Online proofing tools are different. Pricing, features, service, … This blog series aimed to help designers, creative managers, and marketers to make the right choice. This time we review compare Go Visually and Approval Studio to help you understand what creative approval system fits better your needs.

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

I often ask people if they were using the review tools before and what are they. Of course, 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 its unique features that are more appealing to certain people. There’s no ideal tool for everyone, but still,  I decided to compare Approval Studio with some other web-based review applications. Today I had an interesting conversation with a manager of a design studio, and, of course, I asked about his experience in using proofing solutions. The tool he mentioned was GoVisually. Of course, the first thing I did after ending the conversation was *drumrolls* registered in GoVIsually and started to compare them and Approval Studio.

Approval Studio vs Govisually

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, as I truly believe that I might have missed or misunderstood something in GoVisually.

Signing up

Both review tools have a simple sign up forms, but GoVisually is a winner here.

While creating an account in Approval Studio you will be asked to enter 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 name, only if you indicate that you aren’t a freelancer. No password or email confirmation is required, you are in the system once all the fields are filled in and the form is submitted.

How to start?

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

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

Approval Studio - online proofing tool

Approval Studio brings you to the project modal window, with few optional fields – comments, 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, you need to drag your file on the Upload File button, but it’s not obvious, and we often get questions when we add drag and drop. IT IN THERE!!!!!! We have just hidden it from you!!!!! We don’t know why. However, you can’t upload multiple files to Approval Studio, only one by one.

This project modal, by the way, is shown over a dashboard, that you will see every time when logging in to Approval Studio.

GoVisually seems to be even more simple, you don’t have any dashboards, descriptions or anything. The projects are listed in the left part of the screen, and call to action button draws your attention with an appealing green plus sign. It’s is also very informative, tells you right away that you are able to upload only PNG, JPG, JPEG, PDF, PSD. (Approval Studio supports TIFF, JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, AI, PS/EPS, PDF file formats, but this info is hidden in FAQ). 

If you click on Add New Design button, you will be informed, that GoVisually support drag and drop and you can upload multiple files at once.

Clearly, the GoVisually is more user-transparent here.

Review Design: GoVisually vs Approval Studio. Part 1.

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

The idea behind a review tool is very simple – a tool to gather annotations from your colleges or clients. It should be functional, allow onscreen annotation 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 “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 headache, they pay for getting the work done for them.

As a test file, I use 26 Mb  World Map jpg downloaded from NASA web site – here’s the link to it.

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

Both GoVisually and Approval Studio have good upload speed, the file is being uploaded within few seconds.

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

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!

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

I guess I broke GoVisually

You can skip this part, as you will not find anything useful here, that WAS NOT GoVisually problem. So if you skip this “chapter” you will not miss anything valuable.

The file opened perfectly fine in the review tool, but once I tried to zoom it in, it did not react. Zoom in, Zoom out, Fit to Screen, Show Original Size – nothing seemed to work.

I stuck with this picture on my screen and wasn’t able to move it or anything. Remembering about the time Approval Studio needed to process the picture of that size I decided to give GoVisually some time and went to check how Approval Studio is working with this file.

Luckily, I didn’t find any problems here.

Review Design: GoVisually vs Approval Studio. Part 2.

I started playing with 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 wasn’t able to find those in GoVisually) and Approval Studio reacted as if it was a small png file – nice and easy.

I turned the world upside down!

My next step was adding an onscreen annotation in Approval Studio.

I found my favorite Spain, luckily the image resolution allowed the 179% zoom and added a freeform annotation.

Kept on drawing… I mean annotating.

Square annotations, round annotations, free form – everything is working fine.

It was time for me to go back to GoVisually.

Waiting did help. GoVisually started working again… Until I noticed that I was using another browser.

It turned out, that during my previous attempt I was using Tor Browser – totally untypical but very secure browser, that tends to block every activity that might reveal something about your PC location, specifications, even screen resolution.

All that time I was thinking bad about GoVisually, Tor Browser kept on “protecting” me and blocked GoVisually.

This time, the systems did fine.

I was able to zoom in to Spain, but… noticed that the picture resolution is much lower then in Approval Studio.

I zoomed in one and 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 - online proofing tool

Approval Studio:


This is the first moment, where I found GoVisually weaker then Approval Studio.

I went back to annotations, and found another thing.

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

Comment – points at place, Box – highlights a selected area, Arrow – draws arrow. That was totally not enough for me. I wasn’t able to point at a specific place with Comment, if the place was within the Box, I was able to use just Arrow, and there was no option for free form. Basically, you can’t highlight an area and ask to change the color of a specific object within the area with annotation tools. You need to highlight the area and describe where to look at. For example, Take a look at Spain, highlight Barcelona, now move 2 inches up the coastline and you will find Lloret de Mar. That was confusing, as this is why I want to have a review tool, to point at the object I need and say what I need, and it doesn’t matter if it is already highlighted with another annotation.

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

Share file: GoVIsually vs Approval Studio.

Another important feature of a review tool is an ability to invite external users, not 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 him to your review tool and to pay for his license, but you need to have his 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 right upper corner we have a share button, to invite the external reviewer.

The system offers only a quick URL here, that you can copy and send to the client manually.

Protect Project, as far as I understood, allows to add some kind of password without knowing which you can’t access the file even if you have the url.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test it, as this is a paid feature.

Ok, let’s take this link and use it, simulate the external reviewer.

Using this link, you are able to 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 the account creation, as once you will 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 want his opinion.

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

You know what? I didn’t find a place, where I can approve or reject the file.

What’s the point of all that if I can’t say “you are wrong, change this place”. It should be in there! But where?

Let’s switch to Approval Studio.

Believe it or not, but Share button is in the same place – in the right upper corner.

Hit it, and you will have 2 options:

Approval Studio will email the invitation to review the asset automatically, just enter the email of the reviewer.

Or you can copy the quick URL and send it to the reviewer manually.

However, if you hit advanced Link, you will get an option to set the link expiration date or protect access with the password. No extra cost here.

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

If you copy the URL and send it manually, the external user will have to enter name and email, as an identification. However, the account for the external user will not be created as well, this is only to identify the external user if there are several of them.

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

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 so obvious!

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 different. You know about that if you read this far.

Both, Approval Studio and GoVisually support file versioning.

Let’s start with Approval Studio here.

To add a new version, you hit the corresponding button against the file you need to version and add upload the new design. Doesn’t matter what the name is, the only important thing is to have the same file extension – if it was tiff, upload tiff.

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.

In GoVisually the system is very similar to the one we have in Approval Studio.

You hit on the options button on the asset, choose Add Revision and upload the new file version.

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, and to find it, you need to hit Revisions and choose the version you want to see. In GoVisually the file versions are in the right sidebar.

Comparison Modes

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

In Approval Studio we have 4 different comparison modes, that help to find all the file version differences and to 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?

What about now?

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

I’m sorry, Iceland. Nothing personal, just proving my point with a help of proofing tool. If you think it was rude, contact me directly and I will give you a personal Approval Studio discount (when Approval Studio is paid, at this moment it’s totally free of charge) as my apologies.

Approval Studio has 4 modes, that help to find the changes – Side-by-side with 2 options, that you can see above, Fader – to overlay one version over another, Difference – to show only difference, and my favorite – Toggle.

And what about the comparison modes in GoVIsually?

There is nothing like this. Actually, let me brag a bit, that is Approval Studio unique feature.

Proof Report

When the project comes to the end, you need to have a formal document to describe everything that needs to be done. While talking to product managers, I’ve heard a lot that they keep notes about every change request, every new iteration, everything that has been done and then, manually writes this project report to provide to the client. Proofing tools, review tools are helping 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 Export and Print Comments. You can use this feature ONLY when the asset has annotation\comments (and probably if it was approved or rejected, but as you know, I wasn’t able to find where to approve or reject the asset here).

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

Approval Studio’s Proof Report has much more details in it.

Simply click on Proof Report button against the asset and you will get a PDF with all the actions taken during the project.

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.

What is the best proofing tool? Conclusions.

This is the place I will sum up my thought about Approval Studio and GoVisually and tell you which review tools are better.

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

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. Approval Studio is free so far, so I compared our Lite Mode with GoVisually’s trial package, and I’m sure that GoVisually has lots of features I haven’t seen yet if to switch to their paid plans.
  3. 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.
  4. Approval Studio has more features in the Review Tool, comparison modes are unique and have no analogs and Proof Report is more powerful.
  5. GoVisually has several integrations like Slack and custom branding in paid plans.
  6. 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 that 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 there are more review tools out there that have lots of interesting features.


Growth marketing Jedi at Approval Studio.

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