KnowledgeTree's new Web Documents feature looks a bit like what we've seen for several years from Google Docs and its imitators--the ability of an online word processor to let several people work on a document simultaneously and see each other's changes show up in real time. That Google Docs capability has been widely imitated in products such as Yammer, which added a Yammer Pages Web document editor last year. But unlike these other tools, the KnowledgeTree web editor is not trying to be a Microsoft Office replacement or a Web page editor.
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Instead, KnowledgeTree has created an editor geared for working through many drafts of a document with a distributed team, where each member's contributions turn up on the screen as color-coded passages. You don't see strikeouts and underlining, the way you do with Microsoft Word's revision marks feature. However, using a slider at the top of the document you can rewind through a series of revisions to see who made which changes and how the document got to its current state. Each document also has an associated social feed including comments from reviewers and collaborators--a relatively simple feed that so far does not include threaded discussion.
KnowledgeTree Web Documents also can be associated with a workflow, such as a series of approvals that are required before a document is published or a contract is approved.
Peter Mollins, senior director of product marketing at KnowledgeTree, said social software concepts can rescue document management from its tradition of being "a place where documents go to die," but social software is also more powerful with document management included. "We think the social enterprise is more valuable when combined with a structured approach," he said. "People want to collaborate around the creation of documents. They want to collaborate around something more solid, an artifact that is more long-lived … something people are working on," he said.
The result of these document collaborations can be exported as a clean copy, to a PDF, or copied into another editor such as Word for final formatting. As the name implies, KnowledgeTree has built its cloud software business around the knowledge management and document management tradition, attracting customers such as legal firms. Most are small to mid-size companies.
KnowledgeTree also manages uploaded documents and offers Zoho Docs as an online editor for Microsoft Office documents. In addition, KnowledgeTree offers a Microsoft Office plugin that saves and retrieves documents from cloud storage. All of these documents can be tagged with metadata for better search and retrieval, and KnowledgeTree has added a recommendation engine to help users discover documents that are consistent with their ongoing interests.
The different modes of editing serve different purposes, Mollins said, "but as more people see the value in collaborating online, increasingly a lot of activity will be in these Web documents." Customers who got early access to the new feature typically used the web editor for the initial document development and then for intensive formatting switched to an editor like Word, he said.
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