Why Shared Reviews?
We already had browser-based reviews from Acrobat 5.0, and then email-based reviews in Acrobat 7.0. So why do we now have Shared Reviews to deal with too?
A good question! It is an important one to consider if you are looking at standardizing on a way to conduct reviews on documents as quickly and as pain-free as possible.
If you are not familiar with Shared Reviews, then I am sorry to say this is not the blog entry to find out. But don’t stop reading! There are lots of good articles and tutorials on the subject, including a video tutorial yours truly created last year, posted on this page, and an article on this very subject here from 2006 with Randy Swineford, Acrobat Product Manager.
So why are Shared Reviews the way to go…?
- You do not need Acrobat 8 to be a reviewer. That reason alone could justify the cost of Acrobat 8 Professional or Acrobat 3D Version 8, as those are the software applications you need to initiate a Shared Review AND enable the document for commenting and markup in the free Adobe Reader 8. Basically, it means virtually anyone can participate in a review cycle. Note, Acrobat 8 Standard can initiate a Shared Review, but it does not have the Reader-enablement goodness.
- The PDF document can be distributed anyway you like. Via the web. To an email list. From a network folder. On your childs iPod. It does not matter. It is a totally flexible workflow, because all the information that Acrobat or Adobe Reader need to participate in a Shared Review is baked in to the PDF document itself (at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 35 minutes, in case you were wondering). Whether you open the PDF locally in Acrobat or Adobe Reader directly, or within Internet Explorer, Firefox Windows or Safari, you can go ahead and give your feedback.
- You can get feedback from people almost instantaneously. Shared Reviews work by uploading comments to a Shared Location: a network share, a WebDAV folder (such as Apple’s .mac iDisk), or a Microsoft Sharepoint Workspace. Other reviewers can see what everyone else is saying by reading those comments from the shared location. And Acrobat and Reader 8’s Tracker And Shared Reviews Welcome screen also read those comments so that they can show who has responded and how many comments have been made.
- You can work online or offline. Unlike browser-based reviews which required you to be online at all times to submit and view comments, Shared Reviews cache the comments you add to the document until you tell Acrobat or Reader to publish them, or they get published automatically after a certain period of time (that is set in the Preferences, by the way). If you are working offline, the comments are cached in the PDF until you are back online and ready to publish. If you are disconnected, Acrobat or Reader will know it, cache your comments, and try to reconnect to the shared location to check for and publish only the new or updated comments. And if after all that you still cannot connect to the shared location server, Acrobat or Reader 8 will ask you a) if you would like to email your comments back to the initiator who can upload them on your behalf and b) if you would like to see ways to improve your social and professional status so that you always have access to the shared location server (kidding on that last one).
- Comments are tagged with metadata about you as a reviewer. Nothing too revealing (“this reviewer is currently participating in his pajamas” isn’t in there), but information such as name, email, and a time and date stamp are included. This has a couple of benefits: 1) everyone can see who said what and 2) other reviewers cannot change your comments. That last one is particularly important. If you want to comment on someone else’s comment, you can just reply in the pop-up for each comment or markup. It’s like social networking chat, but with a purpose.
If any one of the above reasons seem compelling to you, and if you have not tried a Shared Review in Acrobat 8, it may be time do so. It really is easy to start a Shared Review session, and even easier to participate. Grab a document you are working on right now, convert it to PDF, and send it for Shared Review using Acrobat 8 to someone you know will give you glowing-but-constructive feedback, no matter how bad your writing skills are. Have fun!