New Examples of Collaborative Document Editing?
June 27, 2008 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of collaborative document editing. I've read through most of the older threads on this topic, but many of the examples seem to have gone out of business. Are there any newer examples out there? It would be good to have a document "owner" that integrates comments and changes from many contributors, so I'm thinking that a wiki might not be ideal. The ability to compare revisions is a must-have and it'd be nice to have it show not only text changes but image changes. Doesn't have to be hosted, or even online, though if it is, that's probably better.

If it matters, this is in a scientific context, writing articles on botany and zoology.
posted by Jeff Howard to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Google Docs?
posted by disillusioned at 9:39 AM on June 27, 2008

Online editing, or online hosting of edited documents? And, is this online editing or online collaborative writing and revision?

In the first category, as disillusioned said, Google Docs is the leader in real-time editing, and Zoho's probably second. There are also whiteboard apps on Basecamp that I've used for brief "help me rephrase this" collaborations. Even though WordPress/Textpattern/etc are touted as CMSes, it doesn't have good version tracking abilities.

Offline, you can use Word or Acrobat (which is awesome for editing, not so much for revision) for Word documents. Then, upload the files to a content management system that permits checkin/checkout features, so that your team isn't overwriting each other's work at the same time. [This is what I use for work with multiple writers and clients, because Track Changes is more efficient than Google Docs revision history.] You may also require something like this if your articles use mathematical symbols, as I've found those to be spotty in online tools. The other tools I use regularly are intended for modular documentation like help systems, so wouldn't be too useful for someone working in a pure full-document format.

Other collaborative tools: don't overlook email, even though it's horridly inefficient. Wikis are OK, but suffer from an extremely difficult revision tracking method; some wikis are better than others at this, but they all require eyeball-bouncing between current and previous versions. I know of one team that's working partially in EverNote, in part to upload cameraphone images of physical whiteboard brainstorms.

Questions I usually ask my clients: What is the desired function of the workspace and how will people use it? You may want a tool that functions primarily as a document or information repository, where users can find information that’s already been generated or documented. You might want a tool that offers version control so you can track who’s checked out which document, or who has edited what page in the content management system. Will external clients log in, or will this be purely internal? How much emphasis do you place on how it looks and how it’s branded? Do you have any budget or should this be free?
posted by catlet at 9:57 AM on June 27, 2008

I should say that I use SharePoint to manage Word docs with version control. It's really good for those of us forced into corporate Windows environments, and where work is paying for the SP installation, but it's out of scale/pricerange for many companies. If you've got an SP install available, get a private directory and use that. If not, investigate various CMSes online; even ones intended for code developers could probably be tweaked to serve for documentation. Just another entry on the copious to-do list; I'd love a workable Open Source SharePoint-style CMS that could be implemented on small networks.
posted by catlet at 10:01 AM on June 27, 2008

Documentum eRoom
posted by mattbucher at 10:07 AM on June 27, 2008

Adobe's free Buzzword.
posted by ericb at 10:53 AM on June 27, 2008

If you're on a Mac, check out Subethaedit.
posted by zippy at 11:21 AM on June 27, 2008

Atlassian's Crucible is a pretty impressive code review tool. It may be usable for non-code situations.

Their screencast demonstrates the functionality well.
posted by Remy at 1:43 PM on June 27, 2008

If you go the version control route, I'd look into Subversion. There's a Windows client called TortoiseSVN that integrates somewhat with MS Office and let's you compare documents side by side and will even highlight changes for you.

OTOH, it may be a little overkill for your needs.
posted by timelord at 1:54 PM on June 27, 2008

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