Collaborative review tools represent a new group of web-based collaboration tools designed specifically to facilitate and support any visual review process. From graphic design approval sessions, to creative visual brainstorms, collaborative review tools provide the relevant context and technical toolset needed. From collaborative highlighting, to annotating and commenting in real-time or asynchronously collaborative review tools help you take collaborative decisions more effectively even when you and your team are a million miles apart.
Photo credit: Cozimo.com
In the past, getting feedback on visual projects, artwork, or advertising layouts from co-workers and colleagues physically close was the norm. You could immediately capture and integrate their feedback into the document or the image you were creating. But what now that your team is spread throughout the world?
Yesterday if a team member wanted to get feedback on his work, he was likely to print it out, gathered his team-mates in a conference room and allowed them to mark up printed copies of the visual documents with their comments and feedback.
Lots of preparation time. Lots of paper wasted. Lots of work to make sense of all feedback and bring it all together in a new revision release.
But the worst was when your team members were not geographically close to you and email attachments were your typical way of getting things to one another. But as you have long figured out this approach is very inconvenient for multiple reasons:
And this is where collaborative review tools come to your rescue.
In this guide I have picked and organized for you the best and most useful web-based collaborative review tools that are available online. I have also identified which are some of their key characterizing traits and I have outlined them here for you, to help you better evaluate which one if these collaborative review services may actually best fit your specific needs.
Collaborative review tools are a great way to work online with your team on a any document, image or even video.
You can annotate, comment or express feedback on the work of your team-members both in real-time and asynchronously. Collaborative review tools also save you from having to send tons of email back and forth with large file attachments.
In this guide you will find a comprehensive list of web-based collaborative review tools that require no additional download or installation process. All of these services offer a free account plan, do require you to go through a simple registration process, and, in some cases, may provide a quite limited storage space to those with a free account. Obviously, all services offer an easy upgrade option allowing you to gain more storage space for a small monthly fee .
Here all the details and a simple (and always updated) comparison table to give you a fast glance at this new emerging collaborative space:
* Storage space refers to Personal account
** Storage space refers to Free account
ReviewBasics is a collaborative reviewing service that allows you to collaborate on documents such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files, image files, PDF documents and videos. When reviewing a document or image, you can select tools like balloons, arrows or even emoticons to express your like/dislike over a certain area and leave a comment. The service does not support text or video chat.
ReviewBasics uses color coding for quick scan-ability: positive comments are displayed in green and areas needing improvement are shown in red. The service gives you a storage space of 25 MB.
File Types Supported: Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX) and PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX) formats, image files such as JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, Adobe Acrobat (PDF), zip files containing images and video files including FLV, WMV, AVI, and MPG.
Uptogo is aimed at creative professionals who need to review and collaborate on visual assets such as images, logos, videos and documents while getting approval from multiple parties.
Uptogo is useful tool while collaborating and reviewing image files as you can add annotations and create mark up comments directly onto the visuals. However, with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files, annotations are held on a separate dialogue box at the bottom of the page. No text or video chat is available.
Uptogo uses versioning, meaning each change on a file is kept separate and is the file is not overwritten every time you save a change. Storage space for uploaded files is 100MB.
File Types Supported: Image files (JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF), Microsoft Word (DOC) and PowerPoint files (PPT).
Cozimo is a collaborative web-based reviewing service largely aimed at the creative audience who desires to gather opinions and feedback on online media. Cozimo does not support Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents and focuses primarily on digital media including image and video files. Storage space is up to 10MB with free account and no text or video chat is available.
Cozimo has a unique feature called real-time collaboration. Everyone participating can "whiteboard" and mark up a digital file with online chat and markup tools. All messages and comments surrounding a project are kept in an archive for future reference.
File Types Supported: Image formats including JPG, TIFF, TGA, and GIF. Adobe Acrobat (PDF), video formats including MOV, AVI and Windows Media Video (WMV).
Thinkature bills itself as an easy way to collaborate and reviewing your work, all from the web browser. Thinkature looks very basic, with simple comment labels you can stick to a specific part of the screen to express your feedback.
Unlike the other online reviewing services you cannot upload PDF, Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents, but just image files. Thinkature allows both video and text chatting and it has a limited storage of 5MB.
File Types Supported: Image formats including GIF, JPG, and PNG.
ConceptShare is an entrant in collaborative reviewing tools. ConceptShare will allow you to interact with your internet peers on media types including images, documents and videos directly from your browser.
You can even type in a web link to have ConceptShare take a snapshot of the page and bring it into their site for online review. For offline use later, you can even capture all the markup and comments and print them out.
ConceptShare has a very unique capability - you can brand their site to your own website's look and feel. Flexible branding allows you to create a ConceptShare and interact with clients as if you are still within your own site. ConceptShare has a 1GB storage space for free version. No text or video chat allowed.
File Types Supported: Image formats including: JPG, JPEG, TIFF, BMP, GIF, PNG, PSD. Vector formats including: CPT, CDR, EPS, WMF, AI, EMF, PDF. Video formats including: AVI, DIVX, MP2, mp4, mpg, wmv, pdf, DWG, swf. Document formats including: PDF, DWG, DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPS, RTF.
Vyew offers familiar utilities in collaborative reviewing tools such as the ability to markup a document in real-time and the services and also adds text chat.
Vyew allows you to do desktop sharing to enable you to share your computer's desktop, directly from your browser. Vyew allows custom color theming and branding of their website and provides a 25MB uploading space.
File Types Supported: Microsoft Word (DOC), Excel (XLS) and PowerPoint (PPT) files. Image files including JPG, GIF, PNG. Other types included: SWF, TXT, RTF, MP3, FLV.
Octopz is a collaborative reviewing tool to accelerate decision making by enabling its users to interact with no training necessary. The tool lives up to this promise and makes it easy to upload files for collaboration and begin marking up your media. Octopz is totally web-based.
Octopz provides text, voice and video chat, is totally web-based and allows you to log in and work separately at different times. Octopz costs $99 per license and offers 1GB of storage.
File Types Supported: Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX), Excel (XLS, XLSX), PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX, PPSX) and WPD, RTF and TXT files. Image files including BMP, EPS, GIF, JPG, JPEG, PCX, PNG, PSD, TGA, TIF, and TIFF. Rich content including Videos (ASF, AVI, MPEG, MPG, MOV, M4P, 3GP, WMV), Flash Files (SWF, FLV), Audio (MP3), and even DAE formats as well as 3D panoramas.
FineTuna is a collaborative reviewing web service that has one simple workflow. Users can upload an image file (or link to one already on the internet), add comments and send it to colleagues for reviewing.
FineTuna is very basic and only allows you to share a single image that has been annotated with your feedback. No possibility to chat. FineTuna provides a Firefox extension for easy sharing.
File Types Supported: Image files.
Backboard is a web-based collaborative reviewing service that allows you do mark up directly in the documents, leave comments in a comment field and quickly invite new participants as necessary. It only works with Windows XP / Vista and Mac OsX Tiger and its later versions. Blackboard does not include the possibility to chat with other team-workers.
Unique Backboard features include encryption for keeping your documents secure and being able to make a new version of documents when changes are made. Additionally, Backboard offers an upload program that enables you to easily upload documents from your computer.
File Types Supported: Microsoft Word (DOC / DOCX), Excel (XLS / XLSX) and PowerPoint (PPT / PPTX) files. OpenOffice files like WPD, ODT, ODP, ODS. Text files and Acrobat PDF. Image files (GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP and PSD).
ProofHQ is a browser-integrated collaborative reviewing tool intended for designers and other creative types for uploading, commenting, and approving "proofs" with control for clients and participants. Using the viewer, users can add comments and annotations. The owner of the proof can approve/reject changes and create new versions as needed.
ProofHQ is meant to be a substitute for emailing images and documents. Text and video chats are not allowed. ProofHQ free account gives users a storage space of 50MB.
File Types Supported: Microsoft Word (DOC), Adobe Acrobat (PDF), PowerPoint (PPT), image files (JPG, BMP, TIF, GIF, PNG) and Zip archives.
Flowchart is a simple web-application to do collaborative reviewing that enables users to create and cooperate on flowcharts. The service enables you to draw shapes and connectors (lines, arrows, and Bezier curves) to illustrate a process or work flow in the form of a flowchart.
Just flowcharts files and BMP / vector graphics are supported for input. Flowcharts can be embedded into any web page, shared with other users or exported into PNG or PDF files. Users can text chat with each others. The service is currently in beta status and only invited users can sign-up.
File Types Supported: BMP, Vector graphics and Flowchart format.
Redmark is a free, collaborative web-based reviewing service targeted to improve the relationship between designers and their clients. the service is currently in private beta, but is expected to go public soon.
All you need to do is register to the site, upload your design and then provide the e-mail of your clients. The clients then gets a protected URL to check your work (no registration required), and leave comments in a easy, point-to-click fashion. Clients can also access a dedicated dashboard showing all design revisions, and how much work is left on each project.
File Types Supported: JPG, PNG and PDF.
Originally written by Robin Good - mini-reviews by Jason Harris for MasterNewMedia and originally published as "Collaborative Review Tools: Share, Edit And Review Visual Documents And Video In Real-Time - Sharewood Guide" on September 11th 2008