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Lyve App review: Nearly effortless photo organization

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The Good Lyve displays your entire photo collection beautifully and surfaces old photos you may have forgotten.

The Bad You need to keep your devices on and online to see high-res photos. The free Lyve apps don't back up your photos in case your phone gets stolen or your computer crashes.

The Bottom Line Lyve is a fast and hands-off way to organize your photos if you don't want to do it yourself.

Visit for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Setup 5
  • Features 7
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

There's one good reason to use Lyve: you want an organized photo collection without the hassle of organizing the photos yourself and you want to be able to view your collection from nearly any device. The free app for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows and Mac collects all of your photos and videos from your computer, phone and tablet into one library that you can look at anytime, anywhere.

The best part is that within the Lyve mobile apps, your entire photo collection is compressed so it won't take up too much space. You can view thousands of high-resolution photos on your phone without maxing out your storage. That's because Lyve creates "screen-optimized" versions of your photos that look sharp on your phone's screen but aren't as large as the original file. Even better, Lyve organizes everything to give you a clean feed of photos, all grouped by date.

Getting started

There are several steps you'll need to take to get the full benefit of Lyve, but the process isn't too hard. The main point of Lyve is to organize and view the photos stored on your computer from your phone, and to do that, you'll need to install the free desktop app from Lyve's website.

Once it's installed, you need to tell the app which folders to pull photos from and to monitor for new photos. That could be just the general Pictures folder in your computer's file manager, or you can create a separate folder and drag specific photos into that for Lyve. For instance, I have plenty of work-related photos in my Pictures folder that I don't want in Lyve, so instead I created a separate folder just for my personal photos. You can also have Lyve grab media from a cloud storage service, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, if you have those folders on your computer.

With Lyve on the desktop, you tell the app in where to find photos to import. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You pick the folders you want Lyve to monitor in the Preferences section of the desktop app. Every time you add new photos to those folders, they will sync to Lyve. The initial sync during the setup process can take several minutes depending on the number of files you have.

Once the photos are synced, you'll be able to view them from the mobile apps, even without an Internet connection. That's because the app keeps a cache of the screen-optimized versions of the photos on your mobile device. You can add new photos from your phone or tablet too -- if you have the Lyve app installed, anything you record with the device's camera will automatically sync. For me, this is one of the best parts of Lyve, because I can view my entire thousand-plus collection of photos scattered across my two computers right from my phone, without downloading them or transferring the actual file from device to device.

You can set up Lyve on as many computers and mobile devices as you want, and the service will organize all the photos together into a single library. For now, you cannot sync folders that are stored on an external hard drive, even if it's always connected to your computer. You'll need to transfer the files from the external hard drive to a computer that's running the Lyve app.

Better organization than a shoebox

Lyve does a fantastic job of keeping your photos and videos visually organized, making it easy and actually pleasing to browse my photos.

The apps creates albums based on date, using the information associated with the photo itself. All images have metadata created by the camera that indicates the time and date it was taken, plus the camera model. If the camera's date was incorrect your photos might be a bit disorganized, but a forthcoming update will let you manually change the date to fix this.

Lyve organizes your entire photo collection into a simple feed. Josh Miller/CNET

On the main screen of the app, called the Lyve feed, your albums are shown as colorful collages of photos, with the date they were taken clearly visible. You can scroll up and down in the feed to browse these collages, or tap and swipe along the right edge of the screen to jump to a particular month and date. That's really helpful if you have photos from years ago.

It's easy to get sucked into scrolling through the feed, going farther and farther back to find more photos from the past -- pictures I didn't even remember I had because they were hidden in a folder somewhere on my computer.

You tap the collage to see all of the photos in that album. For all of your photos, you'll see a compressed, lower-resolution version when first you tap to view it. If the device that the photo is stored on is online, meaning it's awake and connected to the Internet, the app will automatically load a higher-resolution version you can zoom in on.

Lyve loads a low-resolution version of your photos first, and then shows a higher-quality version, if available. Above is the lower-resolution photo. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

From there, you can also share your photos, but I had some trouble with this. On iOS, you can share photos to Facebook, Twitter, via email and through iMessage. However, it always took me several tries to get photos to send in iMessage; the first time, nothing sent.

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