Know of a good online document-collaboration system?
March 28, 2006 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Attention authors, typesetters, and publishers: Can anyone recommend a good online document-collaboration system?

I'm an editor and project manager for a large scientific journal. We recently switched publishing houses, and to my shock, our publisher does not have a digital document check-in system for authors. It looks like we're on our own when it comes to online document-collaboration.

Does anyone in the MetaFilter community have experience with web-based document collaboration? If so, what systems do you recommend? I'm not sure what our budget is, but we are willing to pay for good service.

Ideally, we're looking for a time-stamped system where authors and editors can upload and download papers. As for documents formats, we accept LaTeX, PDF, and MS Word; however, I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that most document collaboration systems don't care about file type. We also need the ability to append notes and comments to individual documents. Example:

1. Scientific article on science. (J. Smith) [Title of Document]
jsmith.tex [File name]
Dear Emubite: This article has been edited. [Note/Comment]

I hope the above example makes sense.

Can anyone recommend a good online document system? I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who work with these on a daily basis.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
posted by EmuBite to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you need to actively colloborate on the same document simultaneously, and do you need change-tracking?
posted by bonaldi at 4:23 PM on March 28, 2006

We use OJS (Open Journal Systems) to do exactly what you describe, and are quite happy with it. It's free and open source.
posted by ori at 4:31 PM on March 28, 2006

Just to elaborate a bit: OJS allows visitors to your website to create a login as authors. They can upload a paper. You can populate the journal with accounts for editor-in-chief, editors, reviewers, etc. The software fascilitates the review process as per your specifications, forwarding the submission along as it accrues comments, finally presenting it before the editor(s) for a final decision. It's very robust, very easy to install, and free support on their web forum is generally prompt and helpful.
posted by ori at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2006

As much as I'm an Apple kind of guy... I have to play to Redmond Gods at work. I've recently set up several online collaborative sites using Sharepoint from MS. It is meant for exactly this kind of thing- document collaboration across teams. Fairly straightforward, secure (password protected), web-based - you might want to look at it, see what you think.
posted by bytemover at 4:35 PM on March 28, 2006

One of the offices I work for has recently started using Basecamp and I've found it to be a good service and easy to use, though it might be more full-featured than what you're looking for. Here is an example of how it presents files.

There is a free version (which has no file uploading), and a tiered pay structure based on the amount of storage/projects you can host. They also offer a free 30-day trial.
posted by camcgee at 4:39 PM on March 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll take a look at OJS and Basecamp tonight. Basecamp may be just what we need at the moment. It looks like it could provide a temporary stop-gap measure until we get everything sorted out. I'll give it a shot.

OJS looks like it will work, and it's free to boot! How hard is it to configure? It looks like it could be difficult to install. The initial setup pangs might be offset with the power that it offers, however. I'll talk to IT about this option.

I'm not sure if Sharepoint will work for us -- we're a Mac only shop. Is Sharepoint installed on a web server? If so, it may be a possibility. Our group uses both Macs and Windows machines as servers.

We don't need real-time collaboration -- just document check-in with the ability to write notes, list who's edited the document, whether it needs to be passed to a seaprate department (e.g., the math guys), etc. I guess all of this would fall under tracking.

This looks like a great start. Looks like I've got some homework tonight!

Thanks again for all the help.
posted by EmuBite at 5:12 PM on March 28, 2006

Sharepoint 'lives' on a MS server. I can access all of my Sharepoint team sites from my mac at home. It really will come down to what your needs and budget are. Basecamp is very much like Sharepoint, and I agree- it might be the perfect stop-gap measure for you.
posted by bytemover at 6:01 PM on March 28, 2006

posted by brundlefly at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2006

EmuBite, OJS is quite easy to set-up: it runs on *nix, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. Your IT dept. should be able to have it up-and-running in fifteen minutes to a half hour. It takes a little longer to configure it in such a way that it corresponds to the particular organizational structure of your journal (populating it with accounts, typing up a submission policy, etc.) but that is something you'll have to do with any piece of software. It took me a couple of hours to have everything up. Ours is a very small journal, so YMMV. If you have any questions, feel free to email me (address in the profile). If you want, I can set you up with a temporary login so you can see how our journal looks "on the inside".
posted by ori at 8:04 PM on March 28, 2006

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