So, as we reported earlier this month, the true romance – the love that dare not speak its name – the courtship of the legal sector by Microsoft – is now over. Lexus interruptus – well at least until the next time as by our count this is at least the third time Microsoft has taken law firms up the aisle and then jilted them at the altar. However, even before this happened, there were law firms – and other vendors – out there who said: Microsoft products are great but they can't do everything. One particular sticking point has been the 'native' Compare track changes/redlining/document comparison element within Microsoft Office.

Jan Durant, the head of IT & Operations at Lewis Silkin, admits to being a fan of Microsoft (so much so that she even developed a DMS in SharePoint) but recently signed up with DocsCorp for their CompareDocs system rather than rely on Word Compare. (You can read more about the DocsCorp product on the attached PDF.) She says articles like the one by Randall Farrar of Esquire Innovations (see attached reprint from LJN Legal Tech Newsletter) make a persuasive case for going it alone with Word – but only providing you are aware of the limitations. And if you can't live with these limitations, then you are going to need 3rd party alternatives to supplement and support the native Microsoft platform. Quoting the article, Durant cites the following reasons for turning to DocsCorp…

Although Microsoft Word 2007 is greatly improved for document comparison, there are still features that are not available.
 
• DMS integration. Word 2007 does not provide built in document management integration for document comparison. This one shortcoming alone may be the reason firms decide not to go with Word 2007 as their exclusive document comparison platform. So, we at Lewis Silkin compare documents from a “recent edits” search – think all the DMs do that.

• Track change options fidelity. Tracked changes are user specific and not document specific. In other words, how a result document appears on one user’s machine may look completely different on another’s. This can make collaboration between two parties difficult. To overcome this, the tracking options on both machines have to be the same.

• Reporting features. Word 2007 falls short on the ability to create revision statistics for the result document.

• Create a three way view at any time. Even though Word 2007 now provides a way to create a tri view of the original, revised and result documents, this is a temporary state and can only be accomplished immediately after the documents have been compared. Once the result document is closed and reopened, the tri view is not possible.

• Different comparison schemes. There is no way for firms to save and use different comparison schemes. Schemes provide different settings for comparison elements and the “look and feel” for deleted, inserted, formatted and moved revisions.

• Handling legacy result documents. If a firm decides to use Word 2007 as its exclusive document comparison platform, all the result documents from the previous comparison product are frozen and repurposing is nearly impossible. It would be significant if Word could repurpose these legacy result documents into clean Track Change documents.

• Email – Result, original and revised. Word can only email the active document through its “Send” command.

• Print revised pages. Word cannot selectively print the pages that contain revisions.

And, coming from an entirely different direction… Workshare today released Workshare Compare 7 – the latest version of its redlining software, which aims to make life easier for Microsoft Office users.

With the new Category View in Workshare Compare 7, users can now view all of the changes in a document by selected categories and spend time reviewing only the changes that are relevant to their area of expertise and interest. This “table of contents” document comparison overview means that some edits and changes, such as numbering changes, punctuation changes, spelling corrections and more, do not interfere with comparisons and review of what might be more substantial content.

Key business benefits of the version 7 release include:
• Reviewing changes by category  to work faster
• Optimization for Enterprise installation, integration and management
• Improved search capabilities to find changes faster
• Custom integrations simplified with more APIs
• New platform support

Workshare say the latest release of Compare 7 simplifies the installation process, speeding the deployment of the solution throughout the enterprise. IT managers will find a more efficient configuration manager and much easier management parameters so users can be up and running on the software with minimum hassle.

Another significant new feature in version 7 provides automatic detection and comparison of changes when attachments are sent, modified and returned through email, alerting users directly in Outlook.  By identifying changed documents and launching a comparison as modified documents arrive, Workshare Compare 7 improves efficiency, making document collaboration a more seamless process.  This feature simplifies the entire comparison process by dramatically reducing the number of mouse clicks a user must initiate to compare documents.