Fred, 20 June 2008

A.nnotate and (online) word processors for document collaboration

A.nnotate offers a quick and easy way to collaborate on PDF, Word and HTML documents: simply upload a read-only version to and let reviewers add their comments to highlighted text in the browser. It is not an online word processor (like Google docs / Zoho writer / Buzzword) however - A.nnotate is focussed on shared annotation of a read-only copy.   This blog entry discusses some of the ways you can use A.nnotate with your current desktop or online word processor.

With A.nnotate, all reviewers (and the authors) can read and reply to each others' comments, and you avoid the chaos which can result if several people edit a document at the same time. This gives the author additional control: in many cases you want other peoples opinions on a document draft but do not want them to change your wording.

Avoiding email attachment "ping-pong" with Word track-changes

Some people currently use desktop word processors (e.g Microsoft Word, OpenOffice) with Track Changes switched on and send email attachments back and forth. Merging the different versions can get complex, particularly if you need to get a document checked by several people, and you can end up with a mess of crossed-out text and complex underlinings and colours.

A.nnotate lets you annotate PDF, Word, and web pages in the same system!

If you need to get feedback on a PDF document, there are fewer options: commercial desktop software like Adobe Acrobat allows PDFs to be sent out for individual review, but you still have to merge the comments from different reviewers, and each person is annotating a local copy rather than discussing a single shared copy online. The same applies for other personal PDF viewers (e.g. Preview in Mac OSX and Foxit Reader).

A.nnotate and Google Docs / Zoho / Buzzword etc

Online word processors (e.g. Google docs, Zoho, Buzzword) and wikis offer a different approach to collaboration by allowing all reviewers to edit the same document online using a simple rich text editor. Some of the layout / fonts etc will be lost in translation when you upload a complex Word document, and unlike A.nnotate they do not allow you to upload and collaborate on the high quality PDF version.

Notes on a PDF document in A.nnotate

Online word processors can work well if you want several people to be able to edit a draft at once, but desktop word processors offer more control over formatting. One easy way to get documents into A.nnotate from an online (or desktop) word processor is to use the 'email document as attachment' feature and send it to cc [at] the document will be automatically added to your space in A.nnotate where you can then add notes and send out invites.

In summary -

  • A.nnotate offers a new and convenient approach to online document collaboration
  • It's very easy to use - simply highlight text to write a note, or click on a note to add replies and tags
  • It works with PDF, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and OpenOffice formats, with documents displayed in the browser with fonts, diagrams and layout like the printed version
  • There is nothing to install, and it doesn' require any plugins (not even Flash or Adobe Reader) - all it needs is your web browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer 6 or 7, Safari)
  • You can also add notes to a private copy of any web page by entering the URL or adding the snapshot bookmarklet to your browser
    Adding notes to a snapshot of a web page
  • All highlighted terms are added to your personal searchable index - with page previews

    All notes are added to your index, with tags and previews

  • You still edit your documents using your standard desktop or online word processor
  • You can upload documents using the web form, or email them to cc[at]
  • a FREE version is available online; subscriptions and pay-as-you-go options are
    available for pro users and groups.
  • A.nnotate is also available for in-house installation on your intranet servers / integration with your existing systems, e.g. for proofing / workflow.

To try it, simply upload a document or snapshot a web address at