Collaborative Writing Tools

In the last week I have been collaborating with a university colleague on a report. We are both experienced and neither of us has time for version control issues. The tool we have been using is Dropbox.

We have one document and dropbox lets me know when my colleague has edited it. Via email I let him know when I plan to work on the report and what sections, vice versa. Mostly this hasn’t been a problem – except for one thing.

My colleague works on a Mac, I work on a PC. When he first received the file, he had issues opening it. Following some troubleshooting and editing, now the style features in the report are locked. By ‘locked’ I mean the contents page is now an image, all the figure numbers/reference links have gone and all the images in the report have all moved.

This means that once we are finished the text, I will be cut and pasting content into my original report format to get back the style features I need for the final version. I can’t say I look forward that and it leaves me thinking about improved options for collaboration tools.

Thankfully, Christof Schoch has reviewed a few collaborative tools for me here. The one the appeals most is Etherpad. This allows collaboration to occur in real time and tracks contributions by colour – a neat feature! However referencing sounds like a challenge in Etherpad, so another option is fiduswriter. A quick review tells me that this wouldn’t have solved the style problems I experienced on this occasion but it works well with referencing tools. It’s currently being developed so no doubt will continue to improve in the future.

With a range of collaborative tools emerging and currently available – I am already looking forward to trialling something on my next collaborative writing escapade!

Please let me know if you are aware of other collaborative tools that are available.


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