Online proofing tools are different—pricing, features, service. So, as we are working in the niche, it was logical to make a blog series to help designers, creative managers, and marketers make the right choice. This time we compare GoVisually and Approval Studio to help you understand what creative approval system fits your needs.

If you read our blog or had a chance to contact the Approval Studio team, you know that we like talking to our users or potential users, asking all kinds of questions about their experience in reviewing graphic files.

I often ask people if they were using the review tools before and what they were if yes. Of course, first and foremost, this is the way to identify our direct and indirect competitors. It’s not a secret that there are dozens of review tools. Each of them has unique features that are more or less appealing to certain people. Today I had an interesting conversation with a design studio manager, and, of course, I asked about his experience in using proofing solutions. GoVisually was the first tool he mentioned. So, of course, the first thing I did after ending the conversation was *drumrolls* registered in GoVisually and started to compare them and Approval Studio.

Below you will find my personal opinion about GoVisually in comparison with Approval Studio. I compared free versions of both systems and tried to be as unbiased as I could. Let me know in the comments below if you think I’m wrong somewhere—I totally might have missed or misunderstood something in GoVisually. Let’s dig in!


Signing up

Both review tools have relatively simple sign-up forms.

While creating an account in Approval Studio, you will be asked to enter your name, email, password and confirm the password. Once done, you will need to confirm the email and… enter some company name, even a made-up one, but you need to enter one.

GoVisually will ask you only your name, email, and password. You will be asked to name your team\company only if you indicate that you aren’t a freelancer. No password or email confirmation is required. Once all the fields are filled in and the form is submitted, you are in the system, so it seems a little more convenient.

However, Approval Studio has more sign-up possibilities—besides a separate in-the-system account, you can use Google or OKTA to sign up. By the way, you are more than welcome to check it out for yourself!


How to start?

Both GoVisually and Approval Studio are “plug-and-play” tools, meaning you sign in, create a project, upload a graphic file into a project, and review it at once. Both have very similar flows; even project-creating pop-ups are similar. Believe me; this is a total coincidence.

GoVisually:

New Project menu

Approval Studio:

New project menu

The difference starts right after the moment when you press the “Create Project” button.

Approval Studio brings you to the project modal window, with few optional fields—project description, due dates, and a big Upload File button. Clearly, to start working with Approval Studio, you need to press this button and upload your graphics file. Approval Studio also supports drag and drop, so you can just drag your file on the Upload File button. The function might not be obvious, but it works, so try it out. Also, you can upload up to 10 files at once.

This project modal, by the way, is shown over a dashboard that you will see whenever logging in to Approval Studio. You can do a little customization and switch from a plain white screen to a color burst theme to make you feel a little more enthused about your work!

Approval Studio Dashboard

GoVisually seems to be even simpler as you don’t have any dashboards, descriptions, or anything. The projects are listed in the left part of the screen, and the call-to-action upload button draws your attention with an appealing green plus sign. It is also very informative and tells you right away that you can upload only PNG, JPG, JPEG, PDF, PSD. To compare, Approval Studio supports JPG, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIFF, PDF, TXT, ODT, DOC/DOCX, AI, PPT/PPTX, and XLS/XLSX file formats. This info can be found on our main page.

GoVisually Dashboard

If you click on the Add New Design button, you will be informed that GoVisually supports drag and drop, and you can upload multiple files at once. I was able to upload 12, but I’m not sure where the limit is.

Clearly, the GoVisually is a tiny bit more user-transparent here.


File Upload

Now, it’s time for the most interesting part, the one that is the reason we are all here – reviewing the graphic files.

The idea behind a review tool is straightforward—it is a program made to gather feedback on your design from your colleagues or clients. It should be functional and, first and foremost, allow on-screen annotations to make sure you and the reviewer are talking about the same thing. And, which is also very important—it should be SIMPLE. You don’t want to send a ‘Review for Dummies’ book to every reviewer. You need the reviewer to understand what they are doing right away. Otherwise, no matter how useful the tool is for you, your clients will not use it. They don’t pay for extra headaches. They pay for getting the work done for them.

As a test file, I use a 26-Mb World Map jpg downloaded from NASA’s website—here’s the link to it.

The file’s resolution is 21600×10800—that should be enough to estimate both reviewers’ speed and functionality.

Both GoVisually and Approval Studio have good upload speed; the file is uploaded within just a few seconds. Approval Studio ate the file faster, but it took some 50 seconds to process it before you could start the review. The processing speed does not depend on your computer performance, and the bigger the file is, the longer it would take for the system to process it. Once it’s done, you will see the Review button and can start… reviewing.

File Update menu in Approval Studio

GoVisually took a bit longer to eat the file, but it did not need a second to start reviewing—once it is uploaded, click on the thumbnail right away to start the review. That’s impressive!

File Update in GoVisually

I understood the reason why it was so fast a few steps later.

I guess I broke GoVisually…

The first time I tried to open the file, I thought it was processing as a loading line was moving in the upper part of my screen. Yet, it stuck nearly at the end, so I could not see the picture itself until I closed the review tool and opened it again. For this time, I used Google Chrome.

The other time, however,  I decided to check it in Tor Browser – a totally untypical but very secure tool that tends to block every activity that might reveal something about your PC location, specifications, even screen resolution. The file now opened perfectly fine in the review tool, but it did not react once I tried to zoom it in. Zoom in, Zoom out, Fit to Screen, Show Original Size—nothing seemed to work.

Judging from these experiences, I can guess that GoVisually also has some processing time that seems not to be shown to the user. Interesting, I thought, deciding to wait for GoVisually to wake up, and moved to check on Approval Studio.

Luckily, I didn’t find any problems here.


Reviewing Design

Review Mode in Approval

I started playing with the Approval Studio review tool, and it was acting perfectly fine. I was able to zoom in, zoom out, used maximum zoom for this picture—it worked smoothly.

I played with rotate buttons (for some reason, I couldn’t find those in GoVisually), and Approval Studio reacted as if it was a small png file—nice and easy. I even managed to turn the world upside down!

The picture upside down in Approval

My next step was adding an on-screen annotation in Approval Studio. I found my favorite Spain— luckily, the image resolution allowed the 137% zoom—and added a freeform annotation. I kept on drawing… I mean annotating.

Marked spots with comments as example of communication

Square annotations, round annotations, free form—everything is working just fine.

It was time for me to go back to GoVisually. Waiting did help, and the system was working just fine, but since I’ve experienced some issues in two browsers, not one, I’m not sure what the problem was. VPN, maybe? Anyway, let’s continue.

I could zoom in to Spain, but… noticed that the picture resolution is much lower than in Approval Studio. I zoomed in the same area of the image in both tools, and it’s true. Approval Studio shows the original image resolution, while GoVisually descaled it.

Take a look yourself.

Approval Studio:

Map example in Approval studio

GoVisually:

Map example in GoVisually

This was the first time when I found GoVisually weaker than Approval Studio. I went back to annotations and found another thing.

GoVisually offers 3 types of annotations: Comment, Box, and Arrow.

Comment—points at the place, Box – highlights a selected area, Arrow—draws an arrow. That was totally not enough for me. I couldn’t point at a specific place with Comment if the place was within the Box, I could use just Arrow, and there was no option for the free form. Basically, you can’t highlight an area with a different shape from a box and ask to change the color of a specific object within such an area with annotation tools. You need to highlight the thing, describe where to look. For example, take a look at Spain, highlight Barcelona, now move 2 inches up the coastline, and you will find Lloret de Mar. I want to point it out but have to use an arrow, and it looks like a bit of a workaround to me with all that stuff. That was confusing, as pointing at the object with whatever shape and saying what I need are the specific reasons why I want to have a review tool. It shouldn’t even matter if it is already highlighted with another annotation.

The only workaround is using Arrow and dragging it to the place I want, but it’s unfair, as I might block other objects I need to point at or highlight.

Highlighted zone in GoVisually

Another important feature of a review tool is inviting external users other than your team members to review the design. For example, you have a client you need to review the mockup, you don’t want to add them to your review tool and pay for their license, but you need the approval to continue the project. Both GoVisually and Approval Studio have this feature, and they are really similar here.

Let’s start with GoVisually.

In the upper right corner, we have a share button to invite an external reviewer.

Share menu

The system offers only a quick URL here that you can copy and send to the client manually—no other functions available. Ok, let’s take this link and use it, simulate the external reviewer.

When you follow the link, the first thing you see is the message that the file has been shared with you, plus an instructional video on using a system—good touch for first-time users who don’t know what to do. Sending a video is better than sending a book!

Share design showing how it looks

Starting the review, you can see the image, but as soon as you try to add some annotation or do something else, GoVisually will ask you to fill in the form.

Basically, this is account creation, as once you enter your name and email, you will be asked to come up with the password as well. That’s surprising, as we initially didn’t want our client\colleague\partner to create an account. We just wanted their opinion.

Ok, we did everything GoVisually asked us to do, added an annotation—no problems here, and want to reject the asset.

Project example in GoVisually

GoVisually offers us two buttons—Needs Changes and Approve. Whatever decision you make, your project lead will be notified, and the status of the artwork will change. I know that wasn’t the case earlier as GoVisually didn’t have any decision buttons, so props to them for making a fix! I’d rather have them a bit bigger as they are the key elements of the interface, but it’s okay nonetheless.

Now, let’s switch to Approval Studio.

Believe it or not, the Share button is in the same place—in the right upper corner. Hit it, and you will have 2 options—link and email.

Approval Studio can email the invitation to review the asset automatically. All you need to do is to enter the email of the reviewer. If you want to send the file to the reviewer manually, you can copy the quick URL.

However, if you hit the Advanced button, you will get an option to set the link expiration date or protect access with the password. No extra cost here. Also, you can choose the language of the email receiver if you are working with an international team. Depending on the language you’ve chosen, the text of the email and the interface language will change for the reviewer.

If you decide to email the invitation, the user will not need to log in or enter anything, as every invitation is unique. The account will not be created for the external user as well. This is the one time you can access this asset.

If you copy the URL and send it manually, the external user will enter the name as identification. There is no password, not even email, as the account for the external user will not be created. The system requires you to enter your name only to identify the external user if there are several of them.

Enter name menu in Approval Studio

There is one more thing we have in Approval Studio that I was not able to find in GoVisually – it shows who was the person inviting the external reviewer, so if your teammates invited several, you would know who’s responsible for which review. And who invited the guy who called Iceland Alaska!

Example of how name looks in the annotations bar

As for the final decision, two big buttons at the top of the window will not let you forget why you are here – Approve and Request Changes – click one of those to make the decision. It’s a bit more obvious than with GoVisually.


File Versioning

File versioning is very important while working with the design project. You might have dozens of change requests, and every new version will have its differences. Both Approval Studio and GoVisually, support file versioning, so let’s start with Approval Studio here.

To add a new version, you hit the corresponding button in the same line with the file you need to version and upload a new design. It doesn’t matter what the name is. The only important thing is to have the same file extension—if it was a tiff, upload a tiff.

New Version renewal in Approval

When you open the review tool in Approval Studio next time, you will see that the file has 2 versions, and you can switch between them and see the differences. You might have as many versions as you want.

How both versions look in the when you open project

In GoVisually, the system is somewhat similar to the one we have in Approval Studio. You hit the options button on the asset, choose Add Revision, and upload the new file version.

Example from GoVisually

The GoVisually review tool will show you the latest file version if you open the asset, the same as Approval Studio. However, the previous version is hidden. To find it, you need to hit Versions and choose the version you want to see. In GoVisually, the file versions are in the left lower corner.

Version history menu in the corner

Comparison Modes

The closer to the project final we get, the fewer differences you will find in design versions. Some of the changes aren’t obvious at all, and you need to make sure to choose the best one and the right one for production.

In Approval Studio, we have 4 different comparison modes that help find all the file version differences and make a wise decision.

I doubt that you’ve noticed, but the 2 previous pictures differ from the ones we had before. These are still world maps, but they are missing something—approximately 40,000 sq miles.

Can you find the difference with your naked eye if I put them side to side?

Comparison mode for both versions

Ok, let me help you and ask Approval Studio to highlight the changes.

Two versions: one highlights the changes in red

I’m sorry, Iceland. Nothing personal, just proving my point with the help of a proofing tool. If you think it was rude, contact me directly here, and I will give you a personal Approval Studio discount as my apologies.

Approval Studio has 4 modes that help find the changes – Side-by-side with show difference option that you can see above, Fader – to overlay one version over another, Difference – only to show a difference, and my favorite – Toggle. And what about the comparison modes in GoVisually?

GoVisually compare revisions button

This is where we update the article to keep up with all the new things offered by GoVisually. They have recently added one comparison mode that is basically the same as Approval Studio’s Side-by-side comparison but with one slight change. It cannot highlight differences, so you will still have to find every change on your own or judge by annotations to the previous versions.

Compare mode in GoVisually

When it comes to other comparison variations, there is also nothing like this. Actually, let me brag a bit—that is the Approval Studio unique feature.

Proof Report

When the project comes to an end, you need to have a formal document to describe every action within it. While talking to product managers, I’ve heard a lot that they keep notes about every change request, every new iteration, and everything is done and then manually writes this project report to provide to the client. Proofing tools are really helpful here as well. This is something we call Proof Report in Approval Studio and something you can find in GoVisually.

GoVisually keeps a record of every annotation made, so if an asset has an annotation, you can click on a tiny Export and Print Comments button in the right lower corner (it took me a while to find, to be honest—check it yourself). You can use this feature ONLY when the asset has annotation\comments, while approval and rejection actions are not present in the report.

"Export and Print comments' button in GoVisually

For some reason, the annotation placement in this report was incorrect, and the annotation places were not shown with the shapes I drew (arrow and square, you can find the above). However, you can still find the time and date when annotations were made and who the author was.

Ready to print preview page

Approval Studio’s Proof Report can be created right in the project menu and has much more details in it. Simply click on the Proof Report button against the asset, and you will get a PDF with all the actions taken during the project.

Proof Report in Approval Studio

The proof report shows the place on the image where annotation was made, when and what reply was received when every version was approved\rejected\uploaded, and who performed this action. All the information is there; the proof report will be the perfect option if you need to share the project details with your client.

Apart from it, Approval Studio also offers a project history for strictly internal use—something for quick access to all the project actions. It allows you to check who did what and when without generating a PDF.

Quick Time line showing all actions happened in the project

What is the best proofing tool?

This is where I will sum up my thoughts about Approval Studio and GoVisually and tell you which review tools are better. Here comes a drumroll, aaaaaand…

Of course, Approval Studio is better. You know why? Because you are reading the Approval Studio blog. GoVisually’s blog will tell you that they are better. None of us would lie in these statements.

And now some serious conclusions:

  1. Both Approval Studio and GoVisually tools are very good, and if you are looking for a review tool for your business, you should consider both options.
  2. I definitely like GoVisually’s design and simplicity. The speed of file processing is also great, the approach of plug-and-play is perfectly implemented.
  3. Approval Studio doesn’t descale files. I know, it is doubtful that someone will ever use the files with so many pixels inside, but it’s still a fact.
  4. GoVisually allows fewer file extensions.
  5. External reviewers don’t need to register in Approval Studio, and I would call its review tool interface a bit more intuitive. Yet, GoVisually sends their reviewers a video with instructions, so I would call it a tie. By the way, you can check our tutorial videos here.
  6. Approval Studio has more features in the Review Tool, comparison modes are unique and have no analogs. GoVisually offers one side-by-side comparison mode that cannot highlight changes.
  7. Proof Report is more powerful in Approval Studio. It also has a project history for internal use.

Both review tools are similar but have their differences as well, and you, as a potential user, should choose wisely which one to use – you do have a choice, and that’s the best part here.

I hope you liked this comparison, and I hope you will add more differences in the comments. If this review gets popular, we will continue writing reviews, as more review tools with lots of interesting features are out there.

Cheers!

Interviewer and master of all trades behind Approval Studio. Free demos, creative talks, ideas, and lots of communication in general. One project manager to rule them all with a decade of experience in the industry. Knows everything and more about artwork proofing and is more than willing to share this experience with you.

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