A new cloud-based platform lets users of ConsensusDocs, a popular library of more than 90 best-practices contract-document forms, collaboratively edit and prepare contracts in real time with Microsoft Word on a Mac or PC.

The new tool, released on April 23 by the ConsensusDocs Coalition, accesses new and updated contract templates and enables document sharing with multiple collaborators, either live on the web or offline. Among other improvements, it also enables comparison of document versions of Word and PDF files.

"It's easier to use, and you don't have to send copies [to each other] since all [contract collaborators] will be working in real time on the same document," says Carole Bionda, vice president of Nova Group Inc., a general engineering contractor based in Napa, Calif.

Previously, architects and contractors who wanted to take advantage of the ConsensusDocs had to download and install document assembly software from DocuBuilder to edit them for use. "It was cutting edge in its time, but [it] didn't allow for real-time collaboration on contract negotiations," says Brian Perlberg, executive director of ConsensusDocs, Arlington, Va. "You had to save a PDF or print out a copy to share and then have somebody mark-up proposed changes [by hand]."

John Sier—an attorney in Detroit and associate counsel for Construction Owners Association of America, one of ConsensusDocs 36 collaborators—says editing was always challenging with DocuBuilder. "When I made an edit, I didn't know what it would look like at the end, and only one person [the author] could change the document."

"With the ConsensusDocs cloud-based platform, I don't have to be on my computer network where the software is installed," Sier says, adding, "It also gives better tracking and history of document changes."

The technology is free to ConsensusDocs subscribers.