TextFlow Allows for Simple Document Collaboration
Document collaboration can be a headache. Hours can be spent sending out copies via email. Days lost waiting for revisions and edits to come back. And then additional hours combining all the changes into one homogenous document. TextFlow aims to minimize the pain of document collaboration with free online/offline collaboration software.

Collaborating on a Document

Collaboration on a document can occur in a few different ways. First it can take place using a service such as Adobe ConnectNow, where one person makes updates to a document while others dictate suggestions or changes. While a speedy method, it lacks the ability for users mull over a document at their leisure and be able to provide real, quality feedback.

Another option for document collaboration is to send out a document to numerous recipients, allow them time to work with the document in a way comfortable to them, and then work diligently to piece together edited and notated copies of the original document into one potentially final piece – only to repeat the process if necessary.

These are the two general methods that people use to collaborate on documents, neither one overly effective for various reasons.

With TextFlow, all of this changes.

TextFlow Allows for Simple Document Collaboration

TextFlow is a new document collaboration tool. Built by the Swedish based company Nordic River, it is built on the Adobe Air platform which means it can be used with a variety of operating systems and can be used whether users are online and offline.

Users still send out a document and allow recipients to work on it. The original version is then uploaded into TextFlow by simply dragging and dropping it into the TextFlow interface. When it comes time to collaborate together, all modified copies are uploaded to TextFlow and changes and notes are added into the document automatically for you to keep or discard.

The TextFlow solution is a combination of an application loaded on your PC and a server hosted by TextFlow. In order to complete the analysis of the changed documents, the documents are uploaded to the TextFlow server and analyzed using a patent-pending WeaveSync technology - an indexing, matching and synchronization tool for documents.

Once the analysis is completed, the final version is exported and the documents are removed from the TextFlow server.

The video below gives a great example of just how simple it is.

Using TextFlow

Not only is TextFlow easy to use, it works with multiple file formats, offers support for concurrent work where multiple users can upload changes simultaneously to allow for instant collaboration.

Features of TextFlow

  • Multiple Document Formats – TextFlow is XML based and works with multiple document formats that currently include .rtf, .doc and .docx. There are plans to include OpenOffice document formats. Export formats include .doc, pdf, and .html. There is also a native TextFlow format, .tfx. 
  • Multiple Operating Systems – With the use of Adobe Air, TextFlow runs well on both Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 or later and the company who owns it, runs it on Ubuntu. 
  • Secure – Currently documents are only temporarily stored on the TextFlow servers during the time actual collaboration is taking place. Once a session is completed a draft is output in the desired format and stored on a local computer. Access is via password and https.
  • Easy Undo/Redo - TextFlow makes it easy to undo or redo changes, suggestion acceptance, or anything else.

Known Issues With TextFlow

Still in Beta, TextFlow takes much of the work out of document collaboration so that users can focus on the meat of the document, not time-consuming tedious tasks. But there are some issues and some bugs.

The Issues

  • TextFlow does not support images or other media and it does not support tables, only pure text documents. The text of tables is stored, but not the format.
  • There has been mixed feedback from Linux users and it has not been fully tested on Linux. Compatibility does seem to increase with updates to Adobe Air.
  • Documents are only temporarily stored on TextFlow servers -- at least for the Beta period. In the final release, documents will be stored and a complete archive of work can be maintained.
  • There is no support for multiple security levels but there are plans for it in the future by assigning people to groups with varying access.

The Bug

The main focus of current development for TextFlow involves large, lengthy documents. Tomer Shalit of Nordic River states, “TextFlow becomes sluggish with large documents. Speed improvements are currently our main development focus just now. We are also constantly fine-tuning the comparison algorithms to create clearer results.”

A New Way to Be Productive

TextFlow seems to do what it set out to – make document collaboration simpler. And with the busy pace that our world operates at, simpler is always better. Enabling users to work on the same document simultaneously can speed up collaboration drastically.

Although it is not expected to win the hearts of Microsoft Office, Google Docs or Zoho users overnight, many are saying this is a solution to watch closely.

You can download the beta version for free, but it is expected to cost you something when the final release becomes available.