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Agilewords for Document Review

Agilewords is a collaborative review site, promising a secure, simple, streamlined review process. It delivers. And, they have a picture of a t-rex here (there’s a nice introduction to the company there, too).
You start by uploading, naming, and selecting a folder for your document. You then have to setup your document with a review deadline, set permissions, and invite collaborators.
As to the review deadline, you cannot give it a time of day, which you cannot set reviews to be due later in the day you upload it. While your collaborators might appreciate that, it’s not inconceivable that you might want a really fast turnaround. An easy enough workaround would be to make it due the next day, and add in the convenient message field: “THE DEADLINE IS ACTUALLY EOD TODAY. IF YOUR EDITS AREN’T DONE THEN, YOU’RE FIRED.” Or, something less dramatic. You can alter the review deadline freely, and end the review period arbitrarily at any time, at which point the document becomes “shared only”, rather than “in review”.
As to permissions, there are different levels of collaborators: you/uploader, other authors, and reviewers. During the review period, reviewers cannot download the document. Other authors can, but only if you allow them to do so. Once the review period is over and the document is complete, reviewers can download the document, but again, only if you allow them to do so. I’m sure I don’t have to convince our readership of how valuable that level of control over a document can be.
And just a quick note on inviting collaborators: you can invite others at any time after your initial setup, via email or sharing the URL. The URL share option can be disabled.
Exactly how many collaborators can have authors’ permissions depends on which plan you choose. The free version only allows for one author and three documents in review at anytime. For $19 monthly, you are allowed unlimited documents and unlimited reviewers, but still only one author. Upgraded versions begin at $49 for three authors. Volume discounts are available for anything over 10, and up to unlimited, authors.
To organize documents, Agilewords’ folder system distinguishes between personal and shared folders, and are very user-friendly. To make document location even easier, Agilewords also provides a search bar, and allows you to sort your documents by deadline.
The text editing is straightforward and simple. There is no way to edit formatting (which would make happy, as the author). But, if you wanted a workaround, your reviewers can comment on it, I suppose. Comments appear next to the relevant text in the document, and can be collapsed into a word bubble icon. All comments also show in a collapsible sidebar, where you can choose which users’ comments are displayed, and also sort them by date, page, or user. Comments can be edited and deleted easily.
Beyond the editing stage, Agilewords has made some smart moves, specifically:
  • It integrates DocuSign, for electronic signatures;
  • There’s an app for iPhone and iPad, and although I don’t have an iPad, it can’t be that different from the iPhone app, which is as easy to navigate as any
  • It integrates Box.net, streamlining the review and approval process
Particularly awesome for attorneys, an audit trail of the review is left under the Activity section. Also pretty awesome for attorneys are the security features.
Awesome for the general public, Agilewords even includes an FAQ sidebar on every page, providing help specific to each page.
I’ll round out the tour with some smaller considerations. Your AgileWords profile is simple, nothing more than your first and last name, plus an optional picture, which is useful in collaborative work. There are two other sections under your profile: the first is Login, where you can update your email address and password; the second is Notifications, where you can update your digest settings. If you weren’t delighted after reading that, you’ve either never updated a password in Gmail or notifications on LinkedIn, or you’re much better off intelligence-wise than I am. Either way, you’d appreciate the convenience.
After a quick preview, the pervasive simplicity of Agilewords led me to question how thorough its capabilities would be; but, after a deeper review, that simplicity is what makes Agilewords such a good alternative, to Google Docs, specifically. While I’m not prepared to make this a full review of Google Docs as well, there are a few ways in which it contrasts with Agilewords, which speak in favor of Agilewords:
First, it pulls in your Gself, if you will. Although plenty of people use Gmail for professional mail, plenty of people don’t, and I still haven’t found where, if anywhere, I can update my email address. (I didn’t look that hard, but I looked hard enough to give up, which was sufficient effort to make my point.)
Second, it’s wonky to navigate. Like, really wonky. For example, you can create “collections”, which is apparently a hybrid between “folders” and “labels”, but the interface really limits how useful those are to you. Although just having collections inherently provides some level of organization, they’re displayed in a way that makes me still feel disorganized.
Third, when you upload a file in Google Docs, it doesn’t guide you through a setup process, as in Agilewords, as I described above. All it asks is whether to convert the file to the corresponding Google Docs format. (And if you don’t, you can’t edit it; in fact, after uploading an Excel file without converting, I couldn’t even view it.) The folder location and sharing/permissions are afterthoughts. This is basically just additional wonkiness. (I hope you agree with me that if you’re going to overuse a word, “wonky” is a good one to pick.)
Fourth, there is no review deadline feature. Enough said.
Fifth, non-authors are able to download files from Google Docs at any point, and without permission.
One credit to Google Docs is that, somewhat ironically, it is not just for editing documents; you can upload any kind of file. Agilewords is limited, currently anyway, to Word documents. But, really, what do lawyers collaborate on more than any other type of file? Documents. And, of course, you can always supplement your Agilewords use with Google Docs, as it were.