Easy design collaboration and version control
August 14, 2013 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Does something like GitHub exist that's optimized for design files?

I work with a worldwide team of people who need to be able to borrow and reuse each other's design assets. I'd like to have one central place where collaborators can find assets (mainly Photoshop and InDesign), fork them, and create their own versions. It needs to:

1. Be in the cloud, not self-hosted.
2. Be accessible through a web interface, not a plugin for Photoshop. We're all using a mishmash of Adobe and open source stuff.
3. Have an easy-to-understand version history system, in which people can indicate what changes they made. Again, I'm kind of thinking of Github as the model here.

It would also be super nice if people could export to various formats (PNG, PDF, etc.) directly from the web interface, but I'm not sure if that's even possible.

I can spend a little money, but free and cheap solutions are always great, of course.

posted by roll truck roll to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(caveat, I don't use github)

Source control is source control is version control .. If you want version tracking, check-in comments and ability to spin off/fork your own design .. Why not use github ? (ie what of your list doesn't github provide ? )
posted by k5.user at 11:29 AM on August 14, 2013

Best answer: We use Subversion for our files, but we need to keep everything in-house and under our control.

Your requirements sound like a potentially good match for LayerVault - https://layervault.com. I haven't used it myself, but they offer a free trial.
posted by sektah at 11:44 AM on August 14, 2013

I'd start looking at digital asset management systems instead. Git's model is pretty painful when you start trying to use large non-text files.
posted by advicepig at 11:58 AM on August 14, 2013

Best answer: Bitbucket allows you to create unlimited free git repositories on their servers for up to five users. $10/month will get you ten users, and the pricing goes up from there. I'm not seeing any mention of size restrictions, so it would probably work OK even with larger binary files.

As k5.user said, version control is version control whether you're tracking HTML files, programming code, or design assets. The single hardest part of getting it right, regardless of the tool you use, is getting the whole team on-board; getting everyone up to speed with the concepts of version control, whatever software you're using, and getting them to commit regularly. It can be a real struggle to convince people that version control really is better than their personal systems of making incremental, cryptically-named copies of copies of backups in a directory on their desktops.

If you're on OS X, Atlassian (who happen to own Bitbucket) have a pretty nice free GUI git client called Sourcetree.

(Standard disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Atlassian other than that I happily use some of their products and services.)
posted by usonian at 12:53 PM on August 14, 2013

SourceTree now runs on Windows 7+.
posted by djb at 1:35 PM on August 14, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks a lot, everybody. I looked at LayerVault some time ago, but I think I rejected it outright too quickly. I'm playing with it now and I think it will be perfect, though we'll probably hit the 1 GB maximum for free accounts quickly and need to upgrade.

To people suggesting Github or other Git installations, you may be right. I was scared off by the 1GB limit on Github repositories and the fact that Github seems to discourage using it for large binaries. If LayerVault doesn't work out, I'll probably try Bitbucket.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:45 PM on August 14, 2013

I'm curious as to what your experience will be.

In my opinion, the problem with dealing with binary files within a design/creative environment is that merging is near-impossible to automate. How do you merge two different designs? Unlike in code, or in git and other version control systems, where you can merge or rebase, in design, someone has to manually do it eventually - either you can't merge two binary files, or even if you could, you wouldn't want to do it from a design perspective, anyways.

I deal with both 2d design (.ai, .psd, .jpg files) and 3d (.dwg, .3ds, .3dm) files, and for my team the best answer has been to use Dropbox, or something like GTeam. Dropbox is good because it has versioning, it's super straightforward, and it handles the primary ability to 'fork' files (aka duplicate with a different name) well. Merging designs together is a hard problem within design, and thus won't be solved with version control tools. Also -- not all designers will be open and interested to learn a version control system.
posted by suedehead at 1:56 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Git's going to be painful because every client is going to have a fully functional git repository on it. When you change and commit a large binary file, it's going to try to cram a compressed version back into the change index. Even just trying to manage a copy of every image we use on our web site became quickly unworkable. Worse yet, it was pretty painful for all involved.

I still think you'd be better off looking at things designed for images and binary files.
posted by advicepig at 2:44 PM on August 14, 2013

I've personally watched designers try to use Github and suffer repeated failures and crashes. As others have said, you're absolutely right to not use it for large binary files. Not to mention the fact that it's so overly complex that even many developers struggle to use it correctly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:51 PM on August 14, 2013

Git is great at managing code, and terrible at everything else.

I would definitely look into Dropbox. There's version history (on the web), shared folders, seamless sync, the works.
posted by neckro23 at 5:29 PM on August 14, 2013

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