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Summary:

Document collaboration with distributed teams can be a bit of a headache, as I’ve noted in previous posts. No doubt, if you’ve ever tried it yourself, you don’t need me to remind you. More tools are available than ever before for getting this kind of work […]

rz_logoDocument collaboration with distributed teams can be a bit of a headache, as I’ve noted in previous posts. No doubt, if you’ve ever tried it yourself, you don’t need me to remind you. More tools are available than ever before for getting this kind of work done, but with a plethora of choices comes a conundrum. What kind of tool works best for collaborating on a single document? A specialized web app, a wiki, something like iWork.com that integrates with your word processing program, or a Google Docs/Zoho Writer shared document? I’ve yet to find a definite answer, but not for lack of trying.

Revizr is a new app that combines wiki elements with change tracking features that preserves the integrity of your original document, so you can see exactly what your collaborators have added (or taken away) from your copy. And it does so in an app that’s so easy to use, you’re actually using it the moment you visit its homepage for the first time. In order to manipulate your own documents, and work together with others, you will have to sign up, but if you’re just looking for a taste of what Revizr can do before you enroll, the trial is the site itself.

If you want to dig a little deeper, sign-up is quick, free and easy. Just pick a username, enter a password and an email address, and you’re ready to go. Alternatively, you can sign in using your OpenID credentials (including Yahoo and Gmail email addresses) and skip registration that way. Once logged in, you’ll have access to stored documents and be able to upload new ones. Revizr works with .doc/.docx, .odt, .rtf, HTML and .txt files. You can also cut and paste or compose a brand-new document using Revizr’s built-in word processor, which allows graphics, tables and pretty much anything else you’d expect a word processor to be able to handle.
Picture 1For each document, you can set an access policy that allows you to specify who can view and make changes to the work in question. There are three options, which include people who already have access (who could be no one besides yourself), people who have the protected link (which you can generate and distribute from the permissions page), or anyone on the Internet. (There could be some creative potential with that option, maybe.) You can also set levels of access for new users, and allow them to see edits done by others, check previous versions, and even control content like an administrator.

What I like best about Revizr’s user control system is that it is incredibly simple, and yet very powerful, if you need it to be. There are only six options total, in two categories, and yet I can’t think of anything I’d add or change.

Users can also opt to “follow” documents, which sounds like (and probably is) a term borrowed from Twitter. All it really means is that if anyone makes changes to documents you’re following, you’ll receive email notifications of what’s been done. By default, you’ll automatically follow changes to any document you upload or create yourself. This is another feature I really appreciate. It’s something that should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often something like this isn’t included. Working with only one other person, the need for it isn’t particularly great, but if you have a larger group, you risk some people missing entire versions without it.
Picture 2Possibly Revizr’s weakest point is how it handles the actual editing itself. I tested it out by making some changes to my own document as an anonymous user while logged out, and I found the experience frustrating. It’s unclear where the cursor is. There are three icons (one  to insert text, one for commenting, and one for inserting a paragraph) but the choice of which to click isn’t very intuitive. Selecting and removing text works well enough, though, if that’s all you want to do.

Viewing of revisions could also have been better executed, in my opinion. Deleted text is represented as a strikeout, which works, but text additions are displayed in the margin with an arrow indicating where they fit in. It’s clumsy and hard to read, especially when keeping the additions in the main body of the document wouldn’t seem to have been that difficult.

As a free tool, Revizr gets the job done and has some nice backend features. Because of the limitations of the editor and change display, I wouldn’t personally go in for the paid versions, which start at $29 per month and range up to $99.

Have you tried Revizr? Did you find working with the editor frustrating?

  1. Revizr doesn’t put user-inserted text into the document because it can handle many users’ work simultaneously. Putting inserts in the text would get confusing fast with everyone’s work mixed up together.

    The display of revisions only appears to be limited. It shows not just inserts and strikes but jumping text, replaced text, swapped words, things that look like what people actually write on documents when they’re editing them.

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