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The Problem

I work with a team of people where we frequently generate reports specific to clients, regions, and topics. Each time we begin a new report, we open up several older reports which cover the appropriate combination of these items, then copy/paste into the new document, make revisions as necessary, and publish. Errors inevitably come in, since this system requires the person beginning a new report to be familiar with all previous ones, or else take time talking to the rest of the team to figure this out.

What we need

We're looking for a tool that would allow individual report sections/paragraphs to be tagged and version controlled. This way, when we generate a new report, we could simply select the list of appropriate tags, and the most recent version of all applicable paragraphs/sections would be brought in. This could be directly in Word, or in an interface where it could easily be copy/pasted into Word, retaining basic formatting.

Must-haves:

  • Free trial. The software can cost, but there should be a free trial so I can test it out in order to craft a demo for the team.
  • Basic formatting. Things such as heading level, bold/italic, etc should be included.
  • Links to sources/references. We cite our work and pull in data from external sources, so we need to track these as well.
  • Attachments. Many sections will include a figure or graphic, so we need to include these.

Nice-to-haves:

  • Version control. It's OK if we can only see the most recent version of a section, but seeing what changed from the last one would be helpful.
  • Free-form commenting.
  • Easy Sharepoint and/or Microsoft Word integration.
  • "Field" compatibility, or some method of inserting names/dates as variables which can be updated from one central location.
  • Web-based user interface. We have a server where we can install/run Windows or Linux apps if necessary.
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Have you considered Google Docs? Granted, you (and all your colleagues/collaborators would) would need a Google account but for what it's worth, I find it quite powerful. And, if I understand your question correctly, it does what you need it to do:

  • you can use it for free or you can opt for Google for Business (I cannot tell you what the difference between the two is as my team and I are using the free/personal version and it seems to suffice),
  • it has almost the same formatting options as Microsoft Word,
  • you can insert links, footnotes, quite similar to what you can do in Word,
  • you can insert pictures, tables, diagrams, equations, charts, etc.
  • you get version control, where you can see who changed what,
  • you get commenting options,
  • not sure what you mean by Word integration, but you can upload and download your Word documents

    Open, and edit, and save Microsoft Word files with the Chrome extension or app.

  • you can tag selected paragraphs with one of the nifty add-ons like "Tag, Search and Summarize" (seems to work fine for me),
  • not sure about "field" compatibility but I am pretty sure you will be able to find an add-on for this as well,
  • and web-based user interface is a check, same as parallel connections and simultaneous working/editing.

It looks like something that might suit your needs. Maybe worth a look.

  • Moving to Google is not an option, unfortunately -- at least not on the timeframe in which I'm hoping to implement this! – LShaver Oct 12 '17 at 16:40
  • Ah, ok. Sorry about that. If I find something else, I'll let you know :) – Alex Oct 12 '17 at 16:42

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