Ember for Mac is a new app from Realmac Software that replaces their previous offering, Littlesnapper. It is a fantastic product that improves on its predecessor while offering some helpful new features.

Ember and, before it, Littlesnapper can basically be described as iPhoto for inspiration. In fact my first task, years ago, when I bought Littlesnapper was to import inspiration images from an iPhoto library. These images included, in my case, photos of school projects, WWII propaganda posters, wallpaper for my desktop, cool icons, etc.. The apps also contain screenshot tools to capture windows, user defined areas or the entire screen. Additionaly a built-in web browser can take full length screenshots of websites (a huge help in design work and research for projects). All the shots can be tagged for later search. These major features that I used consistently are shared by Ember and its predecessor Littlesnapper.

I had been a user of Littlesnapper for a few years, but stopped for a couple reasons. It was sluggish, especially with a large library, and it seemed to be a low priority for its developers as the updates were infrequent and fairly insignificant for the user. Ember addresses the first issue handily because the app is fast and doesn’t get sluggish with large libraries. Its existence seems to be an answer to my second second.


One of my favorite features in Ember is the RSS reader. You can subscribe to RSS feeds, which will then display the images from each feed, stripped of all other content. This is a huge plus for me as it keeps my visual inspiration feeds separate from my news feeds and gives them to me in a nice interface. As I process the images from my feeds each morning (there’s some nice gestures for going through this, which shouldn’t be a surprise from the makers of Clear), if I see something I want to add to my library I simply hit the space bar. You can also jump quickly to the link from which the image is coming.

The RSS feed is the most exciting addition in my opinion, but also the one that needs the most work.

  1. There is no option, that I am aware of, to hide seen items in the RSS feeds or see Unseen items only. This makes it complicated if you are like me and see an RSS feed as something to process.
  2. It would also be nice to be able to ignore thumbnail sized images in the feed, especially since they are usually accompanied by larger images.
  3. The last quibble I have with the RSS functionality is the fact that large images appear to be downsized. This might be one of the reasons that Ember is so performant, but it would be nice to have some of the photography blogs I follow give me the full sized images.


Another notable feature that I find helpful is smarter tagging. For example, screenshots from iOS devices are detected from their size and automatically tagged as Tablet or Phone shots. This type of tagging makes it especially helpful when reviewing app designs. Tagging is something about which I usually have good intentions, but rarely actually do. It is nice that Ember leaves me without excuse and tries to do some basic work on my behalf.

Overall, everything about Ember is a thoughtful improvement over Littlesnapper and I can easily recommend it. There is evidence of sweating the details throughout, the option to resize for different device sizes in the browser comes to mind. At $50 it can seem pricey, but if, like me, you prefer to have an inspiration library that is local and not subject to the unpredictability of online services, Ember won’t disappoint. Check it out and then pick it up from the Mac App Store.

App Inspiration Photos Images Catalog iPhoto