LayerVault 2: Real Version Control for Designers

Almost a year ago I gave a talk at WordCamp San Francisco encouraging designers to use version control. While more and more designers have jumped on the bandwagon, it has yet to become a staple in the design process the way it is in the development process. I intended for my presentation to both coax designers into overcoming the intimidation of systems built for developers and to open up conversation about why there just aren’t any good version control tools built specifically for designers yet.

Just after presenting, I got a DM from a friend who was examining the very problem I was. He’d just launched the beta of a product called LayerVault, a version control service “built for designers from the ground up.”  (The timing was a complete coincidence).

Fast forward to today. LayerVault just graduated to LayerVault 2 with a shiny new icon and lots of new features.

The basic rundown of LayerVault is pretty simple:

  • Install a Dropbox-like desktop app (currently OS X only).
  • The app creates a “LayerVault” folder in your home folder.
  • Place any supported file type (AI, PSD, Fireworks PNG, and PDF) in the folder and LayerVault logs a new “version” every time you hit save.
  • Browse through and manage versions on the web interface.

You can navigate through a timeline of revisions for any file LayerVault tracks.

 

While the new LayerVault has lots of cool features, the area-defined change detection feature dubbed Wormhole really caught my attention. Wormhole lets you select an area of the design file and view how many changes have been detected in that specific area as well as which revisions those changes were made in.

Wormhole lets you select an area and view the number of changes in that area. Revisions containing those changes are marked as dark dots in the timeline.

 

While pretty awesome in itself, I can think of several situations where this could come in handy:

  • Showing different versions of an element or area when presenting a design to a client
  • Keeping track of and/or presenting the evolution of the design of one specific area
  • Catching changes in details made by mistake

The ability to generate a public page with each change laid out side-by-side would be incredibly valuable for presenting and evaluating iterative designs.

LayerVault 2 sports a few other features reminiscent of IconFactory’s xScope: a HEX color picker and an automatic pixel ruler, as well as the ability to create public links to revisions complete with links to download file and a full preview.

The addition of features that go beyond version control hint at LayerVault’s aim to become an all-purpose tool to assist designers through every part of the design process.

Overall, it’s an excellent example of the kind of tool I hoped would emerge for designers when I gave my talk at WordCamp San Francisco last August. It takes the best of the existing tools designers have been using and gathers them in one, simple experience.

There’s a pretty cool demo here and plans start at $19/month.

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