While there are many live collaboration tools out there, I haven’t seen any that are quite as simple as Show Document. It’s a free Flash-based web app that provides a robust, no-hassle way to get near-instant feedback or collaboration on a document, with no signup or downloads required. Show Document should be very useful for those times when you’re in the middle of a phone meeting with someone and need to quickly show them a document and get some feedback.
Getting started is simple — you don’t even need to sign up to get going. Just point your browser to the Show Document home page, select “Shared Document” mode, and upload your document. (Show Document supports a large number of formats: PDF , Word, Powerpoint, Excel, OpenOffice, GIF, JPG, and more.) You’ll be given a URL to give to anyone else with whom you want to share the document or, alternatively, you can enter their email address and Show Document will send them a link.
You’re then taken to a full-screen Flash window containing your document, a chat widget, and some annotation tools. You and anyone else you have shared the document with can make annotations that instantly appear on everyone’s screens.
The presenter and anyone viewing the document have access to a range of annotation tools: pen, line, highlighter, text and whiteout, with undo and redo available. However, only the presenter can navigate around the document (although switching control to another presenter is easy). Once your session is finished, you can save your annotations, scribbles and notes as a PDF file.
One limitation of Show Document is that in “Shared Document” mode it can only be used for annotation, not collaborative editing; you can’t alter the text in the PDF file or Word Doc you uploaded, just add notes on top of it. If you need to collaborate on text with someone, ShowDocument does have a “Shared Text Editor” mode that you can select at the start, but you can’t upload an existing document into it. For this purpose, it’s not as useful as doingText, which Darrell reviewed last month.
Show Document has some other modes, too: “Shared Whiteboard”, which is effectively just the same as “Shared Document” but starts with a blank canvas, and “Shared Browser”. Shared Browser just loads any web page and enables you to annotate it. You can’t click on links on the page or have what might be termed a “shared browsing experience,” so it isn’t as interesting as it might sound at first, but it could potentially be useful for web designers needing to get feedback on designs.
You don’t need to sign up to use the service, but the free registration does provide some benefits, notably that maximum session times are extended, the watermark is removed from shared documents, and you can save documents on the Show Document server. But for quick collaboration and feedback on a document — what Show Document is best suited for — signup shouldn’t be necessary.
What tools do you use for document collaboration?