Tag: futureproofs

Remote control: Collaboration and proofing tools for design teams

For many of the book publishers I work with the use of freelancers is an integral part of their workflow. Some companies offer their internal design and editorial staff the opportunity of working from home and use remote working on projects with colleagues based in other locations.

It might not be for everyone, but working from home (or the café or in fact anywhere that isn’t the office) can increase concentration, creativity and productivity.

Of course, there are also times when coming together as a team is important. Modern connectivity means instant written, spoken and even face to face communication are all becoming commonplace but for publishers the everyday challenges of reading through or viewing a designed page, keeping track of progress and exchanging comments can still be mundane, lengthy and potentially risky.

In recent years several software companies, including my own, have brought out solutions to connect creative people who are working together but remotely. In this article I have a look at some of the different solutions available.

Sharing files

Let’s be clear. Email is OK for general communications but it should never be used when sharing the large files we deal with in illustrated book publishing. I’d also strongly recommend avoiding it for collaborating or sharing proofs and comments.

Wetransfer offer a neat and free solution to send big files to one or more others. It is simple and reliable, better than FTP, and more features come with the paid version.

However, if working within a team then centralising your file sharing is much smarter than passing copies of files between each other. Google Drive, Box, Hightail and others offer ways to share centralised access to your files.

Dropbox offer this too and, in my opinion, have the best solutions for managing files within a creative team. I really like Dropbox desktop integration and synchronisation. Files sit in a regular folder on your PC or Mac, you can work offline and files are then synced when online. It’s worth knowing about their ‘selective sync‘ feature: this lets you choose which folders you wish to access locally in order to free up space whilst knowing all other files are safe, available to others and easily retrievable.

There are ways to restrict access to certain areas and to prevent overwriting. Whilst I would not recommend relying upon Dropbox as your only backup solution, their paid version automatically saves every version of every file, and you can revert to a previous version if you need to.

Dropbox selective sync lets you choose which shared files are on your computer


Whilst the creative process is happening then working together on the same publication and even on the same page becomes important.

As well as holding your files centrally Hightail and Dropbox also offer the ability to share PDF and image files for commenting and will notify users when comments are added.

Hightail and Dropbox offer ability to add comments to images

Futureproofs is a cloud-based system designed by an experienced editor that focuses on the jobs that editors, proofreaders, authors and designers actually do. Its quick, precise annotation tools combine traditional standards-based markup with modern gesture recognition. Their built-in collaboration tools help your whole team stay on top of queries and decisions, and real-time data give deep insight into project management. Deadlines, live notifications and tracking are all held online for easy access.

Futureproofs lets you mark up the page just by drawing on it

MasterPlan is a planning, tracking and commenting system for your entire publishing team. Multiple projects can be planned out and their progress viewed in the browser. Changes made in InDesign are instantly pushed to an online overview. Clicking on a thumbnail opens spreads in a retina quality preview where annotations can be drawn and comments added. Back in InDesign these comments are pulled down onto the InDesign page.

MasterPlan integrates with InDesign to share an overview of entire illustrated publications


Rather than using unwieldly email threads, those working in publishing teams can benefit from using messaging and chat. Slack, HipChat and Skype chat are all ways to communicate quickly and to keep everyone in touch about day to day minutiae. Also, Masterplan connects with Slack to let colleagues know whenever InDesign pages are changed or comments are added.

Messaging apps build up a well presented project specific shared history that can be easily filtered and searched. You can direct questions at certain people and mark important info for later reference using @ and # tags when necessary and all in a more immediate way that is ideal for team communication.

It is helpful to have a way to be able to dip out and back in to threads of product info without having to hunt through a mixture of other emails.

Slack gets team communications neatly under control

Sometimes a quick live screen share can really help with describing or resolving a particular point. Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom all offer free ways to do this.

For big projects that start to require some project management it is worth looking at larger tools like BaseCamp and Trello which can become a central single location for messages, to-dos and timelines.

Commenting and approval

Towards the end of the design and editorial stages there are several options for sharing proofs, adding comments and receiving approval. Also, people outside of the design teams may well need to sign off on a project too.

Although Futureproofs and MasterPlan offer commenting and approval tailored to fit into the workflow of book publishers, if you would prefer a more simple online proof approval on a file by file basis then other tools such as ProofHQ, GoProof and PageProof are all available.

Of these PageProof stands out as a well thought-out option which also handles setting up of approval chains. These mean the next person who needs to approve a piece gets notified at the right time. It integrates with Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Photoshop, and Illustrator and even allows commenting on video and audio files. PageProof is also fully encrypted so this might be an option if ‘for your eyes only’ security is important.

For those looking for a custom branded file sharing and commenting and Digital Asset Management system then FileCamp may fit the bill.

Outputting for production

GreenLight is a simple system that ensures that your house style and production rules are applied to all InDesign files in your workflow. Instantly updated checklists of rules and presets are shared with all remote workers and if a problem is found then the area of InDesign page is highlighted and online help pages show how to amend them. When files are ready, GreenLight can also be used to output approved final PDFs and prepare final files.

GreenLight makes sure your house styles and production rules are followed

So, these days, there are real alternatives available to the fiddly and time consuming practice of sending around PDFs, long confusing email trails of feedback and scribbled on print outs.

When making your choice, think about the type and length of publications you produce, the number of people within your creative teams, the amount and order of final approvals required and who is to make the final files for production.

MasterPlan and GreenLight are my company’s tools. I’ve tried to be impartial and fair in my recommendations of these and others.

I hope you find this article useful, if you have any other favourites then please let me know in the comments below.

Circular SoftwareKen Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer Penguin Group UK. Now specialising in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows.

Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow.

You can contact Ken via twitter @circularken or through the website http://www.circularsoftware.com

Although freely available on the web, images may be subject to copyright.

life as a freelancer

A day in the life of a startup founder

John Pettigrew is CEO and Founder of Futureproofs, where he is trying to make editors’ lives better with software designed for the jobs they actually do. A recovering editor himself, John has been working in publishing since 1997, including stints on academic journals, educational textbooks, and print and digital materials of all kinds. 

06:40 Radio 4 comes on the radio. They’re talking about Brexit in Parliament so I’m quickly out of bed!

06:50 Make packed lunches for the family, then get our two children fed, packed and out of the door and off to school. Now I’ve got time to have breakfast – and one of my few chances to read a book during a weekday!

08:00 Grab half an hour for meditation with my wife before we’re both off to work. It’s hard to be still with so much going on!

08:30 On my bike for the 4-mile ride to the office. It’s fairly warm and not raining today, so I count that as a win.

09:00 Daily stand-up meeting. Every day, our whole team gets together for 15 minutes so that everyone can share what they did yesterday and what they’re planning to do today. This makes sure we all know what’s going on in the business, and gives us the chance to discuss anything that’s blocking progress. Fortunately, today, there are no blockers!

09:15 The first hour or two of every day I spend making sure I’ve dealt with all incoming emails from customers or potential customers. My general focus this week is fixing some final calls before Christmas, and starting to make appointments for January, so there are several emails to answer.

09:45 Realise that I’ve not had a drink yet, so I head to the kitchen area of our shared office to make myself a refreshing mug of hot water. (I used to drink vast volumes of tea but had to quit when I got IBS a few years back. But plain hot water’s a surprisingly good drink!)

09:50 Back to the emails.

10:30 With the overnight emails out of the way, it’s time to check on our users. I head to our support website and check that nothing unexpected or unfortunate has happened (although I should have received an email if it had). Then, it’s over to our admin website to download the numbers on how many users have been using Futureproofs and check that we’re on track.

10:50 The big task for this morning is updating our cash-flow projections in light of our actual performance so far this year. (The next Board meeting is at the end of this week: the Board’s job is to hold me to account, as CEO of the company, so they need full updates on our performance. Fortunately, our Chair is fantastic – both rigorous and supportive.) So, for the next couple of hours, I’m deep in financial spreadsheets showing our projected sales and costs. I check that they’re still realistic given the conversations I’ve been having with potential customers and revise where appropriate. I also check that our costs are as expected and that we’ve not had any surprises that we hadn’t planned for. Once this is done, I email a draft of the updated cash flow to our Chair for his comments.

12:45 Slack (the instant-messaging software we use to keep in touch during the working day) tells me that one of our developers has pushed an update to our development server. He’s been working on a new feature that I’ve wanted for some time, so I give it a bit of a workout and send him some feedback – it’s nearly there but there are a couple of edge cases where things aren’t working properly yet.

13:00 While my mind is on the product, I go to our project-management software to review the next few tasks that the developers will be working on. We describe all our features as user stories (that is, in the form, “As a [user role], I can [do something] so that [I achieve some goal]”) so that the benefits to users are always clear in anything we do. I need to clarify a couple of points in the acceptance criteria for one user story, and move a couple of tasks that we don’t need to do just yet into a later release. I also review the recent user feedback that’s been pulled in from our support website, and tag some suggestions to the user stories they relate to (so that we can remember why we’re going to do those tasks, when it comes to it!).

13:15 Time to have lunch, so it’s down to the kitchen area for the packed lunch I made for myself earlier. My office is in a co-working space for startups, and it’s great to be able to spend some time with people who understand the madness of my work life! Although most of them are still in their 20s or 30s and miss most of my cultural references…

13:45 Back to my desk with another mug of piping hot water. Now, I need to check through our CRM system and catch up on my tasks. A Customer Relationship Management system is basically a contacts book combined with a to-do list – it keeps track of everyone we’re talking to and all the emails we’ve exchanged, while also reminding me when I promised to get back to them. Today, I’ve got quite a few emails to send to check in on people I want to meet again soon and chase a couple of case studies we’re working on.

14:55 Another cuppa!

15:00 Quick phone call with our Chair to get his feedback on the draft cash flow. I need to make some changes and add some explanatory notes for the meeting on Friday, so I do that and email the result back to him.

15:45 If you want your startup to grow, you have to keep bringing in new potential customers. So I spend some time on LinkedIn finding relevant people at companies I’d like to talk to, and send them messages. This can be surprisingly effective, if you can write a message they want to read!

16:15 A new version of the new feature from earlier is on our development server, so I take a look and give a bit more feedback. So nearly there now, I can taste it!

16:30 Grab the backup drive from my desk drawer and start backing up my laptop. I do this every day, just in case. (Once you’ve had a hard drive die on you, it becomes surprisingly easy to make time for this. Always make sure you back up everything regularly!)

16:31 While the backup is running, I do some more work on revising our website. The existing site is pretty awful and I’ve been wanting up update it for a long time. (A word to the wise – don’t bother with a content-management system. Just learn HTML and write the website yourself. It’s quicker and easier, and avoids all the headaches of software updates and training.) The new site is a complete rebuild from the ground up, and it’s nearly there now. I refine some of the responsive styling (so that it copes with mobile devices better) and swap out a couple of images that might have been misleading. Making screenshots fit angled computer screens from stock artwork teaches me how to use a tool in my photo editor that I’ve never had to touch before, which is nice!

17:30 Throw my laptop into my bag and it’s back on my bike to ride home. Still not raining!

18:00 Dinner with the family and then some time to relax together until the children go to bed.

20:30 With both children in bed, my wife and I have the rest of the evening to ourselves. We do the Guardian Quick Crossword with a mug of tea and then watch some TV. I must be honest, though, and admit that I’m second-screening while I watch. Our website still isn’t finished, and I do some more work on the text and make sure the buttons are properly visible over the background.

22:00 The day’s almost over, and one thing I can guarantee about tomorrow is that it will be almost completely different to today! But, this morning, I finished the novel I was reading and so I spend a few minutes perusing my bookshelves to find something interesting to read in bed. Good night all!

Startup snapshot: Futureproofs

life as a freelancerJohn Pettigrew is CEO and Founder of Futureproofs, where he is trying to make editors’ lives better with software designed for the jobs they actually do. A recovering editor himself, John has been working in publishing since 1997, including stints on academic journals, educational textbooks, and print and digital materials of all kinds. Here we interviewed John on Futureproofs and what’s next in the pipeline.

1) What exactly is Futureproofs?

Futureproofs lets you proofread effectively on-screen. It provides simple markup based on the BSI (or Chicago) standard, effective collaboration and powerful project management with real-time data. Bottom line, it helps publishing teams to publish their books at the required quality, faster and more cheaply.

2) What problem does it solve?

Many of us still proofread on paper – it’s simple, reliable and well-understood. But it’s also slow, surprisingly expensive and not environmentally friendly. But the existing software isn’t really designed for proofreading, so it’s slow and clumsy, which translates to ‘more expensive’. Futureproofs is designed specifically for publishing, based on long experience of the industry.

3) Who is your target market?

Currently, we’re targeting illustrated-book publishers – education, trade non-fiction and children’s. But Futureproofs can work for anyone who’s creating books, magazines or large-scale documents. We have customers who publish mostly narrative text, and we’re also talking to several academic publishers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

I set up Futureproofs to make editors’ lives better. So, I hope that we’ll help to build a confident editorial community that can do its job effectively and demonstrate its value to the wider publishing industry (traditional and self-publishers alike). And for Futureproofs to be the default choice for proofreading!

5) What will be next for Futureproofs?

We’re always releasing new features for Futureproofs (usually a couple of times a month). The next Big Thing, though, will be support for ebooks via the EPUB format (they’re a real pain to check at the moment), which is coming later this year, probably around the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

Read more on the Futureproofs blog and website.

John Pettigrew

On-screen proofing comes of age

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.

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