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Documentation Tool Emulates Core Code Review Process

Collaboration tools have continued to pervade every aspect of software application development over the last couple of decades, and technical document reviews are no exception to that rule. Joining the industry's selection of tools in this space this month is PeerReview Complete 2012 from SmartBear Software, which provides smart comment tracking, threaded conversations, and electronic signatures for development teams looking to author technical documents using Microsoft Word.

Just as the Excel spreadsheet was never intended to act as a Business Intelligence dashboard, the application is thought to be widely used as such. Equally, Word was never intended to act as a technical document reviews tool, so SmartBear has sought to provide comment tracking to manage the flow of text changes as documents are edited — but also enable reviewers to see and take action on comments made between document versions. Also unlike Word, comments and feedback are permanently logged.

What the company is essentially trying to do with this product is provide a means of technical document review that mimics and reflects the developer's normal process of code review; i.e., proving the opportunity to detect defects early on through document-based artifacts. Threaded, contextual conversations act like newsgroups when users review asynchronously and instant messaging when users review code and documents concurrently.

SmartBear lines up its key features here specifying that electronic signatures and custom metrics support audit trails as well as regulatory compliance mandates. Document "defects" are tracked and cannot be deleted and reviews can be conducted without "confusing email threads" as all comments are captured centrally.

Gartner analyst Thomas Murphy reminds us that document artifacts such as requirements, specifications, test plans, and marketing collateral are under constant evolution during product development. "While traditional software requirements management systems provide many features to aid requirements projects, the majority of the market still relies on tools such as word processing, leaving them without ways to address the key issues that hinder efficient and accurate peer reviews," he said.

SmartBear is aiming to extend the use of its tool to all members of the software project team including product managers, project/business owners, Quality Assurance professionals, technical support staff, documentation pros, and wider marketing staff.

With this release, PeerReview Complete extends the features and third-party integrations of the company's flagship code review tool CodeCollaborator into the arena of collaborative document review.

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