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Review: NextPage's NextPage 1.5

This subscription service provides version control for collaborative Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. The price and system requirements, however, might leave your head spinning.

Sean Doherty

March 21, 2005

4 Min Read

Ever spend hours editing the wrong version of a document? Keeping track of a collaborative work can be a full-time job, and NextPage 1.5 would like to apply.

A subscription service, NextPage 1.5 provides version control for Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents on licensed computers and tracks copies sent to others in real time. It also integrates with Windows Explorer and Outlook.

The NextPage client installs in 50 MB of disk space and includes JRE (Java Runtime Environment) 1.4.2_05-b04. Using 26 MB to 29 MB of memory and integrating with Microsoft Office products using a COM API, it communicates real-time versioning information with NextPage central servers using HTTP and HTTPS. It adds metadata to supported files (see "Safe and Secure" chart below) and provides versioning tools from a pull-down menu and toolbar.

The client stores data on tracked files in the user's application data folder. These files grow, depending on the number of files selected for tracking. During tests in our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®, my files grew to 5 MB.

What's Your Version?

I created a Word document to edit and share with my two best friends in the Syracuse labs: Client11 and Client181. I wouldn't do anything without these pals, so I installed copies of NextPage 1.5 for them as well. Once I was happy with my master document, I fired up Outlook, attached and e-mailed the document. The Send pop-up window let me append to the message a document signature, including my e-mail address and file information, such as the last date and time the document was saved. It also supplied a long URL to obtain the latest document-version information from NextPage's central server.

If you edit and save the document after sending it but before the recipients have reviewed it, the document signature will provide a NextPage server link displaying the current version information, updated by client software. But to click on the link or import the URL into a browser's address window, you must restore line breaks in the e-mail message. It would be nice if the URL were simplified (like the mod_rewrite module in Apache does).

Good

• Version tracking for Excel, PowerPoint and Word
• Easy and intuitive to use
• Low subscription price

Bad

• No workflow
• Needs 26 MB of memory
• Relies on Microsoft compare and merge functions

NextPage 1.5, $250 per user, per year. NextPage, (800) NEXTPAGE, (801) 748-4400. www.nextpage.com

When a recipient edits the document, the result is an alternate version that eventually will be incorporated into the master document. But NextPage doesn't supply any tools to compare and merge documents--for that, you'll need Microsoft tools or another editor. And if you import a tracked document into another editor, such as OpenOffice or StarOffice, the NextPage metadata won't go with it.

Real-Time Pop-Ups

While Client11 and Client181 were editing and saving my document on their local disks, I received real-time information from NextPage on new alternates through pop-up window notifications. These provided a handy link to a graphical representation of information on document versions and editors. Once the clients were done, they e-mailed the files back to me.

On receipt, a pop-up window told me of, and linked me to, the new, alternate versions of the master document waiting for me in Outlook. One click on the link and I was directed to the message in my inbox--no more losing my edits in a busy mailbox.

The NextPage service monitors the local disk and Outlook (IMAP, MAPI or POP3) folders in real time. Consequently, when tracked documents appear as an attachment in Outlook, the content of a tracked file changes or the file is renamed, NextPage detects the event and updates version and location information. This makes it easy to find a document from the graphical toolbar in the pull-down menu. NextPage also has an option to preserve a file in its original state before you send it out to edit or at any time during the editing process.

If you already have a document-management application from the likes of Hummingbird or Stellent, you don't need NextPage. But if you don't, NextPage 1.5 offers an easy way to track your documents in the editing process. Now if NextPage could add a workflow mechanism and keep the cost down, I'd really be impressed.

Sean Doherty is a senior technology editor and lawyer based at our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. Write to him at [email protected].

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