A draft document is a preliminary version of a written work. It is typically prepared in business contexts so multiple people can review it and add their input before the document is finalized. In the business of professional publications, a draft document is anything that has yet to go through the final editing process. On an individual level, a draft document is a written report at any point before it is submitted for formal evaluation.
When matters are put in writing, it is generally assumed that what is on the paper is the writer's formal position on the matter. Written documents have special standing under the law and can be objectively analyzed, since what is written and submitted on a document cannot spontaneously change in the way of a verbal argument. The formality of the written format, the consequences of committing something to writing and the inability of changing a written document once it is submitted has driven the need for the draft format.
Documents that are marked as drafts do not bind the writer to what is on the page. Drafts allow people to work through the content of writing, either the writer by himself or in collaboration with other people. A draft document can undergo various rounds of changes, resulting in a different draft versions. Once the draft document cycles through the process of review and revision, it is finalized.
Some word processing programs have typically addressed the need for draft documents to undergo a process of review and revision by allowing the writer to save a document as different versions. This enables the writer to revert to a prior version of the draft if the revision process derails the document's purpose. In business environments, the word processing program is networked through a server, allowing people who need to review the draft to check it out of the system, make corrections or additions, and check it back in as a new version that others can view. Law firms are one type of business that use this type of draft document system.
The collaborative review and revision process is so important that software services companies are using the power of the Internet to enable people to simultaneously view and edit a draft document at the same time. Under the networked version of the document review system, only one person at a time is able to check out the document. With collaboration software running over the Internet, a document can be viewed and edited by multiple people, all at the same time. The software keeps tracks of who is editing the draft and keeps an almost unlimited number of past versions.