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Review Basics: Free Web-based collaboration

Share work with your customers, classmates, or colleagues for free using Review Basics.

Review Basics is a collaborative workspace for small teams and businesses. It runs right in your browser, and offers a fairly simple and straightforward way for others to share and leave feedback on photos, video files, and office documents. The interface runs entirely in Flash, so there are no special extensions to download, or programs that need to be installed on your computer. Just start up a workspace and go.

Review Basics works with a variety of common office document standards like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and PDF. It also can handle uploading an entire zipped folder, so if you get a zipped attachment in an e-mail, you can upload it straight to the service without having to unpack it and send files one at a time. Review Basics also handles videos, although they have to be in the .FLV Flash format, which despite its popularity on the Internet, isn't a consumer-friendly standard compared to .MOV and .AVI. Files are capped off at 25MB apiece, so if you're working with any video clip over a minute or two, it's likely to be too large.

To call attention to certain items on a document you can place emoticons and highlight text. CNET Networks

Annotating media is fairly simple. Users get five different tools to mark what's on the screen: boxes, arrows, a highlighter, call-outs, and emoticons. There is no drawing tool, which is one thing I enjoy and make use of on other collaborative workspace services like ConceptShare [hands-on] and Octopz [hands-on]. I think at a basic level it makes things feel familiar, like using a pen. There are still boxes which can be resized and color coded, but for irregularly shaped elements, you're out of luck.

To separate which feedback is being displayed, you can toggle each person's edits on and off. It's a lot like PhotoShop when you show or hide layers, and useful when you have more than two or three people working on a piece of media at a time, as things tend to get crowded.

Review Basics is very versatile for a free app, but it's missing a few things I think would make it far more competitive in this space. I'd like a way to leave audio or video notes. Some people (like me) find it easier to hit a record button, say something and move on, instead of writing it out. I'd also like to see live chat or live video conferencing, something that can take telephones out of the equation for both businesses and customers. The service is planning on moving to a paid model in the future, adding these things would certainly put it in the realm of some of the other services charging monthly fees.

The team has put together a series of hands-on demos you can play with to get a feel for the service. [More screens after the break.]

To make notes on a picture, you can draw arrows, create call-outs, and add highlight boxes. This entire interface runs right in your browser. There's also a personalized area at the bottom for the content creator to leave a note for potential reviewers. CNET Networks

To review a video in Review Basics you can make notes on any single frame. You can also set how fast the video will play. CNET Networks

To invite others to meeting, just enter in their e-mail addresses. You can also go in and create custom workspaces for certain reviewers. CNET Networks