TMCnet Feature
July 26, 2021

How an Online Proofing System Works

An online proofing system allows a centralized and secure process of reviewing and approving creative work using an online, cloud-based workflow.

Back in the earlier days of the modern printing industry with the Gutenberg press, proofing was only possible by printing a sample for the end product, often smaller to save costs. Then, we have the computer, and we can leverage the monitor to show the soft proof to internal stakeholders and clients.  

Thanks to the internet, now we can use the soft proof method in combination with email communications, making email-based approval the default method of many organizations’ review and approval processes.

The thing is, all of these methods are inefficient and often cumbersome. It’s common for creative workers and approvers to be annoyed with the messy email thread when required to find a specific version of a deliverable in a long chain of emails.

This is where an online proofing system comes in. 

How Does an Online Proofing System Work?

An online proofing system is web-based and cloud-based. Meaning, stakeholders, reviewers, and collaborators can access the solution from anywhere in the world on any device without needing them to download a software or application.

The basic functionality of an online proofing system is to allow designers/creative workers to upload their deliverables and let reviewers access the file via the same cloud-based software.

However, depending on the quality of the online proofing system, it may also provide additional features further to improve the approval process’s efficiency and accuracy. Sophisticated online proofing systems like Aproove, for example, offer integrations with 1000+ of popular enterprise solutions, as well as advanced features like Annotation Flow Management (AFM) and advanced markup tools.

To understand how an online proofing system works, however, let us discuss the step-by-step workflow you should expect in using an online proofing solution for an efficient approval process:

Step 1: Uploading the content

Once the initial creative deliverable is finished, then the file is uploaded to the online proofing system. Different online proofing solutions offer support to different file types. You might be required to first export the design file into a read-only format like JPG, PDF, or PNG. Still, some other online proofing systems might offer the ability to share your work directly from applications like Adobe (News - Alert) InDesign or Illustrator.

Nevertheless, this process is pretty self-explanatory: upload the deliverable file to the online proofing system.

Step 2: Share the file with reviewers

Once the file is uploaded correctly, we can then share it with the approvers/reviewers via the online proofing system. An excellent online proofing system should make this process intuitive and easy. For example, you might only be required to enter the recipient’s email address before they receive a link to access the file via email.

An essential part of this step is to assign roles to everyone who receives the deliverable. It’s essential to be clear on who has what responsibility in the approval process. For security purposes, here you should also define the authentication level for each role, and here is an example of a typical role structure you can use:

  • Supervisor: they can view the proof files but can’t make any feedback or edit the file, only as an observer. Depending on the need, they may also be able to add new collaborators and request changes.
  • File owner/designer: those who develop the deliverable have full access to comment/feedback, upload files, and edit the file.
  • Reviewer/approver: those who can view proofs and send feedback. They can also upload files when needed (i.e., references).

Step 3: Online proofing process

This is the core process where collaborations happen.

A key advantage of using an online proofing system is to have everything centralized. You’ll only have one screen with one proof that everyone can comment on, rather than different file versions and additional comments in each email.

Again, while different online proofing systems might offer other features, the basic workflow here remains the same. All collaborators can view the proof file in the online proofing system and provide comments in real-time.

Most online proofing systems offer annotation and markup tools to help designers and reviewers get their point across. With the accurate and comprehensive feedback provided by the reviewers while using these markup tools, designers can have a clearer understanding of the context of the feedback.

Step 4: Sending new deliverable versions

Based on the feedback received inside the online proofing system, the designer/creative worker can use the information to create their revisions.

A sophisticated online proofing system can offer the feature of remembering the settings from the previous proof to streamline sharing new versions. The system might also allocate a numbering system to the proof and other identification features to make it easy to trace.

Step 5: Approved

The last step is when the proof file is finally approved so the stakeholders can sign off the creative version, ending the approval process.

Typically a review process can only be signed off by users assigned with the appropriate role to help prevent the proof from being published without correct authentication. 


Above, we have learned how an online proofing system works to assist companies in streamlining their review and approval processes.

As we can see, online proofing can provide various benefits to any organization. Still, the core advantage over traditional proofing is how collaborators can have a centralized hub to access deliverables and provide real-time comments, avoid the hassle of lengthy email chains, and improve the approval process's cost-efficiency.


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