ProofHQ – collaborative version tracking

Everyone has been there. Emailing proofs of documents around for approval. Pretty soon no-one knows who made which changes and the docment is a mess. This is the problem ProofHQ, which has just launched in public Beta, is trying to solve. The London-based private startup has zero’d in on the process used to proof documents, designs and artwork with a web application designed to make sending proofs almost as easy as using email. It does this with a “drag-and-drop” desktop uploader tool and capturing all reviewers’ comments online rather than in multiple email replies and attachments.

Users can create proofs for large files (up to 75MB), which would challenge most email systems. The proof is viewed in Flash and streams the proof in a series of tiled layers (like Google maps) so that reviewers only download the part of the proof that they need to see, at the zoom level they have requested. Because it’s in Flash you can pan around and flick between pages. Reviewers add mark-ups and comments to the proof, and can then create discussion threads around each others’ feedback. There is ‘version control’ so that new versions of a proof can be uploaded and reviewers can see old versions and new versions together for comparison.

ProofHQ is founded by Mat Atkinson and Colin Angus. Atkinson, former founder and CEO of Mtivity (a marketing resource management software company), while Angus has previously formed a retail business in computing, two software development companies and a systems integration business, and was the technical author of the PageFusion PDF RIP server.

In some ways ProofHQ is really a wiki for people who don’t get Wikis, but it’s clear it is quite a lot more than that. It’s free to use for personal use, after which pricing kicks in at $49 a month for a power user and increases based on functionality and storage up to $499 a month for 20 users, unlimited documents/reviewers and 5GB of storage.

I daresay there are a number of other startups in the this space, like Huddle or Basecamp, but I haven’t (yet) seen many that focus so closely on proofs. Yes, you could ‘track changes’ on a word document but that’s no good on artwork. One thing I couldn’t tell just from looking at the site was whether I could output a final proof to the original format.