Kcentrix Does End Run Around Word

 
 
By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-02-27
 
 
 

Kcentrix Does End Run Around Word


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.



Click here to read the full review of PleaseReview.

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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.

Wishing for More


Some of the finer points of the revision interface take some getting used to. For example, we couldnt navigate to the Typo tab except by selecting a word from either the Comment or Propose Change tab. Users in the reviewer role should be able to learn the system in just a couple of hours, however.

Authors have more responsibility for managing the comment and revision process, so companies should plan to train them on how the product works and establish guidelines for how to handle open comments when closing out a document review. We liked that the product can strip out all Word metadata to avoid the possibility of accidentally leaving open comments in place.

We couldnt help but wish, though, for a few more workflow options and capabilities.

For example, when an author closes out a review, the review is over—he or she cant restart it if further review is needed. We also would have liked a sign-off capability—something that would ensure that all vested parties had reviewed and approved a document.

We did like the notification options, which allowed us to set reminder dates for a given project. As author, we could also suspend a review at any time.

PleaseReview includes a main report that comprises all reconciliation and comment data, as well as a downloadable document that has numbered links between comments and paragraphs. Companies using the Corporate Edition can generate their own reports against a SQL database using a reporting tool such as Business Objects Crystal Reports.

To review PDFs, users must install a free plug-in for Adobe Systems Acrobat Professional that provides a PleaseReview-specific comment tool bar in addition to Acrobat Professionals comment tool bars. The plug-in works in the context of the Web browser, which means that we could comment on PDF documents while logged on to PleaseReview.

During tests, we were able to revise PDF document text and place comments near graphic elements.

Take it offline

In this release of the corporate Edition of PleaseReview, Kcentrix has introduced an offline client. We liked that the offline client behaves much like the Web-based client, essentially by adding a wrapper around the browser. (PleaseReview supports Internet Explorer and the Mozilla Foundations Firefox.) Users just go through the added steps of uploading and downloading documents to work on them offline. During the upload process, comments are automatically put into place in the document.

When we uploaded a document for review, PleaseReview parsed the documents elements—such as table of contents, paragraphs and words—into objects we could address from either Internet Explorer or Firefox. We could then comment and propose changes to paragraphs or words in the document.

Next Page: The evaluation shortlist.

The Evaluation Shortlist


EVALUATION SHORTLIST

NextPages NextPage 2.1 Service that taps Office document metadata for team-based document revisions (www.nextpage.com)

Sants RFPMaster Web-based application for collaborating on RFP (request for proposal) responses (www.santcorp.com)

Savo Groups Sales Asset Manager Hosted tool for collaborating on sales proposals and presentations; can be customized for broader document collaboration (www.savogroup.com)

Workshares Workshare Professional 4.5 Uses Office document metadata to track revisions and adds document security through metadata removal tool (www.workshare.com)

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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