With the spread of COVID-19 and resulting changes in how we conduct business, we need methods for exchanging information in different ways. In particular, attorneys need secure methods to collaborate on Word documents with both their clients and colleagues. This collaboration could include simply gathering information from clients with an intake form, review and approval of a document by a client or supervisor, or more complex collaboration involving multiple versions and tracked changes.
While there are many ways to exchange documents, such as through email, it can be helpful to collaborate on the document itself in one location. Collaboration in one location avoids the delay of having to send it to the other person, who saves it, reviews, and then sends it back. The process may then repeat itself several times, resulting in multiple document versions before the document is finalized.
Word processing tools were originally only premises-based, but they are now also available in the cloud, allowing for collaboration among individuals in different locations without having to send the document back and forth. Below are some options for cloud-based word processing tools that can be used for collaboration purposes when working remotely:
Google Docs - This is Google’s word processing collaboration application. If you have a Gmail account, you have access to the free personal version of Google Docs, which includes editing and commenting on Word documents as well as real-time chatting. For additional features, such as shared calendars, video conferencing, and additional cloud storage beyond the free 15 GB, you can upgrade to G Suite. G Suite has a tiered pricing structure starting at $6/user/month for the Basic version, $12/user/month for the Business version, and $25/user/month for the Enterprise version. You can compare the features offered in each version on their website.
Microsoft 365 (fka Microsoft Office 365) - This is Microsoft’s cloud-based office suite, including access to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other Microsoft applications. Documents saved to OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage application, can then be edited in real-time with multiple authors. You can also use Microsoft Teams, an application included in Microsoft 365, for collaboration purposes, which features real-time chat and the ability to create “rooms” for different team projects. Pricing for the business versions starts at $5/user/month for the Basic version, $12.50/user/month for the Standard version, and $20/user/month for the Premium version. You can compare the features offered in each version on their website.
Zoho Writer - This is a cloud-based word processing application created by Zoho, a company specializing in creation of various cloud-based applications for businesses. Features include robust editing, commenting, chatting, and other helpful collaborative features such as built-in electronic signature options. It is free to use with storage of up to 5 GB per user up to 25 users. For additional storage, pricing then ranges from $5/user/month up to $8/user/month with additional features such as integrations with other applications.
Pages for iCloud - This is Apple’s cloud-based word processing application. It can be downloaded and used on any Apple device with minimum operating system requirements. It can also be used on Androids and PCs without downloading the application by using the iCloud.com website, as long as you have the correct browser. See the Apple website for more information about operating system and browser requirements. It allows for editing and commenting on documents. It is free to use but only available to iCloud account holders. For additional storage beyond the free 5 GB, you’ll need to upgrade your cloud storage plan. You can find details and pricing here.