Collaborative document writing
May 10, 2007 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I need a software recommendation. A small group of people want to be able to edit a document and receive email or RSS notification when one of the other members has edited the document. Further reqs: only one person can edit at a time, so some kind of check in/out feature would be good. We'd also like to be able to export easily to a printable format at the end.

Things we've considered:
1. Just email around a Word doc with "track changes" turned on. This could get complicated, though, if two people create separate versions at the same time.
2. MediaWiki. Good, except these people probably don't want to learn even the minimum wiki formatting rules before they start. Also, there's no good way to export from a wiki to a publishable format.
3. GoogleDocs. Good, except two or more people can edit simultaneously.

The system that they use to edit the document doesn't need to be the same system they use to exchange documents. They could edit a Word document and just check it in and out from some other system.

We're at an educational institution, so free is good, but we do have some server space to install something, so remotely hosted isn't a requirement.
posted by MsMolly to Technology (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you go with the word solution you might want to consider storing the document on Sharepoint, which has it's own change tracking and check-in/check out capabilities. If you already have MS servers on your network (a bit of an assumption I know) I'd look into whether there are any educational deals available on it.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on May 10, 2007

text files in CVS
posted by DU at 10:59 AM on May 10, 2007

Subversion + CIA?
posted by boo_radley at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2007

We have Sharepoint at my university. Be aware that Sharepoint is a Big Solution with Big Requirements. Its versioning is baffling -- it requires 300-500% disk use, e.g, versioning a 1mb document will run you 4mb to 6mb for "enhanced folder" metadata, which is a prereq for versioning. Additionally, it doesn't "version" per-se. It keeps whole, pristine copies of documents in database, so you've got a lot of bloat potential on your hands.
posted by boo_radley at 11:08 AM on May 10, 2007

I don't know whether this prevents more than one person at a time editing, but writeboard might be what you're looking for.
posted by jiiota at 11:35 AM on May 10, 2007

It doesn't do the version locking you're talking about, but Coventi Pages does the update notification you requested. You can also assign some people to non-editing roles (just review), and changes can be 'moderated' by the document owner.
posted by mikeyk at 11:48 AM on May 10, 2007

How about PBwiki?

a wysiwig editor, versioning, feeds, etc.
posted by canine epigram at 11:53 AM on May 10, 2007

You may find this discussion:
More Thoughts on Collaborative Editing informative.
posted by SomePerlGeek at 12:10 PM on May 10, 2007

Docuwiki has notifications for multiple people editing the same page, it's free, has a wysiwyg editor.

Knowing people, they'll probably be editing the document in Word and then transferring it back to the online copy, so strict version control is never enforcable.
posted by tmcw at 1:28 PM on May 10, 2007

Writeboard works well for this sort of thing. Not sure if it will "lock" other users out though while you are editing a doc.
posted by chunking express at 1:52 PM on May 10, 2007

I would third SharePoint, but if you dont want to go as 'Big' as SharePoint is, use MS OfficeLive (basically it is the next gen of SharePoint). It has the same collaboration tools for document sharing, although not as intuitive as SharePoint (see my gripe here, i've acutally warmed up to it a little since then). Skip the website, and just use the workspace function. Keep in mind, the collaboration tools are only available with the Essentials package ($19.99/month) and up.
posted by tdischino at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2007

Writeboard - a subset of the Basecamp service.
posted by yclipse at 5:26 PM on May 10, 2007

(I missed jiiota's post)
posted by yclipse at 5:26 PM on May 10, 2007

Response by poster: We decided to go with Google Docs which wasn't a perfect fit, but I just found this one which I think would have met our needs, so I wanted to add it to the list for anyone reading this in the future.


When you try to edit a document that someone else is already editing you get the following message:
"Hold on a second! This doc is locked, because Guest 4139 is already editing (at 05/25/07 8:27am). You can Cancel or Break the lock and edit anyway."
posted by MsMolly at 3:13 PM on May 29, 2007

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