TextFlow, a new way to collaboratively edit documents, is opening up to everyone Monday morning. Instead of going the real-time route like Zoho and Google Docs, the service opts to let a master editor corral multiple versions of the same Microsoft Word document inside of one file.
Each editor sends in a copy of the file (presumably via e-mail), and the master editor drags and drops all of them into a single bucket. The application then divides the edits into sections, letting the master editor pick whichever revisions make the most sense. When finished, he or she can convert it back to a single Word document.
The tool, developed by Nordic River Software, is just the beginning of a much broader plan to change the way all sorts of documents are edited by multiple parties. Creator and CEO of Nordic River Tomer Shalit envisions a much more encompassing, end-to-end solution where users will be able to send their work to a centralized drop box for the master editor to manage.
In the meantime, the current iteration manages to do all of this within an Adobe AIR application just 400 KB in size. Shalit says this system could eventually be ported over to the Web since it's been built entirely in Flash. "It could be online," Shalit says, "but in this first iteration of the product we chose to do AIR for its drag-and-drop capability." AIR also allows local client-side encryption, which Shalit says makes it a more secure editing platform when working with sensitive documents.
The service is completely free, but not without its limitations. It can handle only documents up to 10 pages in length, and from up to seven different editors--something Shalit says is not a technical limit, rather an issue of color blindness and horizontal screen real estate getting in the way of usability. It also cannot currently handle any kind of embedded charts or images, which is something that the team might add in a later version.
Going forward Shalit hopes to expand to accommodate other Office documents and popular file types, including PowerPoint presentations. There are also plans to launch a premium service that adds higher page limits, extended workflow handling, and higher quality encryption for heavy business users.
You can pick up TextFlow here. Also be sure to check out this quick demo of how it works with three different edits:
Textflow Demo from Josh Lowensohn on Vimeo.