Spyglass: A Stunningly Good-Looking Way To Visualize Your Data

Windows Explorer is a – mostly – functional, if slightly, dull way of viewing the data you have stored on your hard drive. If you are looking for a particular file or folder, Explorer is a practical, non-nonsense tool that lets you get the job done.

But if you yearn for something more attractive, if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, if beauty is what you crave from your utilities, Spyglass is the sort of tool for you.

Introducing Spyglass

As the name suggests, Spyglass gives you a way to look at the contents of your hard drive more closely. More importantly, it enables you to look at your data in a different way and using the app is wonderfully simple.  Visualizing the contents of a folder can be achieved in a couple of ways; you can either browse to a folder through the app, or you can use Explorer as you are used to and then drag and drop a folder onto the program window.

Spyglass fully embraces the Windows 8 look, complete with Office 2013-style CAPPED titles.

Spyglass fully embraces the Windows 8 look, complete with Office 2013-style CAPPED titles.

With a folder selected, you’ll have to wait a while as the selection is analysed. This can take anything from a few seconds to several minutes and it is dependent on how fast your hard drive is and how much data the selected folder contains.

Don’t get overwhelmed – these on-screen instructions can be switched off when you’ve read them.

Don’t get overwhelmed – these on-screen instructions can be switched off when you’ve read them.

In the trial version of the program – which you are only able to try out for a rather meagre three days – there is an important feature disabled. Ordinarily you would be able to use the Explorer-style tree structure to the left of the screen to navigate between folders, but until your pay for a license you’ll have to make do with a rather more awkward means of navigation.

Navigating Drives

This is a seriously attractive app, but the looks mean that there is a slightly different means of interacting with it. It is not a million miles away from other Windows applications, but it is different enough to catch users off guard to start with.

Spyglass is a different beast to most apps when it comes to the subject of navigation.

Spyglass is a different beast to most apps when it comes to the subject of navigation.

To the right of the program window you’ll see a circular chart that represents your selected folder. Each of the different colored segments means something different; orange sections are individual folder, the teal sections are folders and the grey ones are a mixture of the two.

You can click any of the sections of the chart to zoom in to view further details. At the center of the chart you will always see a figure that lets you know the size of the currently selected folder, but by clicking this label you can also navigate up a level. If you want to know more about the contents of a drive without actually opening it up, you can simply hover the mouse over it to view tooltip popup.

The folder size label serves a dual purpose and can also be used as a navigation tool.

The folder size label serves a dual purpose and can also be used as a navigation tool.

Tools & Options

Being able to visualize the contents of your hard drive in the way Spyglass enables you to is a wonderful experience. But this program is more than a one trick pony. There is also a duplicate file finder which provides you with a handy way of claiming back a little disk space. This can be accessed by clicking the file icon to the upper right of the program window.

Spyglass continues its on-screen tutorials the first time you run the duplicate file scanner.

Spyglass continues its on-screen tutorials the first time you run the duplicate file scanner.

In this mode, the tree structure to the left of the screen is repurposed as the area in which duplicate files are listed. Select one of the file that Spyglass has detected you have two or more copies of, and each of the files will be listed to the right complete with the location at which they can be found.

You then need to decide what you want to do with these files and it boils down to one of three choices – do nothing, delete one or more of the duplicates or move them to another location. In most instances it’s advisable to use the ‘move’ option as this enables you to retain a backup in case it turns out that a file was actually needed, but this fact is not highlighted anywhere.

Indicating what action should be performed on each file is a literal matter of flagging them. Click once on a file and it will be flagged for deletion, click twice and it’ll be flagged for moving. You can then filter files to display all of those that have been assigned particular flags so you can deal with them accordingly.

Duplicate files can be flagged for deletion or moving and then batch processed in one fell swoop.

Duplicate files can be flagged for deletion or moving and then batch processed in one fell swoop.

In Summary

This is a low-cost tool, but the three day trial is still rather means, particularly as you are not even able to try out all of the features of the program. Sure, the feature that is missing is just the one that allows for a different means of navigating folders, but it seems like a bad move by the developers.

This quibble aside, Spyglass is a simply lovely piece of software. The look and feel is nothing short of gorgeous, and the general premise is one that will be welcomed by many people. Easy to use, effective at what it does and handsome to boot, this is a valuable investment.


Summary

Beautiful is a word that’s over-used these days. This is an app that makes looking at the contents of your hard drive sexy.

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