Online collaboration tools…real world use?

There’s a crop of ’em…online document collaborations services. Write something, share it with people who can edit it and you can work together to create something.

I’m very interested in this for [C3](http://www.c-three.org). We are generating a lot of documents… letters, memos, newsletters, position papers, proposals, etc. and since we’re all online, I thought it would be great if we could use these tools to edit & collaborate.

The ones I’ve looked at/tried include:

* [Writely](http://www.writely.com)
* [Writeboard](http://www.writeboard.com) (from [37Signals](http://www.37signals.com) and also included in their [Backpack](http://www.backpackit.com) and [Basecamp](http://www.basecamphq.com) products)
* [JotspotLive](http://www.jot.com)
* [Moonedit](http://me.sphere.pl/indexen.htm) – didn’t actually try it…ruled it out because I wouldn’t consider something I couldn’t use on a Mac
* [SubEthaEdit](http://www.codingmonkeys.de/subethaedit/index.html) – disqualified for same reason as Moonedit…has to be cross platform. This one is Mac OS X only.
* [WebCollaborator](http://webcollaborator.com/) – looked, could tell immediately that the interface wouldn’t fly – didn’t sign up for an account
* [Gobby](http://gobby.0x539.de/index.html) – too geeky and requires a download. Next!

Essentially, I’m trying to avoid going the route of Microsoft SharePoint. We’re all using Word, but it’s another layer of support and expense that I don’t want to deal with. We are already very happy with [WebOffice](http://www.webexone.com) for document, calendar, task, etc. sharing. But I’m constantly reminding folks to edit a document and replace the one that’s already uploaded without creating a second document to keep track of.

Of all the tools mentioned above, the best of the bunch in my opinion is [Writely](http://www.writely.com). Why? You can import/export Word files. It doesn’t require users to learn Markdown/Textile or any code to format text.

writely

But there is plenty of room for improvement. This morning, I sent in feedback suggesting the following changes/improvements:

* Show more than one collaborator’s revisions in a screen. If 3 people have reviewed/edited a document, I’d like to see the final version with all or a few of the edits highlighted so I can see who changed what. Writely currently lets you step back and see revisions one at a time.
* Accept/reject revisions on a case by case basic. If collaborator A made 4 changes but for whatever reason one can’t be used, I want the ability to take the 3 that I can use.
* Margin notes/comments. We use this in Word a lot. Some revisions need internal explanation that we don’t want to type in to the document. [Writeboard](http://www.writeboard.com) has this, but its lack of WYSIWYG editing tools puts it out of the running. [37Signals](http://www.37signals.com) prides itself on the simplicity of its products, but what’s the point if I have to get folks to learn a new way of doing things?

I received a reply from the Writely folks a few hours after I sent in my message. Seems they’re working on some of the very features I’ve requested! Nice to hear. I’m looking forward to see what they’re doing…may even be worth whatever subscription fee they’re contemplating.

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2 thoughts on “Online collaboration tools…real world use?

  1. Thanks for the ad.

    At least now I know why you criticized del.icio.us in the other entry. Simpy, as you well know, is a social bookmarking site and has nothing to do with the kind of collaboration I was talking about here.

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