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Steller_iPhone4aOne of the great things about having an iPhone in my pocket is that it means I have a fairly good quality digital camera with me whenever I’m out and about. That means I rack up tons of photos – some of them good – that show what I’ve been up to and where I’ve been. But once I have all of the images that I want, what do I do? Sure, I could share them on social media, but that’s not great for turning a bunch of images into a cohesive whole.

Steller is a free iPhone app that’s designed to help take images and videos like mine, and yours, and bring them together to create something greater. The app lets users create and share “stories,” which end up looking roughly like the iPhone equivalent of a coffee table art book. Users lay out pages filled with media and text, and can then share them with the world through Steller’s app and social media, via a web viewer.

The app is created by a team of tech industry veterans, including former Microsoft and VMware execs Mark Lucovsky and Richard McAniff, as well as Seattle entrepreneur Peter Denton.

geekwireapp2Making a story is fairly straightforward. Users start by selecting a layout for their first page (whether it’s a video, photo, or text), and then can choose to adjust the elements on that page, or create another page to follow it.

With a little tinkering, I was able to create a fairly basic mobile photo book with a few paragraphs of text over a half-hour train ride into San Francisco, and I’m confident it would be fairly easy for my non-technical friends and family to do the same.

Steller_iPhone5aThe layouts provided are designed to be elegant by default, with specifically-selected fonts and element placement so that users’ content looks the best with minimal effort. For people who want to tinker with the placement of their media or the size of their text, it’s possible to move elements around to a certain degree.

For people looking to gain inspiration, or just see some cool stuff, Steller’s developers curate a number of story collections that feature some of the best work being done on the app at the moment.

For users who don’t want to share their work with the world, it’s possible to keep it as a draft, and use Steller’s app to share it with people they meet in person.

Steller’s one major shortcoming is the rigidity of its visual layout. Most of the photography I’m doing these days involves cropping an image into a square to fit on Instagram, and while it’s possible for me to zoom in and out of it so that it will fit in the pages of one of Steller’s stories, I can’t change the size or shape of the book’s overall canvas to fit my images. For users who prefer to shoot full-frame horizontal photos, the layout issues would undoubtedly prove more problematic.

The user interface for sharing stories outside of the company’s iPhone app also leaves a certain amount to be desired. While I find it enjoyable to look at stories other folks have shared in the context of the iPhone app, the web viewer that’s available feels like an afterthought so that people who don’t or can’t have the app can still look in. But unlike a site like Instagram, where users are sharing one image at a time, the actual experience of navigation is a key part of a story shared with Stellar.

That said, some external sharing functionality like this is better than no sharing functionality at all. Here’s an example of a good story in Stellar, as seen in the web viewer. I’d much rather be able to share my stories like this, outside the confines of Steller’s app, than have my content locked in. And this is still Version 1, so there are no doubt many enhancements that are possible in the future.

Bottom line, for people looking to turn their media into an elegant presentation without much effort, Steller is a fantastic choice.

Steller is available for free from the iOS App Store.

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