M-Files is our best overall pick for document management systems because it provides a user-friendly, feature-rich, and scalable platform for digitizing paper records and managing all your documents in a central location.
View all our recommendations for document management software on our best picks page.
One of the best aspects of M-Files is its intuitive design, which mimics the familiar interface of Windows Explorer. The user-friendly interface cuts down on the time it takes for new users to acclimate to the software and reduces costs and inefficiencies associated with training.
For collaboration purposes, M-Files has a check-in and checkout function that allows users to alert others when they are actively editing a document. This prevents users from simultaneously working on the same document and overwriting one another's work, which could lead to "version creep," or the loss of information through confusion. Once a user is done editing a document, they can check out and notify the rest of the team that the document is available to access and edit.
M-Files is available on Windows and Mac operating systems, and Linux users can access it through the web-based version. M-Files is compatible with the major web browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Safari. The M-Files mobile application is available on Android 4.4 and later, as well as iOS 9 and later.
Pricing and Plans
M-Files' pricing is not listed on its website, requiring a specialized quote from the company sales department. It's available as either a cloud-based or on-premises solution, which will impact the price. The number of users you need to access the system will also influence the total cost. A company representative told us that starting pricing would likely be in the ballpark of $1,000, which is average for on-premises solutions (not including any setup fees or annual service subscriptions). To obtain a quote based on your specific requirements, contact M-Files and explain your hosting needs, number of users and desired features.
M-Files offers a no-obligation, 30-day free trial, so you can try the software out before deciding whether to buy. The company also offers live demos to acquaint you with the ins and outs of the software.
Pros and Cons
As it earned our overall best pick for document management systems, M-Files' pros strongly outweigh the cons. The system combines a user-friendly interface, wide array of features and scalable platform to deliver a great document management option for any business.
- Easy to use: One of M-Files' biggest strengths is its ease of use. Some document management systems have a learning curve, especially for new users, but most will feel at home with M-Files' user interface. Because it mimics the familiar Windows Explorer, it shouldn't take much time for your team to get up and running with M-Files.
- Comprehensive features: M-Files boasts a strong collection of features that are useful for not only digitizing your paper records, but also creating, managing, sharing and revising documents. Versioning allows users to access old versions of documents that have since been updated, and permission controls ensure that only users who need to access a document can do so.
- Scalable for businesses of all sizes: M-Files has all the features a large organization needs, as well as the ease of implementation and use that small companies require. Small businesses that want software to grow into will do well with M-Files, which can also handle the demands of an enterprise company.
- Collaboration tools: M-Files offers useful collaboration tools, chief among them the check-in and checkout function. These tools make it easy to work alongside team members within the system without getting tripped up, overwriting one another's changes, or creating duplicate documents that must later be reconciled.
- Lack of transparent pricing: The biggest disappointment we encountered with M-Files was that the company doesn't publish its pricing models or offer ballpark estimates online. While it's true that pricing varies on a case-by-case basis, other document management companies we reviewed offer cloud-based subscription pricing on a per-user, per-month basis or some information about their pricing models on their websites. M-Files requires a specialized quote from its sales department, which creates an extra step for potential buyers in the decision and procurement process.
Overall, M-Files is a strong document management system that offers users the ability to easily share and edit documents, as well as digitize paper records and store them directly in the system in the same step.
One of the brightest aspects of M-Files is its many strong features, which go well beyond document management. In addition to the core features, M-Files offers collaboration tools that make it easier for teams to work together on documents, even from remote locations. It also offers workflow automation functions that improve operational efficiencies if used correctly, saving your team time and effort that is better spent elsewhere. Here are some of the best features M-Files has to offer:
- Imaging and optical character recognition (OCR): M-Files works together with your scanner. As you scan documents in, the system leverages its built-in OCR technology to identify and contextualize the text on the scanned documents. This automatically begins the process of adding metadata tags and categorizing your documents.
- Search: The search function is critical in document management systems. M-Files uses the search function to quickly identify your documents based on file name, type, date uploaded or accessed, and the metadata added automatically during scanning or manually by your team.
- Versioning: The versioning feature tracks every document's history within the system, monitoring changes and archiving old versions so you can refer to them if needed. It also tracks who last opened the document, when, and any changes they made, so you know exactly which team members are making which edits.
- Permissions: The permissions function allows admins to tailor access permissions to users based on their roles in the organization, as well as on a case-by-case basis. Users can also be granted priority. For example, if a manager and a staff member both want to check in to a document to make edits at the same time, the manager would be granted priority and the staff member would have to wait.
- Workflow automation: M-Files also serves a workflow automation and task management function. Built-in tools automatically categorize certain documents and assign certain tasks to users. For example, if a staff member has completed work on a document, they can send the document to a manager with the "review and approval" task assigned. All interested parties will be automatically notified once the manager has approved the document, allowing the next step to begin without delay.
- Offline access: If a user anticipates they will be on the road without internet access, files can be designated for offline use on a laptop or mobile device. Any changes a user makes while offline will be recorded and automatically synced with the system once internet access is restored.
- Integrations: M-Files maintains integrations with programs like Microsoft Outlook, which cuts down on email attachments. M-Files can also integrate with Salesforce CRM, Microsoft SharePoint, DocuSign and more.
These features are among the reasons we chose M-Files as the best overall document management system. They help you not only digitize and organize your files, but also collaborate on any changes or the creation of new documents. Moreover, they let you eliminate mundane or time-consuming tasks that can be automated by the software.
M-Files' lack of clear pricing model on its website was a limiting factor in conducting our review. However, we were able to at least obtain ballpark estimates when we contacted the company. It's not uncommon for a document management company to require a quote, but many of the others we reviewed publicly list their pricing plans on their websites.
Moreover, while M-Files' intelligent categorization is highly useful and we found the system to be intuitive, users accustomed to other document management software might find the lack of folders confusing at first. To optimize the system's searchability, users should add detailed metadata like tags to documents they create and upload. This may add to the learning curve for some users, but it shouldn't be a significant obstacle.
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