April 3, 2010 3:14 PM Subscribe
Version control for collaborative (screen)writing - what's the solution?
posted by nervestaple to media & arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm starting to write a screenplay with a friend of mine. I'm looking for a solution to avoid the inevitable version control/revision issues that come with emailing copies of the file to eachother, uploading hundreds of revisions to google docs (screenplay_1.txt, screenplay_2_old.txt, screenplay_newer.txt), and so on. Things I've looked at:
source code CVS's (SVN, Mercurial): Firstly, they seem to introduce a lot of overhead in workflow for the fact that we're only two people. If there's an easy way to do it right, I'd be all ears, but I'm a little shaky on using them and my partner has no experience using them. He's the type of person who would just keep using the old method of renaming files instead of learning a new method that wasn't super user friendly.
To test Mercurial, I tried to simulate a situation that would arise often with multiple people working on the same file:
I wrote a simple scene, then checked it in. I cloned the repository to simulate my friend working on something in parallel. In the first repository, I corrected some spelling and added a line of dialogue to the first scene. In the second repository (my "friend's"), I added another scene. Then I tried to merge changes, and every diff tool that came with TortoiseHg utterly failed to allow me to merge them easily. None of them allowed me to move down the 2nd scene to accomodate the new dialogue in the 1st scene, short of manually editing it - doesn't this situation come up a lot in source code? It didn't seem 'smart' at all, like the buzz I've been hearing about Git and Mercurial, it seemed dumb as dirt. What happens during programming, when someone adds a line of code to a first method, and someone else adds a second method? It's the exact same situation, and doesn't seem easily resolvable.
Celtx Studios: It's a service offered by the makers of the open source screenwriting software Celtx, that's supposed to aid collaboration, project snycing, and has revision control. It's super limited, costs 5 dollars a month and uses a simplistic "project locking" model to prevent edits to the entire project when one user is using it - that has to be manually flipped back and forth by a master account. It's the best solution I've found so far (I already paid for a month), but it's annoying and leaves much to be desired.
I suppose screenwriting or novel-writing is different than code-writing in that we're only two people, only working on one file (and some secondary files with notes), so a "locking" model might actually be better here - but Celtx Studios' is still much more limited than I'm looking for.
Final Draft: It has a "Collabowriter" feature, but it's only for pair-writing over the internet, with no revision control or management.
Scripped, Adobe Story: Web-based, laggy, would be nice to use any editor we want and just use some kind of revision control system for syncing.
Am I asking too much? It seems like this should be a "solved problem" - maybe not for screenwriting alone, but for novel writing, or report writing - any collaborative writing? To summarize: I'm looking for a way to sync copies of a single text file (or multiple text files) between two people, while keeping track of every change made. A locking model is okay, as long as it's easy to use. Features like real-time collaboration would be nice, but not necessary.