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How often do you send out documents created with Microsoft Word that are based upon previous documents? Do you always use a new, clean template or do you take the last proposal you wrote and modify it for the new prospect? Do you ever turn off the 'Track Changes' option?

If you don't then the recipients will almost certainly be able to see the proposal you sent to the previous customer--and all the other customers that have been included somewhere along the chain. What happens if there is really sensitive information involved? Clearly management is required.

There are several different levels of document management that range from the complexity of content management systems and the workflow that comes from the movement of information around large organisations, through to the use of simple word processing packages and the management features that they have built-in. However, the former is usually too much for those that do not make their living from content whilst the latter does not offer real control in a multi-author environment. This is where technology from Workshare can be used.

Workshare is a company that we came across very recently and, as the creators of quite a few documents that need to be checked and verified by users both inside and outside of our organisation, we could relate to what it has to say.

Workshare has two products, DeltaView and Synergy. The former is a rather impressive document differencing technology that is able to match patterns across Microsoft Word formats and spot additions, deletions, movements and so on. Synergy builds on DeltaView to provide the broader controls required for document change management.

It is the Synergy viewpoint that is most interesting. The product supports two roles--Author and Contributor. The Author is the only person that ever has write-access to a controlled document. When a draft is completed and it needs to be sent for review, individual clean copies with no metadata are generated and sent to contributors. This avoids any possibility of previous documents' contents being visible.

Contributors can make changes to their own versions and then return them to the author. Synergy then allows all the versions to be viewed and compared simultaneously so that the author can choose the changes that are required. It's simplicity itself but it gets around a whole load of problems that Microsoft, so far, has not really addressed.

Most of us probably don't realise that we have this problem. None of us would invest in a full blown document management solution to address it. The choice is between manual procedures or a simple software solution. People forget, computers don't.

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