By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-02-27 Print this article Print

Companies looking for an easy way to collaborate on documents with external entities—including partners and customers—will find Kcentrix Softwares PleaseReview a flexible, easy-to-use collaboration platform.

Shipping since mid-February, PleaseReview 3.0 is a Web-based application that allows workgroups to share, comment on and suggest changes to Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat documents. Users also can comment on Microsoft PowerPoint and image files. eWEEK Labs tests show that PleaseReview does a good job of simplifying what would ordinarily be a complex task of compiling and resolving revisions in multiple versions of a document.

Document reviewers using PleaseReview do everything in the browser, so a copy of Microsoft Word isnt needed to review the document. This makes PleaseReview well-suited for sites with a mix of desktop operating systems and office productivity suites or in situations where business partners run older versions of Office that dont support the Track Changes feature.

Kcentrix sells PleaseReview through a software-as-a-service license and in a Corporate Edition that can be run on premise or hosted on a dedicated server by Kcentrix.

Will security weaknesses derail large-scale enterprise adoption of software as a service? Click here to read more. The PleaseReview service costs $270 per year for a workgroup account with one author account and five reviewer accounts. Additional workgroup licenses cost $140 per year. With an on-premise license, the Corporate Edition costs $4,320 for 30 users with five authors. Kcentrix also licenses the product based on concurrent reviews, allowing any user to take on both author and reviewer roles.

The Corporate Edition runs on Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2003 Server and requires that IIS (Internet Information Services) and Microsoft Office 2003 be installed.

(Kcentrix officials announced a name change for the company, to take effect in March. The companys new name will be PleaseTech.)

Revision rivals

PleaseReviews two main competitors are Workshare and NextPage.

There are two editions of Workshares offering: Workshare Professional 4.5, which manages revisions and scrubs metadata from Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, and Workshare DeltaView 3.0, which is just for managing document revisions. NextPages NextPage 2.1 is a combination of a client-side application and subscription service for managing revisions in Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.

Both Workshare DeltaView and NextPage rely on a level of client-side code to help manage document workflow and change compilation.

In contrast, PleaseReview allows users to compile comments and proposed changes in a single place where everyone can see these comments and changes and comment further.

Workshare and NextPage also use e-mail to distribute and share documents, forking versions and recompiling changes once reviewers submit comments. This means one reviewer would not see another reviewers proposed changes when working in parallel on a document. In essence, workflow with these products is a multistep process if reviewers plan to read and respond to one anothers comments.

Except when using the offline client, PleaseReviews revision workflow is a single, continuous process—reviewers can see and respond to others comments as soon as comments are saved and the document view is refreshed. PleaseReview can designate reviewer comments as private, however, so one reviewer cant see anothers comments.

Elegant interface

In large part, PleaseReview is elegant and easy to use. When we selected a paragraph, for example, a dialog box opened that gave us the ability to navigate and make comments, propose changes and fix typos. The dialog box, which has a tabbed interface, includes a text entry box for comments and a box containing the selected text for managing changes and corrections.

We appreciated the ability to manage comments and changes from within the system so we could easily respond to, delete or revise a proposed change in a document. Reviewers also have the option of withdrawing a proposed change. Accepting a change integrates that change directly in the document, with additional text inheriting the formatting of the paragraph or style in use in that section of the document.

Proposed changes that are withdrawn or rejected dont appear in the final version that the author downloads at the end of the review. Users cant currently use PleaseReview to change document style or structure.

Uncommitted or open revisions and comments appear in the realm of Words Track Changes feature; once a team completes a document review, PleaseReview packages the document with all revisions and comments and then the author accepts or rejects changes.

For reviewers, however, Words Track Changes feature is immaterial: Reviewers revise documents entirely in the Web browser and dont have to deal with Track Changes unless they download a document to review it in Word.

Next Page: Wishing for more.


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