Doc Sharing with Live Documents

This is a first impression review of Live Documents, a SaaS model document sharing platform.  I discovered the service, signed up for a free account, and these are my notes on what it does.

Summary

General Purpose Document Storing – You upload document to it, import from Google Docs, or create from scratch.  There is a straight forward folder with all your documents.  A search feature allows you to find particular documents, however test access allows only a single document, so I was not able to really test much.

Sharing – You have a straight forward contact list.  I was able to add contacts just by entering an email address.  Each document has a list of contacts associated with it.  When a contact is associated with a document, an email is sent letting them know this.

Access Type – There are two access modes: reviewer and collaborator.  The reviewer is presumably ‘read-only’ while the collaborator is allowed to edit.  This is assigned for each contact associated with each document.

Tasks – Easy to create a task for Review, Edit, or Approve.  There appears to be only those three tasks to be done, but you can include a note to clarify further what to do.  One document and one contact associated with each task.  When viewing a document, easy to see the tasks associated with that document.

Editing – build in document editor.  Collaborators can edit right there, on line.  It did not display the PowerPoint example correctly. Not even close, and nowhere nearly as good as Google Docs does.  However, if you start from scratch it might be quite powerful.

Microsoft Office – Claims that it has good support for MSOffice documents.  Specifically lossless round trip, that is, if you put an MSOffice document in, you will get exactly the same document back.  They convert to an internal format, and then back.  I uploaded a powerpoint presentation.  They have a document display feature that did not do a very good job of displaying the relatively simple graphics I used in the presentation.

Positives

There is a place for very simple, very focused applications for sharing documents.  This is a step above sending a document by email in the following ways:

  • It does allow for collaboration
  • Clean simple design is easy to understand
  • Easy to add contacts, just enter their email address, and the platform takes care of registering them, etc.
  • Built in document editor makes collaboration easy.
  • For single files this works well, but it is not clear that it can scale to real project work.
  • Ability for (authenticated) people to ask for increased access to a document.  Easy to take care of this request.  (It did not seem to work when you had no access to the document at all.)

Images

the main screen:

Capture-main

You documents list (only one document in there):

This is the screen for giving access rights to people in your contact list.  List is on the left, and assigned people are on the right.  The assigned user is a “reviewer” which could be swapped with “collaborator” by clicking the controls underneath.

Capture-sharedocs3

This is a view of the editor screen for a power point file:

Capture-doc-display-mode

Here is a task list with the task details / editor open:

Capture-task-edit

Cloud Bill of Rights

How does this product do on the “Cloud Users Bill of Rights?”  Pretty well getting 8 out of 12, which is a testament to this software being a ‘cloud native’ designed for the cloud from the start.

  • No New Name – yes
  • User Specified Password – yes
  • Unlimited Password – yes
  • Context before Login – no
  • Guidance for Registration – yes
  • No Deadlocks – OK, through password recovery
  • Password Reset – yes
  • Display Name – Mostly no.  You can set a name, but this is not used in the UI, instead your email address is used.  The point of this requirement is to hide that.
  • Address Change – No.  You can change the email address in the profile, but that just causes you to lose all your profile information.  You still have to log in using the old email address, and there is no way to change that.
  • Subscription List – yes
  • Deactivation – no, I could not find any option for this
  • Free twelfth requirement – yes

Critique

Single Folder – how can I group documents together by project?  No way to control access on a group of documents.  No way for others to add documents to the group of document.  Another person could share a document using their own account, but that document would be entirely separate.

No Roles – contacts are individual contacts.  If I am collaborating with a large group of people, I have to add each person individually to each document.  If a new person joins the group you need to find every document shared to that group and add that person to each document.  Similarly when someone leaves the group, you must manually remove them from every document.

No Transitive Access – each document has a user that is the author.  The author is the only person who can decide who has access to the document.  Other collaborators do not have the ability to give access to the document.

Collaborators can not share – Non-authors do have the ability to “share” a URL to the document by email, twitter, facebook, or copy/paste.  If the user you are sharing with does not have the right to access the document, they will not be able to access it.  As a result, a collaborator can not give the document to anyone else. The only solution is to download and email it as an attachment.

No Anonymous Protected Access -There is no way to send a URL that is pre-authorized to allow anonymous access to the document.  This means that every single person you want to share a document with has to be authorized.   OR, the document has to be completely public.  There is no other option.

Annoyances

Here is a list of very minor imperfections and things that annoy me, but are really very minor in the big picture:

  • Assigning a contact to a document sends an email, but there is no indication of this.
  • Email link to document is to a “live-presentation” editor of the document.  If you just want to download the document, the option is there among a lot of other options.  There is no link to get back to the regular live docs from there.
  • Single click opens document from list.  I kept wanting to select the document in the list, and then have options other than open it.
  • Email sent to new person does not have “pre-authorization” to allow for easy registration.  You have to get another email to verify.
  • Timestamp problem.  Uploaded a document, and it insisted that it was 14 hours old.  I suspect that is the time zone for India that it confused with my time in California.
  • Strangely, the destination is not preserved when you have to authenticate.  A link to a document will prompt for authentication, but upon completing that, not display the document.  You have to go back and click on the link again.  Links only work when already authenticated.
  • Task editor allows you to type in the field for the assignee, but it can not change the assignee.  I could not figure out how to assign a task to someone else.
  • I could not figure out how to make a task as completed.
  • There is an ability to “request” access to a document, but it did not work.  This ability appears when accessing a link to the document.  If you don’t have access to the document, this request feature is the only thing you can do.  The request button appeared to be disabled when you don’t have access to the document.
  • Strange behavior at log-in time.  When switching from one user to another, it always prompted me to log in twice in a row before it allows access.  It must be keeping a cookie and rejecting the first login when changing users.
  • You can only test with one document.  You have to upgrade to add a second document.  That is a bit too strict. So I saw how power point documents work, but have no idea how PDF files or word files might work.
  • Is not a REST oriented platform, it does not have URL addresses to specific parts of the application, although you can send a link to a document as it is in the editor.
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