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M-Files Review

Best Overall Document Management System

A Business News Daily Review

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

Our 2019 research and analysis of document management systems leads us to recommend M-Files as the best overall document management system. We chose M-Files from dozens of document management systems we considered. To learn how we arrived at our best picks and for a comprehensive list of document management systems, visit our best picks roundup page.

M-Files is an easy-to-use, comprehensive document management software application that includes digital filing functions and productivity systems. M-Files offers features for both small businesses and enterprises, making it a scalable solution for growing companies. The software can store many documents and provides a straightforward classification system to keep things organized. In addition, it has effective search capabilities that help users quickly zero in on the precise document they're looking for. 

M-Files is supported on Windows and Mac OS, but Linux users can access M-Files through the web-based version. Supported web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Safari. M-Files' mobile application is supported on iOS 9 and later, as well as Android 4.4 and later.

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

M-Files' user interface is simple to navigate, replicating the familiar feel of the Windows Explorer layout on PCs. It includes functions that most users are comfortable with, like copying and sharing files with a simple right-click and drag-and-drop functionality. Mimicking the familiar user interface of Windows reduces the cost and burden of training employees to use M-Files, making it easier to get up and running quickly once the software is implemented.

Mac users will see a lot of crossover with M-Files' interface from Mac Finder. One major difference, though, is that it doesn't require the same type of folder categorization. Instead, documents include metatags. These metatags can be used to make searching for and locating specific documents an easy process.

After you install this platform, M-Files appears as an additional drive on your computer. Like any other drive, users can drag and drop files into M-Files. Users can also access documents stored in M-Files and copy them to any other drive, creating local copies if needed. Users can also create and save documents from any other program directly into M-Files, just as they would with any other drive.

M-Files works in tandem with your scanner. It examines scanned documents with optical character recognition (OCR), which automates the metatag process and categorizes scanned files for you. Users can add additional metatags manually if needed. The automation process is especially useful for businesses transitioning from a paper archive to a digital one, because it rapidly translates thousands of paper documents into an organized digital filing cabinet without much human effort. Once documents have been sorted by M-Files' OCR feature and stored in the platform, they are searchable. M-Files has a built-in search engine, so by plugging in a few keywords, you can locate even scanned documents.

Workflow automation features, including review and approval notifications for contracts, standard operating procedures, and file categorization automation can be programmed into the system to keep your office running smoothly. By streamlining workflows, this document management application helps employees stay focused on higher-order tasks, improving efficiency and productivity, especially during large document migration projects.

Versioning is another highly useful feature of the software. Versioning keeps a record of each document's history, including when it was last opened, who opened it and what changes were made. The versioning function makes keeping tabs on evolving documents much easier, often providing a document history that extends all the way back to when the document was first created.

The platform comes with a permissions feature that allows administrators to set different levels of access for certain users. For example, managers in the human resources department might require access to each employee contract while the typical employee would not. M-Files offers a range of permissions that allow admins to tailor access and editing ability to suit each employee's specific role within the organization. You can also give certain users, such as a manager or executive, priority over others, such as entry-level employees, with M-Files' permissions feature.

Users can designate certain files for offline use if they anticipate that they will be without internet access. Files can be designated for offline use by project, file type, or client. Once files are designated, they are available on a user's laptop or mobile device. Any changes that are made while the user is offline are automatically synced across all users once network access is restored.

Sharing files with colleagues, clients, and relevant third-parties is also done easily and seamlessly directly in the M-Files interface, reducing the need for sending email attachments every time a document is updated. M-Files integrates with Microsoft Outlook as well, enabling users to simply transfer email attachments directly to the M-Files drive.

M-Files' price is based on the needs of your business, how many users you plan on adding to the system, and if you go with an on-premises system, a cloud system or hybrid.

While M-Files is a good system for small and midsize businesses, especially those that expect to scale up in the near future, representatives told us the minimum price starts at about $1,000. That price point likely makes it a better bet for enterprise businesses, although there are plenty of features that come along with M-Files for the money.

Fortunately, you can download a trial version of the application to see if M-Files is a good fit for your company before you commit to buying.

Our interactions with customer service representatives were positive. They gave knowledgeable and direct answers to our questions and were transparent about pricing. When we described the scale of our hypothetical small business and budget, they were honest in their assessment that their program may not fit our budget, but they still assisted us and were happy to demo the product for us anyway.

You can reach representatives by phone, email and live chat. In addition to these customer support channels, M-Files hosts a comprehensive knowledgebase, complete with data sheets, FAQs and guides. The site also hosts a community forum where you can ask fellow users about issues and solutions.

M-Files is a hybrid of cloud storage and on-premises storage, meaning you can access your documents from nearly any internet-connected device through a browser. However, you still need to install software and grant permission to the device (and other applications) in order to recognize M-Files as a location you can save documents to.

While the interface looks familiar, some aspects, such as the fact that folders aren't required, may throw some users off.

Another facet of the software that will have a slight learning curve is that M-Files catalogs several metatags on a document to categorize it. However, to make the document easier to find using M-Files' search engine, you and your employees will need to add your own specialized tags, especially if your business deals with a high volume of documents. This way of filing may take a little getting used to for those accustomed to traditional methods of organizing digital documents.

Ready to choose a document management system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Additional reporting by Chad Brooks and Andreas Rivera.

Editor's note: Looking for a document management system for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in political science and journalism and media studies. He reviews healthcare information technology, call centers, document management software and employee monitoring software. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and business.com, Adam freelances for several outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.