The NextPage client application and service work by creating a set of metadata for each master document an author creates, including a unique identifier. Only the metadata, and not the entire document, is sent through the service for identification as the document is modified and saved. This approach provides document creators with real-time alerting any time a document is saved, in much the same way Outlook notifies users of new e-mail.
In addition to integrating with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, NextPage monitors each users Windows file system. If a user receives and saves a document through a means other than e-mail, such as via removable media, the author of the document is notified that a new version has been created. NextPage does not track revisions in documents, however.
We found NextPage easy to use overall. Most steps around managing revisions—such as setting the master document, designating alternate documents and preserving a particular copy—can be accomplished from the NextPage menu within Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
However, there are two aspects of the application that took some getting used to—namely, that a document has to be saved before it can be shared and that there is a default preference for determining who can create new master documents.
NextPage has a couple of document-tracking tools that we found helpful in our tests. First, we could associate a to-do list with a document to manage incorporating changes, and a version history map illustrated clearly how documents had branched as well as who had contributed to the documents. We could also use this interface to view e-mail associated with a specific version of a document. Because NextPage doesnt track actual changes in a document, this is the only level of reporting available.
Groups wont suffer much if some users dont have a copy of NextPage on their systems, although having the client certainly makes managing revisions easier. Users who dont have the client software installed can still share in the NextPage experience: When e-mailing a document, NextPage users who do have the client installed can add an HTML signature file to the e-mail; users who dont have the client installed can then click on links in the signature that will allow them to perform a version check using the NextPage service.
Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at [email protected].