With Instagram unlikely to make an official desktop app any time soon, it’s been left to third-party software developers to fill in demand for heavily-filtered photo fun on Mac, Windows and Chrome.
The popular photo-sharing platform remains tightly tied to smartphones where its official suite of apps span Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
But what if you want to check in on your feed and followers but your iPhone is snoozing in its cradle, and your Android tablet is on the other side of the room? You could always fire up the official website, but with a rigid single-column layout and a dearth of extra features it’s not the most enjoyable experience.
I’ve tried out a fair number of Instagram apps, add-ons and tools over the last year and one in particular, the recently launched Instagram Chrome App Pixsta, is possibly one of the very best experiences for the service outside of its official mobile offerings.
Pixsta for Google Chrome
Avid Instagrammers may already be familiar with Pixsta. The app is developed by American company Sweetlabs and distributed though their “Pokki” web app software available on Microsoft Windows. There, this app alone has been downloaded more than 10 million times.
To further the company’s goal of platform agnostic app distribution Pixsta is now available to download and use on Mac OS X, Linux and Chrome OS through the Chrome Web Store.
More than a match for the official Instagram app
Pixsta is a gorgeous little Chrome App with some small touches that make it a joy to use.
In fact, putting aside the lack of upload support (blame Instagram for that), I’d go as far as to say that it’s more than a match for the official Instagram app, both in features and user friendliness.
I can view, like and comment on photos and videos from those I follow, as well as take a gander at the most popular images of the day.
I can also search by user, phrase, hashtag or location; download photos and videos; and share my favourites on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Getting Set Up
The first time you run Pixsta you’re prompted to sign into your Instagram account. This isn’t actually necessary (click ‘close’ and the non-account features of the app work fine) but to get the most out of it you’ll want to enter your credentials.
After successfully logging in you’re returned to the main app window. It’s arguably a little on the small side by default, but since the entire application is responsive you can resize the window to any size you like and have the content adjust accordingly.
Even better, fullscreen is also supported for a truly immersive, hi-res experience.
Single clicking on any photo within the main grid or list views will open it up in an overlay for a closer look. Here you can view more details, like the number of likes it has, comments received and view the date it was posted. Using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard in the overlay view will cycle through images in order.
Mousing over the image reveals an additional pair of options, including a link to save a copy to your hard drive.
Liking a photo on Instagram in the official app is easy: you simply double tap on an image. Knowing that this flourish has become synonymous with the service, Sweetlabs has added something similar to their app: double clicking on any photo will automatically ‘like’ it (or unlike it, if already liked).
If I could double-tap this feature to like it, I would!
Navigation and extras
In the upper-righthand corner of the app are three options: a notifications drawer where recent likes and follows are listed, a quick access menu to view your own profile and a search button.
If you have it enabled, you will also receive new notifications through the Chrome Notification Centre – a handy way to keep on top of things when the app is left idle in the background.
Through the profile options you can glance over your own feed to check in on your follower count, read comments left by others on your content and access a quick link to view every single snap you’ve ever liked.
The search button lets you search for a phrase, hashtag or a user.
- Search for photos by user, tag or location
- Browse media as a grid or list
- Link to download photos and videos
- Leave comments, follow users and ‘like’ images
- Manage your own profile
- App remembers window size between sessions
Get Pixsta for Google Chrome
If you’re a heavy Instagrammer, this offering from Sweetlabs will prove itself an indispensable addition to your app catalog.
But even if you’re not, its arrival on Chrome will have an impact. Pixsta doesn’t just raise the bar on how powerful, featured and stylish Chrome Apps can be, but smashes it entirely.
SweetLabs told us that if this app is well received by users they will ‘definitely explore bringing over a lot more Pokki apps’, including their popular Twitter desktop app ‘Tweeki’.