Grid: Make Your Plans

Representing text and visual information together on the iPhone isn’t always an easy proposition, but Grid is trying to make it a lot easy. Combine text, images and more, all in a surprising interface.

I’ll try putting together some grids and sharing them to see how well Grid works as a collaborative tool. Can Grid be a miniature presentation app or should I just stick to creating grids for myself?

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Plot It on the Grid

It takes a little while to get the feel of Grid, and I was initially turned off. The interface is sort of wonky and has its own brand of gestures, but once I worked out what I was supposed to be doing, I got comfortable pretty quickly. Tap a square to activate it, and drag the green active button around to select more squares and create an even larger work surface. Pull the green button up to reveal the menu and start adding elements to your grid.

The finished product can look pretty fancy.

The finished product can look pretty fancy.

Each element can be as large or as small as you’d like; highlight a single square, six squares to make a rectangle or the entire grid workspace. There are four different types of elements: text, image, contact and map. You can add any one of these to any highlighted area, large or small, and you’ll be able to customize them all to some degree.

Create your grid and choose an element from the menu.

Create your grid and choose an element from the menu.

The text and image elements make the most sense to me. You can type out whatever you’d like, and new paragraphs or list elements can go into new blocks in the grid. There’s a bit of text styling available, but you can’t change fonts, which is a bummer. Add a complementary image in an adjacent square. Your picture will be cropped to fit the area you’ve selected, but you can move it around so that everything looks just right.

Adding a contact to a grid pops her contact photo and a couple of links into your grid selection. Tap the phone icon to give her a call or the pencil icon to start a new email. If you’ve got a ton of phone numbers or email addresses for your contact, Grid’s going to default to your top for each, and the new email’s going to open up in the default iOS email app. That could all be super useful if you’re creating a grid of your bridesmaids or people to meet up with during your trip to Canada, but usually you’ll just keep track of your contacts in the Contacts app.

Add text, maps, images, and contacts.

Add text, maps, images, and contacts.

I almost forgot to mention the maps, because they’re just sort of there. You can grab your current location or search for your favorite restaurant and create a map element. It’s not interactive though, and my maps kept adding an error flyout above my pin markers. If you’re tracking a vacation abroad or across the country or just creating a grid of your favorite spots in the city, the maps are a neat add-on, I guess, but they’re just not doing a whole lot for me.

Sharing and Collaborating

Beyond being a cute way to organize information, which is enough on its own, you can share grids, too. It’s best if recipients have Grid installed on their devices, though. I emailed a Grid to a friend, and when he received it lots of stuff was off. My text formatting had changed just enough so that words were cut off and nothing really made any sense. The contact info I had included should have been clickable, but instead he received a static picture. Most troubling was my map, which now placed my location in the waters off of North Korea.

You can edit elements once they've been placed.

You can edit elements once they’ve been placed.

Once he’d installed Grid, everything went a lot better. I made it out of North Korea and back to the continental United States, and all of my text formatting went back to where it should be. Which is all great, but it does highlight that Grid’s usefulness is limited. You can’t really export your grids and then share them around or post them anywhere — they’re pretty much locked into the Grid app. That’s fine if you only want to use Grid as a place to collab with friends, but its practicality falls off a bit after that.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to see more in Grid. I want URLs, and I want them bad. I want to tap on something in Grid and it open up a link in Safari (or even Chrome, but that may be asking for too much). That’s the one thing I’m craving, but I feel like there’s room for Grid to be much more than it is, for more options and tools to create.

With the tools already provided, users can create some pretty fantastic lists, photo albums, and even integrated photo/travelogues. The interface, once you’ve got the hang of it, is neat and fun to use. What you do with Grid is down to your own imagination, even if Grid could use a few more features.


Summary

Create lists, projects and plans that look pretty cool, but sharing can be a pain.

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