The apps are functionally identical but we’ve branded them with their own identities to help give the collection concept more exposure in the Google Play Store.
What Do They Do?
The apps are simple catalogues or inventories of items that you wish to track. The items can be any mixture of things. For the Freezer app, the expectation is that these will be items in your freezer(s). For the Storage app, it will be items you have in your garage, attic or storage units. The My Collections app is the general collection app.
However, these apps are very generic, functionally identical and can be customised with your own fields and container hierarchies. Which app you choose to use doesn’t matter as they will both use the same cloud storage so use the Freezer app for a grey colour scheme, the Collection app for blue and the Storage app for orange.
Note that the app purchase/subscription is tied to that specific app and cannot be transferred between apps.
The apps store all their data in ‘The Cloud’ using a secure database. Because of this the application requires you to sign in using a Google sign in. This allows Google to authenticate you and we can be sure that it’s you we are talking to and ensure that your data is kept secure.
Because the data is in ‘The Cloud’, the application does require a reasonably good network connection and there may be associated data charges when using the application.
The apps do support some limited capability when working offline. You can browse existing collections and modify items in them. These changes will be uploaded to the cloud when you next have connectivity. Be aware that another person making changes to the same items will likely cause problems and their changes may overwrite yours.
Collections, Containers and Items
Simply put, collections have containers that have items.
You can think of a collection as a group of freezers and fridges, or perhaps as a house. Collections have a name and a note associated with them. Collections also define the tags and Custom Fields that will be used within that specific collection.
Within a collection are containers. A container is a an area for items, or other containers. Containers have a name and note associated with them.
An item is a ‘thing’. It could be a frozen chicken, a bag of peas or a toy. Items have a name and a note associated with them. Items can also have a quantity, to indicate how many there are, and an expiry date, to indicate when the item expires. Whilst the expiry date is primarily meant for food items, it is just a date that could have any meaning, such as the date an item needs to be checked.
Items now support Custom Fields so you can define your own field names and control how these are displayed.
There is no limit the the number of items or containers a collection can hold. Neither is the depth of containers limited (think Russian dolls). You can also have as many collections as you like, both ones you own and ones that have been shared with you.
How to Organise your Collections
The key to organising a collection is to firstly understand your requirements for a collection. To help, we’ve listed a few pointers below, but it’s important to understand that the applications are designed to handle multiple disparate collections from the get-go.
As an example, examine our collections above. Each collection is for items of a similar type and we have not, for example, created a collection for each fridge or freezer we have.
Having said all that, there are some things to consider for collections:
- Custom Fields and Tags
Searching works within collections and you cannot search across collections (we might relax this in the future). This means that if you want to find all the items of a particular type, then they should probably go into the same collection.
For example, if you want to look for frozen chickens, then all your freezers (the ones in the kitchen, the garage and the pantry) should probably be in the same collection. In this example you would have containers called Kitchen, Garage and Pantry, each with their own containers and items.
When you share a collection, you are giving other people access to all the items in a collection. Initially this means they can only see the items in a collection. However, using the ‘Manage Users’ function you can give them complete access to add and delete items too.
You need to think carefully about what you would like other people to see and be able to change. If you require some items to be private, then they should be in their own collection that is not shared.
If you need to physically find items in a collection, then the hierarchy of a collection should reflect the physical layout of the collection.
For example, a Freezer collection should have containers that represent the drawers, baskets and shelves in a freezer. The items within the containers represent the real items on the shelves in your freezer. When you view an item, you can see the hierarchy to enable you to find it, e.g. Frozen Chicken -> Shelf 1 -> Garage Freezer.
For a collection of coins, then the hierarchy may be less physical and could represent, say, the denomination, e.g. a container of 50 pence coins containing all the different 50p coins.
Custom Fields and Tags
Each collection can be configured with their own custom fields and tags. It makes sense to store related items in one collection so that you do not need to keep redefining the tags and custom fields.
The lists shown in the collections apps can all be sorted, with the exception of My Collections. The sort method chosen is remembered for each collection or container and, in the case of shared collections, only affects your view of the items.
The options for sorting are:
- In-built Fields. Name, Expiry, Quantity.
- Custom Fields.
- User Defined. This initially sorts the list in the order in which items were added. However, in this mode you can ‘drag and drop’ items into any order. Just ‘long-press’ the item and then drag it to the desired location.
In-built and custom fields are sorted initially by the field itself, and then by Name if the field value is missing or the same as an existing value.
- To see a list of items that are about to expire, open the search screen and change the sort mode to ‘expiry’.
- To see a list of items that have zero quantity, open the search screen and change the sort mode to ‘quantity’
- Long-press on the sort button and it will reverse the sort order.
Tags can be attached to items and are useful for creating ad-hoc groupings of similar categories of items that may be spread across a collection, e.g. you could tag all ‘meat’ items in the different drawers in a collection of freezers.
Items can have multiple tags, so if your collections has lots of different chicken items (legs, breast, breaded, sliced, nuggets) you might want to tag them all with chicken and meat.
Tags are especially useful in the search mode where you can filter by a tag name to see all items with that tag. For instance, to see all items with a ‘meat’ tag, just select the tag.
Only the collection owner can create tags although any user of the collection can tag items.
Doing More with Tags
Tags can also be used for defining general attributes or facts of items.
For instance, imagine a shared collection on beers. Certain tags could mark the type (lager, ale, cider) others the strength (strong, med, light) and yet others the taste (fruity, hoppy, sweet, strong).
You can then filter on these to find drinks for the mood you are in (strong, hoppy, ale).
Tags could help with shopping (while we sort out a shopping list feature). For example, you are in the ‘meat’ aisle of your supermarket and want to know what meat to buy?
Open the app and got to the collection with food in it, select the search screen and filter by meat. Now sort by quantity and you can see a list of meat items that have zero quantity. Similarly for fish, bread, veg, etc.
When you want to share a collection, go into the collection and click on the ‘share’ icon. You will be prompted to enter the email address of the person you which to share the collection with.
When the other person installs the app and signs in, they will see a notification informing them that a collection has been shared. When they click on the notification, it will prompt them to accept or decline the invitation. If they accept, they will see the collection under their ‘My Collections’ tab.
Note that the email address you use to share must match the one that is registered with the account the person uses to sign in with, i.e. their Google or Google Play account email.
When sharing collections the other person will need to purchase a subscription to see the shared collection. We currently offer a 30 day free trial when you sign up which you can cancel at any point in the trial and you will not be charged.
Initially, the person you share with will only have READ access to the collection, i.e. they cannot change anything. Once they’ve joined the collection, you can give them WRITE or ADMIN access using the ‘Manage Users’ menu. You can also remove them so they can no longer see your collection.
Below is a list of the Roles:
- READ – The user can only see items, they cannot change anything.
- WRITE – The user can add, delete and edit items and containers in your collection.
- ADMIN – The user can modify the collection itself, so they can create custom fields and tags. They can also share the collection to invite other users as well as manage user. When managing users, they cannot, change the owners ADMIN role (even the owner cannot do that!)
- REMOVE – This will prevent the user from accessing the collection and it will be removed from the users phones and tablets when they next open the collections app.
There is a new feature (in beta) to make collections public. So if you’ve created the best ‘pokemon’ collection ever, you can now let people see that collection. It’s shared as READ only so there no worrying that these viewers can change anything.