5 Keys to Selecting a Viewer for Enterprise Content Management

This article discusses the importance of viewing in an enterprise content management solution and focuses on 5 keys for selecting the viewer that meets your document management requirements. There are significant challenges in dealing with digital, confidential or sensitive content in a collaborative environment, and an effective viewing solution should address the following 5 key aspects.

File Format Support

A typical use case in an enterprise workflow involves several different types of documents being received, reviewed, and shared. Dealing with these multiple file formats can be a challenge. The number of documents can be sizable, and generally range from static image formats (TIFF and JPEG), which were the standards in the past, to the native formats, which have been gaining popularity since the last decade. A benefit of native format review includes the availability of metadata or “raw data”, which can be attached to an electronic document and reviewed to create an audit trail. Some of the most common data types are email, instant messaging chats, documents, accounting databases, CAD/CAM files, and web site content. One cost-effective strategy for corporations with an Enterprise Content Management system to deal with multiple file formats is to select a multi-tasking viewer; one that can be used as a daily document access tool for staff, is integrated with a document repository, and can function as a native format viewer, allowing customers to reduce or avoid the costs inherent in licensing software from companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk separately.

Full text search

As corporations become increasingly global and distributed, real-time transparency of information to managers and employees becomes mission-critical, creating a large amount of data in various formats that must be accessible and searchable at any given time. At the same time, organization and filing conventions are almost impossible to enforce within an organization that is rapidly creating and updating digital content. A viewing product that is integrated into the content management system mitigates the effects of file overload by linking a full text search back to the repository, enabling members of the team to quickly find files referencing the topic of interest using keyword hits. In addition, when the keyword hits are passed interactively to the viewer, a team member can quickly identify the context of the match, further increasing their efficiency.


Another important factor in team collaboration is the ability to support various annotation schemes. Color coding and shapes highlight notes or actions, and may vary by attorney or team. Annotations add review, commenting, and markup capabilities right within the viewer so you can streamline the document review workflow and reduce decision time. The viewing solution should enable these annotations to be created and displayed, not only in TIFF, JPEG, or PDF formats, but in native formats as well. Ideally, the original version of the document is preserved, while annotated versions can be updated and shared throughout the collaborative process.


The term petrification refers to the conversion of native files into an image format that does not require use of the native applications. This method of document conversion has been necessary to facilitate the redaction of sensitive information, since the majority of redaction tools are more easily applied to uniform image formats. There are two challenges endemic to this approach. First, efforts to redact petrified PDF files have been problematic in the removal of the redaction layer (essentially, sensitive information such as social security numbers is covered only, and not truly removed). Second, this presents a shift from trending native formats for viewing and annotation, resulting in a potentially redundant technology purchase. A viewer with native redaction capabilities and the ability to ‘burn in’ the redactions, effectively removing the underlying mask and replacing it with the markup, is an ideal product to overcome both of these obstacles.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Finally, Digital Rights Management enables document rights to be aligned to users. Integrating this procedure within the viewing engine simplifies the process of allowing and disallowing print, save, annotation, and redaction for users, depending on their needs and roles. By adding a digital rights management control on the document you can render the document as view only, and control printing, navigation, pan control and saving within a work group, across departments, or with partners and suppliers, outside the firewall.

About the Author: Prateek Kathpal oversees the Viewing Products strategy at Accusoft. He has held senior positions within the Content Management Division of EMC, founded a SaaS Content Management Venture, which was acquired by a China-based company in 2008, and worked with EMC Documentum, NEC, Sapient, Cognizant, JPMorgan Chase and other similar organizations.