Coventi Pages – New Entrant in the Online Docs Market

Coventi is a new service for online editing and collaboration of documents. I used it to create a couple of documents, it worked as billed. I could create documents, invite other people to edit them, and then see the original and subsequent revisions in a Microsoft Word-like “track changes” mode.

The editing features were pretty primitive but I would expect them to add more capabilities as the service matures. Table editing would be high on my priority list.

A couple of interesting features were the “comment” and “suggest edit” sidebar conversations. In theory, you can select text and then add a comment in the sidebar that resembles threaded forum conversations. I say in theory because I couldn’t get it to work. I think the comments sidebar is a useful component, I would like the option to have it configure it as a floating pop-up like how Google Talk works.

Speaking of things not working, Coventi supports Firefox but when I tried to run it from Camino it said it was an unsupported browser. If it runs in Firefox it should run in Camino.

There is a built-in address book, which is used to invite other people to collaborate on documents, but I really wish there was a way to integrate other address books into services (not just this one either). I already have an address book, would prefer that apps like this take advantage of that for contact data… of course, this is something that Teqlo is designed for!

I could upload draft documents in either Word or OpenDocument formats, and I could export documents in a range of formats, including PDF. Bulk uploading would be welcome, as would a file explorer type browser with document preview mode. I successfully imported some complex documents, but not others, in which case there was a helpful “may we inspect your document to diagnose the problem” interaction. Importing PDF documents would be a really nice feature.

The last thing I would bring up is that it’s pretty difficult for a service like this to break away from the pack when the feature set they are offering is functionally equivalent to what other more established services are offering. I don’t have the benefit of hearing what they have in store, and would certainly welcome that, but at this point I am left to wonder what the business model could possibly be in the face of a number of free offerings that are perfectly capable.

UPDATE: I found out why the conversations sidebar didn’t work… my coComment Firefox extension was interfering with it. I’ve been disabling coComment’s extension on all my computers because of problems it creates across a range of services. As much as I like that service I just can’t live with how poorly executed their browser add-on is.

UPDATE 2: Dan Wilson from Coventi emailed me last night, taking my blog post on this and pasting it into a Coventi doc that he then added comments to via the conversations sidebar. It worked as billed, with coComment gone, and I was able to see 2 person doc collaboration in action. I do think that the way of tracking comments is better than Word’s “track changes” mode (which can get confusing) and certainly better than Google Docs. Having said that I’m still left wondering if it’s something I would actually use. A couple of things that would definitely make this a versatile tool for me would include embedding an IM widget right in the document sidebar and adding publishing options for the document (e.g. post to blog).