Irrespective of your career, there is hardly a chance that you could escape writing documentation. Creating, editing, collaborating, or organizing info – at least one of these tasks is part of the regular workflow these days. Office 365 and Google Docs are the biggest players in the online collaboration and productivity suites, and odds are you already use one of them in your daily workflow.
From time to time, a new web app rears its head to tackle the inefficiencies in the documentation process. GroupDocs is a next generation document management solution that makes it easier for businesses to collaborate, share, and work with documents online. After the break, let us see in detail how to make the most out of it.
Pricing and Plans
GroupDocs has two different subscription options: the API tier is targeted at developers, and the standard pricing for regular users starts at $10. Unless you are working on your own, the Individual plan will be too basic, as it’s devoid of collaboration options. For that, you’ll need to go with the $19 Group plan, which allows up to nine users to work on documents together.
Right from the start, GroupDocs earns a couple of brownie points for having the simplest sign up form ever (just two fields!). However, I was a bit disappointed when I was redirected to the dashboard. I wouldn’t go far as saying it’s ugly, but doesn’t look good at all. This isn’t the interface that people would want to spend time sifting through their boring documents. I have a 24” screen and the responsive design only made things worse.
A few “Getting Started” pdf guides were already in the dashboard to give you a taste of what the app could do. Files can be uploaded in a snap by dragging and dropping them into the rather large drop area. A large drag and drop zone is makes it so much easy to upload files, but it’s hard not notice its larger than life size!
I tried uploading a Microsoft Word document in .docx format. The upload was blazing fast despite a background FTP process I had running that was clogging my bandwidth. Click on the document or use the drop-down to bring up the GroupDocs Viewer. Once the file was uploaded, it was like looking at a scanned copy of the document and it was bit smudged even when I wasn’t zooming. You can search the document, copy text and even embed the document in a web page. It would have been great if there was a way to edit the document, but the annotation feature should help you overcome that to some extent.
Adding Your Thoughts
GroupDocs Annotation feature lets you view and comment on documents. Upload a Microsoft Word or PDF file to the dashboard, select it and go to Annotation option using the drop down menu.
Now, you can add comments to the document and then save it with Microsoft Word documents, which is a cool addition in my opinion. You can also collaborate on a document with a colleague and see comments as they are added.
Assembling a Document
GroupDocs Assembly is one feature that caught my eye before signing up. This functionality claimed to automate document creation and completion. In reality, it is a simple tool to create forms in no time. Create a template, then build a questionnaire to collect user data and you are ready to go.
There is More
There is so much more you can do with GroupDocs. The conversion and comparison features are worth looking at. Not only does the app let you convert documents to popular formats, it also lets you compare them to view the differences. The digital signature service is another notable addition. Simply email documents from GroupDocs to your collaborators and wait for them to revert back with a signed copy. The main problem we hit was that it’s really annoying to have the trial period notification always on top and even overshadows on some prompts. This definitely brings down the user experience a lot, and while we appreciate the need to get users to purchase subscriptions, it seems that it’d be better to let new users have a better initial experience.
When I left my previous job for a freelancing career, Microsoft Office ruled the roost and Google Docs was at its infancy. I don’t have to explain the level of collaboration MS Office had then. Now, after three years, I am back to full time employment and I was glad to see Google Docs being used as the primary app for documentation and collaboration.
Sadly, things haven’t moved much in these years, though. Sure, bringing people together to edit a document is as easy as sending email invites. But, it’s far from being perfect. Organizing documents is a major bottleneck to productivity. So, when I set out to review GroupDocs, I looked into the collaboration and organization capabilities of the web app.
It’s great to see that GroupDocs doesn’t want to be another Google Docs or Zoho competitor and is trying out a lot of innovative features instead. This is a domain which will get better over time and I’m willing to wait for a while for things to get better. The other day, I filled out a survey for Google about the Docs app and I gave a thumbs down on all user experience questions.
The one thing GroupDocs team has to focus right now is user experience. Features could always be added later, but, once you scare a user away with an unproductive interface, it would become tough to win him/her back.