Looking for a simultaneous multi-user word processor program
August 31, 2004 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I want a word processor that lets two users simultaneously edit the same document. Every word processor I've used since, like, 1982, only lets one person edit a document at a time, for fear of people saving over each others' changes. In this modern age, I'm sure that someone has figured out a way to have changes be instantly transmitted to the other user over the network. Any leads?
posted by profwhat to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
SubEthaEdit for OS X can do that, but I don't know of anything on windows.
posted by plemeljr at 10:10 AM on August 31, 2004

What sort of writing? Most robust screenwriting programs have a collaborator feature. There is also a module for Firebird called CELTX that does the same (again, for screnwriting). Can't imagine other writing media don't have a similar feature.
posted by RavinDave at 10:11 AM on August 31, 2004

I bet with some LISP scripting (no, don't ask me, I can't do it) you could get EMACS to do *exactly* what you want.
posted by shepd at 10:20 AM on August 31, 2004

I know that FinalDraft has a collaboration feature. And it's, uh, obtainable by other means than paying for it. If you cizzle my drizzle.
posted by armoured-ant at 10:23 AM on August 31, 2004

I'm not sure how SubEthaEdit does it (and their web site doesn't appear to say), but one of the big stumbling blocks to the implementation of one of these - and believe me, I'd love to have one too - is the Undo function. If I decide to be a bastard and delete the whole document we're working on and then someone else types something into it, what would happen if I used Undo? And if your answer is "roll the whole document back to before the last change I made", what happens if, instead, I type something then sit back and let my friends be creative for a few paragraphs, then hit Undo? Does the whole document roll back to before my own typing, taking my former friends' work with it?
posted by wanderingmind at 10:30 AM on August 31, 2004

I believe the latest version of Office (Office XP) has the features you are looking for, where you can track changes and what not. I've never used that feature so I cannot verify it's usefullness.
posted by geoff. at 10:43 AM on August 31, 2004

Response by poster: "What sort of writing?" Not screenwriting. Business world stuff. Documents that are often the product of several writers: Position papers; proposals; ad copy; legal documents; magazine articles.

Office XP, so far as I can tell, doesn't do this at all. "Track changes" does not fit the bill.

SubEthaEdit seems to be what I'm looking for, but gosh, I'd like that in Windows. CELTX is not what I am getting at: "Currently, the celtx server supports sequential, collaborative publishing, which means, once a user publishes changes to a project, the other users must download that latest version before they can make additional changes to it. If you try to publish to a project after it has already been updated by someone else, you will receive the following message: 'The project cannot be published because a newer version already exists in the repository.' " Screw that. As soon as one person makes a change, that should automatically change every other collaborator's buffer.

I think Undo could also be replaced with a set of Undo commands--"Undo my last" "Undo wanderingmind's last" "Undo idiotuser's last," etc.
posted by profwhat at 10:46 AM on August 31, 2004

I think Undo could also be replaced with a set of Undo commands--"Undo my last" "Undo wanderingmind's last" "Undo idiotuser's last," etc.

I wish I had something helpful to add, but I don't see how this undo would work. What if wanderingmind typed "my horse bill" and idiotuser changed "horse" to "cow"? What would happen if wanderingmind then chose to undo his changes only? Would that remove the horses sentence that no longer exists? Would it remove the cow sentence?
posted by grumblebee at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2004

TextPad detects and allows for documents to be reloaded if they are changed by another process. You'd have to be compulsively saving but two people can work on the same document.
posted by Mitheral at 11:23 AM on August 31, 2004

i'm curious as to what the benefit is. the publishing houses and law firms i've worked at have taken great pains to prevent simultaneous edits. maybe i'm just too steeped in that mindset to see why you'd want people to be able to overwrite someone's work as it's being written.

docs open has a collaboration feature which might accommodate what you're looking for.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2004

A little googling turned up DocSynch
posted by adamrice at 1:29 PM on August 31, 2004

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