A few weeks back, I was invited to a private beta to test a free service called, Rallypoint, a tool for working with web-based documents collaboratively with your team members. I am now very happy to see that Rallypoint has released its public beta just a few days ago. Rallypoint was created so team members of a company can easily create and share documents with each other and allow the company to keep documents organized and members up to date. I do feel that Rallypoint is just as useful though even if you aren’t part of a company. You can create documents in a WYSIWYG editor (like a Word Processor), label (or tag) them, set permissions of the document to groups of users or individual users, receive comments, create multiple versions of a document, base documents off of set templates (my favorite), and more.
Rallypoint currently offers a free account that gives up to 5 user accounts and 100 pages or templates and I am assuming (and hoping) that after the beta or sometime during the beta they will release other plans at a cost providing more user accounts and pages. I am more then happy with the free account though and getting started took no time at all. When signing up, you get to create a sub-domain with your account (you.rallypointhq.com). Also, you being the user signing up for your team will be given full administrative access to your account. Get your password in the confirmation email and login to your new Rallypoint account (your sub-domain). You will then be directed to the Dashboard.
Above is the Dashboard to your Rallypoint account. The interface is very clean and organized and implements Ajax very well, used only when needed. Easy tabbed navigation along the top and a search form on the right for quick and easy searching of documents. In the dashboard you will see containers for your pages, recently created pages, subscribed pages, and popular pages. Each container can be positioned in the order that you want using drag and drop feature. Your dashboard will be your best friend once other users of your team start using the system and you can thank the recently created and subscribed page containers for that. These containers will help you keep up with documents from team members. Besides the dashboard, you also have the page directory. When a document is created, you assign the document to labels (tags, if you rather). The tags are then layed out on the page directory looking much like a normal directory showing each label and the number of documents for the label. This is not your only method of organization and keeping up with documents though. You can also create your own collections and subscribe to documents. When I say subscribe though, don’t think of subscribing to feeds. Basically, on any document you will see a link to subscribe. When you subscribe to a document you let the system know that you want to be notified about document changes, comments, and just to keep up with the document. Collections are similar to folders in that you can save documents to a collection that you create to help with your organizing. Think of it as your own private directory or labels for pages. Now that you know where to find pages, how about we get to creating one!
Creating a new page is very simple and works much like your normal word processor. You create your page using a WYSIWYG editor that allows for HTML, CSS, Images, and other media and on top of that, Rallypoint also has a great feature that you can use for creating documents, which is using templates that you create. I first created a test page to see how it works and then went right to the templates page. Creating a template is just like creating a normal page, except you have to keep in mind that you want to make areas for editing or a basic layout for future documents. I created a simple template with a bordered layer, red heading in the font Arial, and small text for a content area. But to give you an idea, you can create templates with tables, images, background colors and the works. I saved my template and then opened it and selected, “Use Template.” It then brings me to where I create a page but this time with the template inside of the WYSIWYG editor. I set the title, ignored the expiration date (which will expire the document on the date you set), and filled in my content into the template and saved. One thing that I personally would like to see on this page though is also the ability to select labels for the document. To label a document, you have to view it and then select the labels. It would just make it one less step if you can do the same when creating it. Once you create the document, team-members will be able to see it (unless you saved it as a private document), comment on it, and edit it if given permission.
Above is what you will see when you view a document. On the left is the document itself, on the right are options, below the document is an area for the viewing and adding of comments, and below the comments are similar pages and the history overview. Anyone can view the document, if not marked private, and anyone can edit it, if the user or group of users are given permission. You can select labels for the document which will organize it in the page directory, but you cannot create labels on the spot for it without going to the page directory and creating them first. So, as you can see from the screenshot, my document came out perfectly and with my template in use. Before, I had mentioned viewing of history. Guess what that means? You can save different versions of your document (by selecting “Save as new version” when editing) and view past dates of the document being modified. Each time you create a new version, it will save the old versions and show the latest one. You can then view any version of the document from the history area. When viewing a page, you will also see some extra options on the right. You will see your collections for assigning the document to any of your collections, an icon for a printable version, and the subscribe icon. I like being able to print, subscribe, and collect documents, but I would also like to see some more exporting options, such as saving as a Word Document (or Rich Text Document).
The next area that I want to go over is users, groups, and access privileges. You or other administrators can either create each user, or you can get a signup code that you can handout to your team members and allow them to signup on their own (to enable this, you have to go into Settings > Options and select “Allow Self-Service Signup”). Once you have a few users in the system, you may want to split up the users into groups. Maybe you have a group of members that only need to see certain documents for them only? Rallypoint makes this very easy for you. Go into the groups area and create a group or select one from the dropdown list of groups. You will then see two boxes. One for users out of the group and one for users in the group. Simply click and drag a user over into the right box to assign the member to the group and it will update automatically with the use of Ajax. There was one issue that I found on this page, which really isn’t that big of a deal but could be fixed. When selecting a group and then going back in the drop down selecting, “Select a group”, it will bring up an error page.
As for user permissions, you, being Domain Admin, can set a users Domain Admin or give them Account Admin, allowing them to assign members, permissions, and manage documents. Having both unchecked will give the user normal access, which allows for viewing, subscribing, and when given permission, to edit. But what about assigning members more access privileges? I mentioned that you can set groups and users document access. If you go to a document and select permissions, you will see a page like in the above screenshot. You can select multiple users or groups by typing in the name and getting an auto-completion list returned. Selecting a name will then add the user or group to the permissions list. You can then give access for editing and mark the user or group as subscribed to the document. That is about it, and really that is all that I feel is needed for user permissions.
Overall, Rallypoint works excellent. You can share documents with other users, gain feedback, and work on documents with version control. The interface is simple and fairly straight forward and Rallypoint definitely does get the job done and the job done well. As I have said, my favorite feature is the templating (which they probably noticed from when I was beta testing!) and feel it is a major strong point for Rallypoint differentiating it from other collaborative services. There are a few things here and there that I think could be added or adjusted. First, it is nice to see that their is a support ticket system, although you have to find the default page created by Rallypoint to find it. Maybe sticking it at the top right navigation would do. Also, they have informed me that they are still working on the F.A.Q. document. Another thing is that when adding comments to a page, at default sending a message to subscribed members on your comment is not enabled. I personally feel that at default it should be enabled and if you don’t want subscribers to receive an email on the comment, to uncheck it. It just makes more sense to me that way because I probably want my comment to be seen and I can picture myself forgetting to check the box when commenting. I would also love it if you can export a document as a Word Document. Lastly, on top of possibly adding labels in the page for creating documents, maybe also allowing them to choose from their templates on this page as well if they haven’t written content already to make it one less step. Other then that, I am very happy with Rallypoint. It works excellent and I can definitely see it as being a successful solution for companies and teams to use for sharing documents and working together on documents. Great work, Rallypoint! I’m a happy user!