A new world of file comparison

How will the new world compare?

At ILTACON, we heard (and talked) a lot about the “legal desktop”. What legal professionals need from it, what they use it for, how they work with it, how their clients interact with them on it and, most importantly, how it’s changing.

Change isn’t happening at a breakneck speed as with tech development in other sectors, but it is definitely happening faster than before as law firms look to provide unique value through innovation to their clients. However, users can be (rightly) cautious when it comes to the legal desktop and IT teams need a solid, standard way to support their users. Change is being driven by demands for greater flexibility, increased collaboration and competitive advantage. This means reviewing everything from the use of artificial intelligence in document management to the beautiful basics of a file comparison.

The technology is there to serve the people using it. Legal professionals who are now more mobile; who aren’t chained to their desks 16 hours a day, need solutions such as file comparison to be available everywhere and however they’re working. The desktop is no longer a desktop - it’s a phone, a tablet or a home computer.

So that’s where we’re going next.

The dual masters of flexibility and accuracy

Legal professionals have been running comparisons between different versions of a file for years. It’s an essential and reliable staple of the desktop. But that’s just the point, it’s always been on the desktop. For the purposes of accuracy that’s fine, but in terms of mobility and flexibility, the traditional desktop comparison needs to evolve.

Users don’t want to be confined to their desks anymore. They want to work from home, or in a client’s office, or on a train – wherever. It’s not just that they don’t want to be restricted, they can’t afford to be, as that would hinder their ability to be with clients, to be quick and responsive, and therefore it would hinder their performance.

It’s also important to remember that documents don’t just live in one place anymore i.e. safely within a firm’s control systems. They’re stored in the cloud, on a document management system (DMS), in email (not necessarily Outlook) and numerous other places. Traditional document comparison has worked because all the elements (i.e. documents) and systems (e.g. DeltaView) have met in one place - the laptop or PC.

Now that people want to consume the same things away from their laptop, there has to be another way to get everything into one place. This means taking it online and using a browser or online application. Converging online means the usual accuracy required for a comparison solution can be maintained, but crucially it also means that speed and flexibility can be delivered.

Living the user experience

What Workshare is doing is bringing what used to be on the desktop to the browser, to the mobile device, to the remote worker and to the applications they want to use every day - a comparison engine that is web based or server based.

Workshare Compare Server lets firms or other software providers host a comparison service themselves or we can host it for them, of course. In this way, the firm or provider has the ability to create and embed their own comparison experience directly within the systems they use or provide. And, the way people interact with this frontend experience can be configured accordingly, it doesn’t have to be our experience our way. This is exactly what we’ve been doing with iManage, NetDocuments, HighQ and Google G Suite most recently.

Without borders

Knowing the best way to ensure legal teams can access fast and accurate file comparison, wherever they are, is to deliver it on a browser, we created Compare Everywhere. Because the comparison logic happens online, the user experience is available on a mobile device, as well as a laptop or computer. And, because different users will be operating other document management or production functions as part of their case or matter management, we’ve made it possible to embed the solution or deliver it using a custom interface or frontend.

Essentially there are two options:

  • A ReST API accessible Compare Server, where the firm or vendor builds the interaction using their frontend – for example, in their application they may choose to automatically run a comparison every time a new version of that document is added. This means every time a user looks at a version they could automatically see what’s changed in the file, without having to actually run a comparison.
  • Compare Everywhere - what this does is make option 1 easy! We’ve built a web frontend for others to plug in and use. We can give access to a frontend that’s delivered through a JavaScript component called Deltaview.js, which can simply be customized to fit an application.

Not only is speed and flexibility delivered through this browser-based approach, accuracy is maintained through the best comparison engine on the market, and users can operate it in a way that suits their world of work.

Thanks again ILTACON, you validated the approach we were embarking on and we hope you like the changes we’re making as a result!