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Easy web-based proofing with ProofHQ

I rarely get as excited by a Web 2.0 app or service as I am by ProofHQ, which is an innovative and platform-independent way to manage the whole review and approval process for creative documents. At least for me, the most tedious part of the design process is getting feedback and approval. First you have to make sure the file is in a format that a client or collaborator can read (so that you don't accidentally send out a Word 2007 document to someone who is using Office 2003 and doesn't have the Office 2007 viewer software), then if you are sending something by e-mail, that the e-mail size isn't too large for their mail server. That process has to be repeated for every change or for every new element.

ProofHQ was designed to streamline the entire creative review process, making much of the above process unnecessary.This is how it works: You upload your proof, document or design concept to ProofHQ and enter in who you want to send the proof to. ProofHQ then creates a web-optimized, Flash-based proof that your reviewers or collaborators can view. They just click on a link in their e-mail and have access to the proof or document.

From there, they can add notes, draw in markup and immediately reject or approve a design. You can even embed a "Miniproof" in a blog or wiki, and any comments made either at that site or via the ProofHQ dashboard appear alongside one another. This makes it really, really easy to get feedback and collaboration from lots of different people. As the document creator, you can see who has reviewed or commented on a proof and instantly eyeball if something is approved or if you need to bug someone to give you an answer.

ProofHQ supports PSD, PDF (especially nice for multi-page proofs), Word, Powerpoint, JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF and PNG files -- with vector format support coming soon. You can also use ProofHQ to send any any file type up to 75 MB, even Zip archives, if you just to have an easier way to get a larger file to a client, without using something like FTP or a separate file storage system. At the project manager's discretion, the original file can be made available for download -- so if you want to share your PDF with a colleague and they want to make some changes in Acrobat to the actual document, they can.

What really impresses me is the API-integration with Basecamp. If you already have a Basecamp account, you can directly connect ProofHQ with a Basecamp project, and your Basecamp collaborators can access and review the document. If you are already using Basecamp as a collaboration tool, ProofHQ just plugs into your existing workflow.

What I also like is the version control feature. After you submit your first proof or document and get feedback, you can then upload the new version of the same file to the ProofHQ project. Your reviewers or collaborators will get a message that a new version is available and they can compare versions and keep track of the document's history.

I always create a distinct folder for each of my design projects, and a copy of each version and any notes are in that folder -- but if I'm submitting stuff to a client, they don't have access to my workflow and have to either create their own or ask me to send old versions of concepts or designs. Having everything accessible in one place, with notes and comments intact can really ramp up productivity -- especially for freelancers.

ProofHQ offers different levels of pricing and storage. For beginners or the occasional freelancer, there is a free option that allows the creation of 5 proofs a month and 50 megabytes of storage. The paid plans range from $29 - $99 a month and each plan has varying numbers of proofs, storage and "power users" (users that can create and upload proofs). Each plan, even the free plan, has access to unlimited reviewers and unlimited projects/folders. ProofHQ offers a 14-day free trial for any of its paid plans and you can upgrade or downgrade your service at any time.

ProofHQ works on Mac and Windows and Linux systems that support Flash (so most distros). A drag and drop Java uploader works across platforms as well.

Tags: basecamp, collaboration, design, proofing, prototype, review