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Ask DN: Successor to LayerVault?

over 4 years ago from , Creator of 2048; Freelance Designer & Developer.

I was very saddened to hear that LayerVault is going to shut down a few days ago. At my company, we used it a lot and everyone in the team was able to take advantage of its features (whether it was the sales team trying to show what we've got in the pipeline, or our developers looking at the latest iteration).

Since LayerVault seems irrevocably set to disappear (though I wish we could save it), I need to find alternatives to still provide us the benefits that we got used to and it's hard to give up:

  • Easy overview of the entire project;
  • Full history of every single file, which I use very often to see what I did or recover some changes;
  • Commenting (plus hotspots!), which helps us a lot when discussing a design;
  • The ability to just send someone a link and have them see what you're working on.

I've had a very cursory look to see what's out there, but I can't really find a good alternative to LayerVault that offers most (or at least some) of the features I listed above.

I would like to ask the DN community (and the LayerVault people, too):

  1. Are any of the technologies that were used to build LayerVault (or the LayerVault software itself) going to be open-sourced once LayerVault shuts down? Although this is a very demanding thing to ask for, it would be great because it would mean that our team could just install the LayerVault software on a server of our own and still get the benefits. As a side effect, the open-source community might even be able to take care of the product and revive it.
  2. Is there any software around (free or paid) that gets close to the feature set that LayerVault offered? If the first option is unfeasible, it would mean we need to find a replacement, and since we've been on the good side, things like Dropbox or Google Drive won't really cut it anymore.
  3. Going back to point 1, would the community be interested in building an open-source version of LayerVault as an unofficial successor, either by reusing the LayerVault software itself (if the LayerVault people find it a valid idea) or by building it from scratch? I think it would be very beneficial for the design community at large.

23 comments

  • Kyril Kulikov, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )
    7 points
    • Sam Mathews, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

      Thanks for mentioning us! (Conjure.io). Firstly I want to say that it's sad to see Layervault go, they did such a great job in their execution, I wish they had gotten more time to make it work.

      Now to the OP's points, whilst we're not strictly the same as LayerVault, (we don't track file diffs) there's some comparisons to be made.

      Easy overview of the entire project;

      Something like this? http://cl.ly/image/2m000S1k2h3C

      Full history of every single file

      We only show the history of files uploaded to conjure, but more coming with dropbox sync and desktop app soon.

      Commenting (plus hotspots!), which helps us a lot when discussing a design;

      This is why we were born!! http://cl.ly/image/2a1i0h3z0B0T, and a gif: https://conjure.io/site-assets/images/features-feedback.gif

      The ability to just send someone a link and have them see what you're working on

      Like this? http://cnj.re/jlLjb

      So yes, some comparison! Our mission is to make feedback smarter... and we're only just starting on the journey. Big things launching this week!

      Love to get your feedback on it ;)

      Sam@conjure.io

      10 points
  • Harry JonesHarry Jones, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    We're using Zeplin. It's still pretty early and has a few rough edges, but it does a decent job of:

    • overview of the project
    • commenting (plus hotspots... I think. Didn't use layervault so not certain what this feature is)
    • ability to share a URL (it's both a native Mac app and a web app)

    It's still got a long way to go but feels like a good horse to back.

    6 points
    • Adam T.Adam T., over 4 years ago

      Zeplin is great, super polished for such an early product. No performance issues at least.

      3 points
    • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, over 4 years ago

      No mention of version history (Layervault's primary feature, imo), does Zeplin have it? Also, there's no PS support yet.

      0 points
      • Harry JonesHarry Jones, over 4 years ago

        There's no version history yet, but Zeplin is possibly recording it already. Whenever you update a screen in the app it matches it to existing screens, so should be straightforward to present a version history of each screen.

        I don't use PS so that's not an issue for me.

        0 points
  • Dan V PetersonDan V Peterson, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    If you have a very small team Pixelapse looks pretty good. Unfortunately they don't differentiate between designers and observers like LayerVault does so it gets expensive really quick if you want to be able to get feedback from more people. They've been acquired by Dropbox but say they'll have a migration path when the new stuff is done on Dropbox.

    Invisionapp.com is reasonably priced and has all the features you want I think. The thing I really dislike about them is they have a very rigid file/folder structure that is limiting. Also each project has to have a specific type (desktop/web, iPhone landscape, iPhone portrait, iPad, Android... ) so you aren't supposed to mix even iPhone and iPad mockups in the same project. Subfolders aren't allowed anyway so it wouldn't work well even if you didn't have to choose from those options. Very frustrating but outside of that it seems to work well and has some nice features.

    2 points
    • Gabriele Cirulli, over 4 years ago

      Thanks, could you tell me something more about the pricing structure of Pixelapse? I couldn't find a number on their site. We have around 7 people directly involved in the design process (mostly as observers).

      We tried Invision a few months ago but it seemed a bit too rigid and opinionated for our liking, and the way commenting on mocks worked was just atrocious. Maybe they've changed since then, though.

      0 points
      • Graham Odds, over 4 years ago

        Pixelapse is $15 per designer per month. That's what I've switched my team to trialling for now. So far it all seems pretty good really. The desktop syncing client seems a lot faster, more reliable and stable than LayerVault's. There are some differences but no deal breakers we've found yet.

        1 point
        • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, over 4 years ago

          Pixelapse was acquired by Dropbox early this year, and will be discontinued in 2016 — though they say some features will be implemented in Dropbox.

          I wonder if LayerVault's shutdown changed their plans in some way.

          1 point
          • Graham Odds, over 4 years ago

            I doubt it to be honest. My interest in LayerVault was always the syncing and versioning first and foremost. The commenting, etc was a nice extra, but made the tool too broad in my opinion.

            Version control and code review are generally related but distinct tools for coders. I think that separation of concerns makes for better, more focused tools.

            The Dropbox acquisition of Pixelapse suggests their long-term strengths will be on the version control side of things, which is what I'm after.

            1 point
          • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, over 4 years ago

            How do you know it's going to be discontinued in 2016.

            0 points
            • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, over 4 years ago

              That's what I gathered from this paragraph in their announcement from January:

              Pixelapse as a standalone product will continue to operate and be supported for the next year as we work towards this goal, at which point we’ll offer a migration plan for your work.

              0 points
        • Mike Gintz, over 4 years ago

          This pricing structure sucks, and is a deal-breaker for our use. Seems like it might work for an internal-only product design team, but at an agency where we need clients to have project-level access to leave comments, we can't afford to pay an extra 15 bucks per month per user every time a client wants to add a new person to their team! Oof. Thought this was the one!

          0 points
  • Gabriele Cirulli, over 4 years ago

    I forgot to mention this, but actually the feature I like the most in LayerVault is the automatic desktop syncing of every document. It removes a very tedious step in the process and gives you full history completely free.

    Does any service implement the same feature as well as LayerVault does, that you know of?

    2 points
  • Brent C, over 4 years ago

    I switched to Adobe's Creative Cloud Assets since I'm using Photoshop most of the time. I know that I'm backing myself into a corner in a lot of ways since it doesn't support things like Sketch or OmniGraffle.

    Once Dropbox has implemented all of the features from Pixelapse, I'll be interested to check that out.

    1 point
  • Mike Gintz, over 4 years ago

    I'm also looking for LayerVault's spiritual successor. We really loved this tool and are sad to see it go. :(

    If anyone else with a LayerVault account has any interest in bulk downloading all your stuff, one of my friends/coworkers coded a Node app to use the LayerVault API to grab all your files and comments. It's rate-limited by LayerVault's API rate so it won't annihilate their servers; might take a little while to run if you've got a lot of stuff up there.

    https://github.com/Velir/LayerVault-BulkExport

    1 point
  • Vinicius LeitaoVinicius Leitao, over 4 years ago (edited over 4 years ago )

    Dropbox + Invision. ¯\ (ツ)

    1 point
    • Jeff MillerJeff Miller, over 4 years ago

      I sent an email to Invision begging them to acquire Layervault. That would just be the ultimate in awesomeness. Especially if they offer an enterprise edition.

      1 point
  • Victor WareVictor Ware, over 4 years ago

    I'm using Invision and it's working pretty good so far.

    0 points