The 20+ Best Review and Approval Tools Compared
98% of creatives want to have more efficient feedback rounds.
Yeah, we don’t understand that remaining 2% either.
[THIS POST WAS UPDATED ON 11/12/2018.]
You probably clicked on this blog post because you’re not entirely happy with your current review workflow. Or you’re searching for an alternative tool for reviewing and approving. Either way, this article will answer the following questions:
- What are annotation and reviewing tools, and why you need them?
- What’s the difference between them?
Nowadays, the review process bottlenecks successful campaigns. It’s hard to effectively collaborate on visual content if collaborators or clients don’t work in the same office.
Almost automatically, people use email to review and approve files. In my experience, this tendency usually results in a long email ping-pong game— because the feedback isn’t accurate enough because people comment on outdated files, or simply because attachments are too large. So people have a hard time trying to collaborate about visual content via email.
Review and Approval Platforms
At this point, collaboration tools to manage reviews and approvals come into play.
A professional review and approval tool can help you get feedback 10 times faster than email. On top of that, the feedback is precise and unequivocal.
There are great solutions out there. That’s why I chose to test the best tools on the market and share my findings.
Dropbox is one of the first tools that most people might think of when they want to share files with each other. And since it has a commenting function, it’s found its way onto our list of annotation tools.
Dropbox offers apps for all major platforms. Thus, it’s easy and convenient to work with Dropbox on your smartphone or tablet. It’s ideal to review PDF files and images on the platform, but it’s not suitable for revising video or audio.
There are two ways make comments on files: on the overall file, or on a specific part of it. However, the handling of the comment section could definitely be improved. The layout is untidy, and some features (such as sorting, filtering, or searching for comments) are also missing. You’re able to mark a comment as resolved, which is useful in many situations, but there’s no way to attach a file to a comment. So you’ll need to pass files in another way.
While the 2GB of free storage might seem like a lot for private usage, businesses would need the paid version to work with the tool properly. Their rates start at $15 for 3 collaborators.
In addition, users need to sign up to comment on a file, which will definitely slow down the revision process.
One feature that’s still missing is the approval information. Because the dashboard doesn’t display an overview of your approvals, there’s no way to track your feedback workflow.
The lack of customizing options for the tool is a disadvantage, since displaying your logo connects you with your reviewers (especially in a business environment) and makes the brand feel personal to them. Plus, showing your logo helps people keep in mind that this awesome project comes from your company. 😉
Overall, Dropbox is a great tool for sharing files. But for the purpose of approvals, it’s probably not the best choice.
Using Filestage, revisions are easy, efficient, and clearly documented. It’s valuable to note the traffic light system, which allows you to keep an overview of all files.
A key feature of Filestage is file sharing. You can either share your file via personal email invitation or share link. And here’s the best part: reviewers don’t need to sign up to access the file.
The adjustable email notifications are very convenient. You can turn them on and off, depending on your preference.
The billing page contains an invoice history, as well as the ability to upgrade plans and credit card information. With the updated pricing structure, it’s even easier to work together as a team.
What’s equally useful is the printable PDF for comments, including the timecode, comments, annotations, additional notes, and completion status.
With Filestage, it was actually fun to review files. The different file formats work smoothly, and the platform is super-easy to use. So everyone can enjoy working with it.
Wipster specializes in video collaboration.
This New Zealander startup provides several integrations for Adobe Premiere and After Effects. These panels come in handy when editing the video according to your reviewers’ wishes.
The app supports team-only notes and offers an inbox, within the app, for notifications. The video information is a helpful feature, which you can use to see who viewed, commented on, and approved the video. There’s also the option to archive projects that are no longer active.
Unfortunately, you’ll need to enter your credit card details to test the service. Moreover, there’s no free plan at Wipster, so if you’re not finished before you free 14-day trial is over, you’ll be put onto the paid plan you chose to try out. So be aware of that when testing the tool.
Due to a pricing update, Wipster is currently undergoing an overhaul, which especially impacts smaller businesses with a small amount of videos per month.
Wipster is the go-to platform if you’re are a professional videomaker with a lot of video to review. Otherwise, you’re better off with another tool.
InVision’s prototype tool lets you create interactive wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes.
The New York based service offers a broad range of features, including versioning, draw on file, and a useful traffic light system to track the status of the review.
Within the app, you’re able to define different sections of your project, so you’ll be able to organize your project and keep a better overview.
Another helpful function is the workflow board, which displays the review status of each prototype. Plus, you’re able to change the review status by simply dragging and dropping the file into another column.
The live chat function is helpful, too. It allows you to talk to your collaborators in real time and share ideas with them onscreen.
InVision is an awesome tool for creating interactive wireframes and sharing them with your coworkers or clients. Since it’s limited to images, UX designers can get the most value for it.
Frame.io is yet another video collaboration tool.
This tool offers Adobe Premiere and After Effects, Final Cut X, and Slack integrations, which are useful if you work with those platforms on a regular basis.
Frame.io claims to handle all media file types, but in my testing, the handling of audio and PDF files was insufficient. In other words, it’s more of a video-collaboration tool than an all-around tool.
It’s the only tool that lets you compare versions with each other on one screen. A side-by-side comparison of two versions of a file is a big plus, which no other tested platform has. I found this option interesting when comparing two versions of a design.
Reviewers aren’t able to comment on a file without entering the email address. Hence, it’s not possible to comment as a guest.
During the test, I found the time it takes to fully understand and navigate the tool was notably long—since the tool is rather large, and the UI is complicated. If you and your clients are tech-savvy and fine with exploring features, that’s cool. But if you’re not experienced with certain technology, it might take some time to figure out how Frame.io works.
The review of videos and images works flawlessly, but the review of audios and PDF files is very limited. During my test, I wasn’t able to scroll through more than one PDF page, which makes Frame.io rather useless for PDF reviews.
The tool clearly focuses on video (and image) revision. As a matter of fact, the integrations and versioning are well-thought-out. When it comes to reviewing files other than videos, there are obstacles. Also, the long onboarding time makes this tool complicated for a lot of people out there.
Hightail is a tool you can use to share your files and folders with anyone. It allows you to review a whole bunch of different file formats, including videos, images, audios, and PDF files.
The UI makes it hard to keep an overview of all the different projects and files. Though approval requests are possible, it’s only available in the PRO plan.
Moreover, the service features an activity board, which shows your relevant data. It has nice visuals, but doesn’t do a lot for me.
The big downside of Hightail is that reviewers need to sign up to review your file, which takes some time and slows down the feedback process. Guest access and comments are only available in the business plan.
There is a free version of the tool, but it has limited functions. The good news is that the PRO version isn’t that expensive either. The price per month starts at US $12.
Acrobat Pro DC
Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC is the go-to tool for businesses to create and edit PDF files.
Unfortunately, it’s not an online tool, unlike the other apps on our list. In fact, it needs to be downloaded and installed. Moreover, the reviewer also needs to download it and create an account to review the PDF.
In Adobe’s Acrobat DC, you’re only able to share your files via email invitation. There’s an option to send and track your file, but it costs extra.
There’s a huge selection of tools to comment on the PDF file. For example, it offers a highlighter, a strikethrough tool, the option to insert text in a PDF file, a stamp tool to approve a file, and drawing tools to add geometric markups.
Therefore, the Adobe Acrobat Pro DC offers a wide range of tools to comment and edit a PDF file. But first, you need to download, install, and sign up for the service, which really slows down the review process. And it’s a bit old school.
The web-based tool Frankie allows you to share your file live with your coworkers or clients. Thus, you can comment on the file whilst everyone sees what your point is, and you can discuss it right away. In addition, you’re able to see who’s currently looking on the file while you are.
There are a lot of options for drawing on the file (including pen, arrow, circle, or text), which I find pretty helpful for reviewing.
In contrast, the dashboard of the platform is rather confusing. It’s not clear who’s reviewing the files at the moment, or what the status of the review of the file is. Therefore, feedback workflow is slow and inconvenient. Plus, you can’t really process your comments, since it doesn’t allow you to make a to-do list or sort, search, and filter the comments in any way.
Besides, the tool isn’t optimized for mobile use, so you can’t use it on any mobile device.
The two smaller packages include a maximum file upload limit (100MB and 1GB), which is inconvenient when working with larger files. But if you don’t want a maximum file upload limit, the price per month would be $249 USD. But if you’re searching for a tool with the live option, this one is definitely the way to go.
GoVisually is a very user-friendly proofing tool. It’s great for client feedback because they won’t need to read a manual before they can start using it.
GoVisualy has a simple PDF annotation toolset which is excellent for quick feedback. Client’s can sign in and join the conversation by adding to the comment threads just like an in-person meeting. You can resolve tasks as you go and keep track of the conversation.
Another bonus of using this tool is their active customer service department if you do encounter a problem they’re on hand to help.
(Image Source: GoVisually)
Even though it’s an easy to use service, it still looks very professional. Having all your designs in one accessible place for everyone makes life easier. It’ a good annotation tool but there might be better options to neatly manage your projects and task. Prices start from $12 per month.
Filestage might be a great alternative to GoVisually if you’re searching for a tool that can depict your existing workflows while providing powerful proofing features.
This one is a good collaboration tool for creative teams. Notism is an easy to use visual tool great to get discussions going about your designs.
Notism is useful for real-time feedback and signing off on visual content when you need to. It’s a time saver, and the task management and live notification features allow you to keep your team on track. You can also present projects in real time with their presentation mode.
This site is very secure and backs up all of your data daily in multiple locations, which is a great feature to prevent loss of work in the event of a problem.
(Image Source: Notism)
Although some of its features are more basic compared to other approval tools, it’s professional and easy to use if you’re just getting started. You can sign up for free, and an account price starts at $9 per month.
GoProof is perfect for streamlining your workflow if you’re currently using a range of platforms as it brings all your media collaboration into one place.
GoProof has an extension inside the Adobe creative cloud which allows you to collaborate on any project. So rather than using multiple tools, you have one clean workspace to review everything you’re working on.
(Image Source: GoProof)
If you use Adobe software for all of your creative work then you can consider this one. There are different packages available, but the starting price for the paid package is $9.99. If you want to use a more general solution, you should check the listed alternatives such as Filestage.
ReviewStudio is a collaborative visual web app which comes with some great advanced features for editing digital media.
This tool has very easy to use visual mark up tools, and they’ve worked to simplify the design review process. You can have independent live reviews, and one of the useful features is being able to compare revisions side by side easily.
(Image Source: ReviewStudio)
It’s a secure branded platform that provides the basic annotation features and ideal for people who work in marketing or production. Pricing starts from $15 a month.
Workfront is a work management platform that allows you to centralize all your projects.
Workfront has a lot of great features to fit in with their goal to give you a smart and connected platform. They have the usual features of approval software, but they also allow you to create more standardized processes to save you time and build in compliance steps for your staff.
(Image Source: Workfront)
It’s great for managing large workloads, watch resources, balance budgets which all make it a good option for big teams and businesses. Prices vary depending on your business and set up.
If you don’t need a huge work management platform but an excellent tool that helps you review and approve your content and adapts your existing workflows, you should try Filestage.
SyncSketch is an easy to use package which focuses on giving you the speed you need to have optimum productivity.
You can manage your content, gain real-time reviews and even embed your content anywhere to get the best feedback. It’s a compelling package and has a very intuitive design. You can have multiple levels of management and permissions to protect your work and manage your security.
(Image Source: SyncSketch)
SyncSketch is often used by artists and creatives, especially in the animation industry it’s safe and easy to use. Particularly good for studios. If you’re searching for a solution that also covers use-cases of e.g. marketing teams, you should evaluate the other options.
If your goal is to stay ahead with your projects and reduce time waiting for admin, then inMotionNow is a good choice.
You can manage requests for new content and your workspaces efficiently from the shared project dashboards. It comes with all the bells and whistles when in terms of markup tools and allows for custom notifications. This software aims to give you time back every week for each of your team so they can focus on what they do best.
(Image Source: inMotionNow)
inMotionNow is a good software to use for general project management purposes because it saves you time in many ways. You can access pre-designed templates to speed up your processes and also review analytics to improve your productivity. Unfortunately, some users criticize the user interface and performance of the platform. If you’re looking for a performant tool that is specialized in reviews and approvals you might consider an alternative to inMotionNow.
Filestage provides a clean design and can be also used by people who aren’t tech-savvy. On top of that, it allows you to manage all of your reviews and approvals in an easy-to-use dashboard. Additionally, you can use the agile review workflow feature to split the review loops into different internal and external steps.
Approve is a 360 visual collaboration solution which helps you manage anything from Adobe creative files to powerpoint presentations.
It’s a content-based online proofing solution which lets you work on each element at each level of a project. You have a high level of control with the software which is great for keeping on track with permissions and security.
(Image Source: Aproove)
Great for brand owners and marketing teams or anyone in advertising. Prices start from around $49 a month. If you want to adapt your existing workflows and get in-depth annotation features, you should consider using an alternative.
Alternative Website to Approove
Filestage allows you to review and approve different content formats with clients and co-workers while adapting your existing workflows. You can easily set up different review steps (internal and external) and make sure that everyone is involved when it’s needed.
Ziflow is a clear and easy way to review content and keep all your work centralized.
Ziflow works well with Dropbox and Google drive, so if tools like these are your bread and butter Ziflow is a good choice. It’s a smart tool with some automated features which helps to save time. One of the things we like best is their decision tracking options which help you during the creative process.
(Image Source: Ziflow)
It has plenty of robust security options like single sign-on and is great for creative production teams that only need proofing features.
As the name suggests, Remark allows you to focus on each comment during a review so you can discuss it in reference to the content.
One of the features of remark is being able to work across all of your devices in one convenient place. It makes collaborating with your clients simple and effective. The look of the software is very professional. However, it’s very easy to use.
(Image Source: Remark)
Remark is a good choice if you need a basic proofing software. If you’re not only searching for an annotation tool but also for the best place to pool and manage all of your content, you might look into alternatives.
Vidhub is a video approval software that promises to simplify your video reviews.
The upload time for your videos is fast which can save you much time compared with lower quality services. You can effortlessly timestamp comments and manage your revisions. One of the other useful features is being able to remind your clients automatically by setting them reminders.
(Image Source: Vidhub)
A good basic software aimed at students, studios and corporations. They offer a free 14-day trial, so you can decide if this is the annotation tool for you.
LookAt is a streamlined service which allows you to reach all your work remotely, perfect when you have collaborators from around the world!
LookAt is great for integrating with your existing tool stack. With Adobe, Google, Dropbox, and other tools you can keep all your relevant content in one space, and more importantly, it works well with all this software. It also has good version management so you can view different versions without getting them confused and compare versions side by side for easier decision making.
(Image Source: LookAt)
You can even work on 360 degrees and VR software with this tool. No matter your skill level LookAt provides training videos will all their services so you can be sure your team can use it effectively. If you put emphasis on a clean workflow that directly adapts your existing processes, you should consider using one of the mentioned alternatives.
ProofQuick is a cost-effective option for reviewing ads and approving changes.
For a small business, you may find this one useful, especially as you don’t have to download any software and the website is straightforward to use. Quickly send projects to the graphics department for editing or approval. If you’ve got an office of technophobes then seriously consider this software because it requires no special skills to operate.
This one is specifically designed for the yellow page industry but has plenty of useful features for a small business with basic approval system needs.
QuickReviewer if cost-saving is your main priority, then this might be review tool for you.
QuickReviewer allows you to quickly reply to revisions and messages as well as consolidate your feedback. This simple software helps to get the conversation flowing without wasting anyone’s time.
(Image Source: QuickReviewer)
It’s a tool which includes less of the advanced features you will find on other software, but for younger businesses that don’t have a lot of projects yet, this is might be an option to work with.
Kollaborate is yet another collaboration tool focused on video to help keep you in contact with your team.
Keep in touch with everyone via group messaging. Save time by setting up workflows and automatic processes. Kollaborate also has helper apps which mean everyone can use and access all the features available.
(Image Source: Kollaborate)
This secure platform is a suitable choice for any business mostly concentrating on video.
Are you searching for an alternative to ProofMe? We’ve heard about your hassle. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Try Filestage (completely) for free or test one of the many other tools (like Wipster, Frame.io or Invision) we have reviewed. We won’t let you down. Promise.
What review and approval tool works best for you?
Review and approval tools can be of great use. But it’s rather time-consuming to review all of the different tools out there. So I hope I’ve saved you some time researching my comparison of all these review and approval tools.
If you’re wondering which review tool to use, I suggest thinking about your workflow first. After all, it really depends on your needs. Then I’d challenge you to try a couple of the tools listed here, and see if they’re a good fit for your company. Make sure that any tool you consider has a free trial. Despite the differences in features, it’s important that the tool you use has great usability. The more intuitive a tool is, the less work for your team and partners.
If you still have any questions about review and approval tools and collaboration workflow, feel free to post them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer them for you.
What tools do you use to review and approve files? Have you ever used the tools mentioned above? Or do you have a tool to add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Passionate about communications and client relations. He loves to dig into behavioral economics to uncover the irrationality in our daily behavior.