firewall. From an individual point of view, I don’t have a particular problem adding and removing people according to the whether they’re working with me on a project, but those with bigger teams might be put off.

All in all, Flowr is excellent for small teams that need to stay in touch and keep each other updated on the work they’re doing. It probably isn’t the ideal solution for running a company from your sofa (which is my ultimate ambition). You’ll need some other software for that. Nevertheless, for the bang you get for your lack of buck, Flowr is one of those apps that you can’t believe wasn’t developed earlier. With its Twitter-like interface, ease of use, and useful features, it is definitely the kind of thing a small business should add to its virtual arsenal, especially if key team members are often out of the office.

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