On-screen proofing comes of age

John Pettigrew

This is a guest post from John Pettigrew, CEO of FutureProofs.

At Futureproofs we’ve spent the past year creating a solution to a problem that most editors and proofreaders recognise. Handling book proofs on paper works very nicely, but it’s a bit slow and cumbersome, it’s often hard to read, and it’s surprisingly expensive. Many companies have moved to PDF proofing to save money, but the available tools are laughably poorly designed for this job and make the process take longer. The reason for this, of course, is that they weren’t designed for this job at all but just for basic annotation!

So, at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 8 October, we’re launching Futureproofs. This is our solution to these problems, designed by editors for editors. We hope that it will help publishing teams create quality books more cheaply and quickly. A browser-based platform, it addresses the problems I mentioned above by providing three key advantages over the current options.

(Click to see a video.)

First, we allow easy but precise on-screen markup with gesture recognition using the structure of the BSI proofing standard. This enables proofreaders and authors to send accurate feedback more quickly and easily. No more clumsy sticky notes or huge palettes of stamps to drag around.



Second, we enable teams to collaborate in real time, to raise and resolve queries more quickly, and hence reduces the time projects spend in proof. This also means that all these conversations are permanently available, helping to find why a particular decision was if it is later questioned.


Finally, we help the project manager by automatically chasing the team around deadlines. Our useful reports also reduce the time spent on admin and increase their ability to find and use data about project performance.


During the Frankfurt Book Fair, we will be demonstrating this exciting new platform on their stand in Hall 4.0, stand A10. If you’d like to find out more, please do contact us for an appointment at the Fair or afterwards (info@WeAreFutureproofs.com).

As part of our launch festivities, we are running a competition on our stand to find “The Fastest Editor In Frankfurt”, with exciting prizes including copies of Judith Butcher’s classic “Copy-editing”, Michael Bhaskar’s insightful treatise on the publishing industry “The Content Machine” and Michael Dougherty’s “Vikings: A Dark History” (all prizes kindly donated by their publishers). All comers are invited to try their hands at finding all the issues in the sample page as fast as they can!

To find out more about Futureproofs and sign up for a trial, visit www.WeAreFutureproofs.com.

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  1. The markup element of this looks very exciting, John, though the data on project performance (“Time spent on proof” in the table) is of concern to me. What is this actually measuring – the time the proofreader leaves the PDF open in the browser, or the time spent annotating the PDF? Neither would be representative of what I do in the course of a full proofread: currently I might leave a PDF open while I take a break from the screen and do something else work-related but separate from the proofreading work on the go; alternatively, I might be doing work that relates to the project but doesn’t actually involve annotating the PDF. An example would be macro-based consistency checking that I carry out in Word (using the text that I’ve stripped from the PDF).

    Many onscreen proofreaders utilize a range of tools, and employ a variety of methods, to complete their proofreading projects within the time frame requested by their clients. These extend well beyond the sole use of the PDF that’s open on their screen at any particular moment.

    So my initial concern is that a project manager could use this performance data (1) as a way of assessing what I bring to the table when I proofread and (2) how much time it takes to complete the task, even though the data isn’t truly measuring what I’m doing in the course of a project. Could you explain these performance measures in more detail in order to reassure me?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Louise. The ‘time spent’ number is something I always point out to publishers, specifically because it doesn’t represent billable time. It’s most useful when working out if you’re likely to receive a proof back on time or not. (As in, “The proof’s due back tomorrow and the author’s only spent 30 minutes on it so far. Hmm. It will probably be late, so how can I deal with that?”)

      Basically, we’re trying to give useful data that will reduce the stress level of the project manager, not something that they would hold over the heads of their freelancers! And the effectiveness of these figures is something that we’re definitely going to be keeping an eye on as more people start using the platform.

      If you’d like to see a little more, just drop me a line!

    1. Thanks for the comment – good point! Futureproofs is browser-based and runs on any computer with a modern browser, so both Mac and PC. (‘Modern browser’ means Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari or IE10 or later.)

    1. Thanks, Virginia, that’s a good point. At the moment, yes. We do have an Offline Mode in our roadmap but, at present, Futureproofs is online-only.

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