Businesses that need to manage input from multiple collaborators on shared text documents will benefit from the new TextFlow application for Box.net, which makes it simple to see changes side by side and choose which one to accept.
Businesses that need to manage input from multiple collaborators on shared text documents will benefit from the new TextFlow application for Box.net, which makes it simple to see changes side by side and choose which one to accept.Most businesses of any size need their employees to be able to collaborate on documents some of the time. Some document editors allow for multiple people to work on the same document but usually require them to check the document in and out so that they don't overwrite each other's edits. Microsoft's Office 2010 packages will allow more than one person to work on a document simultaneously, but access will still be restricted on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. For all that, the most common method of getting input from several people still probably involves sending a document out via e-mail for each person to add comments and changes. But even using a feature like Word's Track Changes, someone is still faced with the task of reconciling the changes from each separate file.
That's where Nordic River's TextFlow comes in. It's integrated as an application into the Box.net Cloud Content Management system, which maintains a document's revision history. Once all the separate files with their own changes are uploaded to Box.net, they appear as separate revisions to the original document. A TextFlow subscriber can then choose two or more of the revisions to open in TextFlow -- the application takes the separate files, uses Nordic River's own WeaveSync technology to compare them, and presents the document with all the revisions. Each separate edit appears in its own bubble, color-coded according to the person who made it, next to the paragraph it applies to. Reconciling the several changes just requires clicking the checkmark in the bubble with the selected edit. Once all the desired edits are applied, TextFlow saves the combined document as a new revision back into Box.net.
There's a lot more to it than that: the editor can show or hide different bubbles to just see the original text, can copy and paste text from a bubble to combine edits, and can even apply the proper Word styles. It is, frankly the easiest way to review multiple edits to the same text and reconcile them that I've ever used -- and I've had jobs where that was my main task. For any SMB that has to coordinate edits from multiple stakeholders and is already using Box.net for content management, the application is well worth the $99/year/seat it costs.
In fact, TextFlow is impressive enough that it could be enough reason to sign up for Box.net in the first place. Or, you can wait until the Adobe Air-based standalone version comes out of beta -- it will allow the document comparison and reconciliation, but you'll have to roll your own revision tracking. To get a sense of how TextFlow works and what it can do for your workflow, you can visit www.comparemydocs.com and upload some .doc, .docx, or .rtf documents. Nordic River CEO Tomer Shalit warns, however, that the TextFlow app available via Box.net is more advanced than the implementation on comparemydocs.com.
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