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About Subfolio

Subfolio is created by AREA 17, an interactive agency in New York City and Paris, France.

Learn more about AREA 17 and our other activities.

The backstory

Subfolio (originally called Filebrowser) was first developed in 2003 to help deliver designs and documents to our clients. When we went international in 2006, it became our cross-office document server too.

Up until recently, we also used Subfolio for our website. It was an assertion that our work — not some fancy website — was the focal-point for AREA 17. Today, we no longer use Subfolio for our main website, however it is still used as our cross-office document server, and of course, our client studio too.

After repeated requests from our clients, friends, family, enemies, allies and the design community — we finally broke down and decided to offer it to the public. But we didn’t want to dump our 6 year old code on your poor souls, so we decided to build it again, from the ground up.

With a clean slate, we started with a few principles:

Keep it simple — Don’t make it anymore than it is. Subfolio is an interface for a file system. It is not a powerful extranet nor a feature-rich content management system.

Abstract the logic — It’s all about interface, so don’t assume one interface is good for all situations. It must be easy to create unlimited interface “themes” without having to rework the logic.

Give options — Stop the debate on how things should work. Everyone has different needs and ways of doing things. Difference should be cultivated.

Make it extensible — Assume change. In our experience, Subfolio has infinite possibilities. And with each new implementation, new ideas arise.

Internationalize it — Our community is international. Period.

So with that, we set out to build Subfolio (take-two). The first version took four weeks to build, but this time around it took one year … damn principles, can’t live without them, but sure as hell wish we could.

Defining Subfolio

Some people are a bit confused about what Subfolio is. Rightfully so. In an era of web apps with easy-to-use CMS interfaces with file uploads, an app such as Subfolio that has no CMS interface and uses FTP for file upload sounds soooo 90’s. True, even the concept of a file browser is somewhat dated.

So why Subfolio then? Simply because the files on our desktop are still organized in folders. And sometimes (actually often), it’s useful to be able to dump them online for others to view. And that’s it. Subfolio gives you a highly customizable interface to your “dumping ground”.

Because no matter how easy it is to use a CMS, you still need to do some legwork. With Subfolio, you simply dump and go.

But of course, Subfolio also allows you to go beyond dumping. You can set up a darn good portfolio website (or several) faster then it takes to set one up using a CMS.

Subfolio is about speed and flexibility while retaining elegance. It’s a highly customizable file browser, not a full-featured CMS. Subfolio is aimed at people who possess little development know-how, while giving people with a lot of know-how full control.

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