Seeking document checkout system usable by technophobes
July 31, 2004 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a document checkout system, preferably one that is usable by English professor technophobes. Specifically, I'm on a committee that does scheduling, and we all work on the same document. It would be great to find a way for one of us at a time to check the document out and work on it that didn't require any behavioral modification.

Everyone but me is running windows xp. I've got OS X 10.3.
posted by mecran01 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Will webdav help you?

HTTP Extensions for Distributed Authoring -- WEBDAV (text) has been released by the IETF as RFC 2518. This is the base DAV protocol, and includes features for:

* Locking
* Properties
* Namespace management

Bottom line: these features are complete, and are expected to be stable.

Locking the document would serve as a checking out mechanism and OS shouldn't be an issue since http is http (the protocol over which webdav works).
posted by pissfactory at 9:36 AM on July 31, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, I'll check it out. Because I am lazy and untalented, I was hoping for something that didn't require any skill or development on my part, but I'm starting to think there's no other way short of hiring a programmer.
posted by mecran01 at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2004

This is a problem that teams of programmers face all the time. They resolve it with tools for configuration management and source code control.

Perforce, Subversion, ClearCase, hell, even SourceSafe, all are examples of the kinds of tools used to deal with synchronizing changes to a file.
posted by majick at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2004

Office on Windows supports this natively.

1. On your server, create a directory called "shared documents"
2. Place documents there
3. Every time a user opens the document, they must open it from the "shared documents" folder on the server
4. When they open it, select "open for read/write" when prompted
5. Others will have to open the document read-only, until it is closed by the first user.

I assume Office for OSX will support this as well.

As majick said, there are a number of programmer-oriented versioning systems out there. The problem with programmer tools though is that they generally *support* a certain type of behavior by enforcing only axiomatic operations like checkin, checkout, and diff. You get lots of options to those commands, which programmers (by their very nature) know how to use.

Behavior modification is essential to this exercise, but does not have to be extensive. You will want to come up with a simple procedure for shared document editing, and then adopt it at one of your committee meetings.

For extra fun, bring in a history professor to talk about how language was originated thousands of years for record-keeping by (sumerians, egyptians, phoenecians, aztecs, whatever). Further note that the English professors are actually the intellectual heirs of the foundations of Information Technology, and should embrace the computer as a facilitator of their work :)
posted by Kwantsar at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2004

Tortoise cvs
posted by seanyboy at 1:16 PM on July 31, 2004

I'd be somewhat careful with CVS if the document is anything but text. If you've got word processor docs or something like that, keeping them in CVS can get hinky. CVS has been known to eat the binary files of those who aren't exceedingly careful.

Also, CVS, with its parallel update/commit cycle model, isn't a particularly good tool if you want to keep work in lockstep with a single "locked" version of the file.

The easiest thing to do may very well be keeping the document on a server and update it with an application that knows how to lock files.
posted by majick at 2:32 PM on July 31, 2004

Response by poster: Why are there laxative ads in the google sidebar?
posted by mecran01 at 3:31 PM on July 31, 2004

Why are there laxative ads in the google sidebar?

That is pretty funny. I'd guess it has to do with being an online pharmacy.
posted by freebird at 1:38 AM on August 1, 2004

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