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6/6/2011
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Bluebeam Offers PDF Collaboration Behind The Firewall

PDF Revu document markup and collaboration software, available in desktop and cloud versions, can now work inside the enterprise on local servers.

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After increasing the collaboration features of its PDF Revu document markup software with a cloud service, Bluebeam Software is introducing a local server version.

The new Studio Server product is an alternative to Bluebeam Studio, which the company began offering last year as a free service for anyone who had purchased a license to PDF Revu, a desktop software product that can be used to generate and annotate documents in Adobe's portable document format.

When connected through either the cloud or locally hosted versions of Bluebeam Studio, PDF Revu users can collaborate on a document in real time, seeing each other's annotations and navigation through a document, or post changes for a collaborator to review later. Adobe offers its own collaboration technologies, such as Adobe Connect and Adobe LiveCycle, but BlueBeam has found a niche addressing complex document markup requirements, particularly for engineers and architects.

Even though Bluebeam Studio is available at no additional cost, Bluebeam CEO Richard Lee said the company heard the demand from some customers who wanted to host their own documents internally for security reasons. The company is obliging with Studio Server, which is priced at $9,995. "This gives our customers all the benefits Bluebeam Studio, while letting them move it from the cloud to behind the company's firewall," Lee said.

One common use of Bluebeam Studio is to pass around blueprints or other technical drawings and have them marked up by a team of collaborators who may not all have the same CAD software available. While the changes may ultimately have to be implemented back in the original file, using the original CAD software, Bluebeam replaces the paper-based process of marking up printouts of the drawings. Also, because the collaboration occurs around an image of the document, rather than the original, the integrity of the original is preserved.

"Often, the content creator doesn't necessarily want to allow others to update or control his content," Lee said. For that reason, Bluebeam can address scenarios that don't necessarily work within a system like Google Docs, which allows multiple people to make changes to a document in real time. With that approach, "you may edit out a paragraph before I can add my comments to it," Lee said.

In contrast, Bluebeam document collaboration is conducted around annotations overlaid on the original document, without altering the original. "So you can say I think we should take out this paragraph, and I can say, no leave it in, and then we can have a discussion about that," Lee said.

Although Adobe Acrobat provides its own document markup tools, PDF Revu provides a more elaborate set of tools for drawing, highlighting, and annotation. In a demo, Lee showed a whole library of proofreading annotations Bluebeam created as part of its work with a publisher.

PDF Revu is available in a $179 per user standard edition, a $239 CAD edition that integrates with computer assisted design tools, and a $299 extreme edition with additional document markup and management tools.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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