Even though there are already a myriad of tools that try to make collaborative editing easier, few of them are as elegant and easy to use as TextFlow, which just launched its public beta this morning. TextFlow is an Adobe AIR application that allows a master editor to merge documents from up to seven other editors. Unlike Etherpad, which we reviewed last week, TextFlow is not a real-time collaboration platform, but works with a more traditional editing model.
After finishing the relatively straightforward installation and sign-up process, the master editor can simply drag and drop different versions of a document to TextFlow and TextFlow will then, after analyzing the documents on the service’s servers, display a very nice interface that allows the master editor to quickly accept or dismiss edits to the master document.
The best way to understand TextFlow’s feature set and interface is to try out one of the Flash demos on the company’s website.
Elegant, but With Severe Limitations
Sadly, TextFlow’s usefulness is restricted by a number of severe limitations. It can, for example, only handle files of less than 10 pages. TextFlow also can’t handle images or charts and tables, which, depending on the type of documents you need to edit, might be a show-stopper. Up to seven editors can submit documents, which should be enough in most circumstances, but might be too restrictive for some.
According to TextFlow, a lot of its alpha users were in big corporations and law firms, and it is easy to see why these users would like TextFlow. We can also see how this would be a useful tool for students who want to work on a group project. TextFlow’s current limitations, however, will leave a lot of users wanting for more.
In the future, TextFlow might switch from being an Adobe AIR application to a pure online model that will have fewer restriction, but if you often need to collaboratively edit relatively short and simple text documents, TextFlow is definitely a product that is worth a try.