Collaborative Editing As a writer, you’ve probably asked a friend or colleague to http://blog.ebyline.com/2014/02/fact-check-post/look over a blog post before it went live. Newsrooms and brands alike often have many editorial procedures in place to assure that work gets another set of eyes … "/>

Three Tools For Collaborative Editing

Collaborative Editing

As a writer, you’ve probably asked a friend or colleague to look over a blog post before it went live. Newsrooms and brands alike often have many editorial procedures in place to assure that work gets another set of eyes before it is published. Collaborative editing is simply the process of working with one or more people who review your work and make suggestions or changes. In the age of the typewriter, this was done with a stack of papers and a red pen, but nowadays, new tools emerge regularly. Here’s a look at three of them (and a bit of a teary goodbye to a fourth).

 

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word may be the most popular word processing software, but it definitely has its share of issues as far as collaborative editing goes. Word’s Track Changes feature does allow readers to comment on and correct text. It’s readable if the changes are minor, but comments that take up a lot of space end up on a sidebar, making it very difficult to see which comments were written in response to which section of text.

Having multiple people edit simultaneously is only possible in Microsoft Office’s version 2010 (for Windows) and 2011 (for Mac), and the document has to be stored either on SkyDrive or on a SharePoint server. There’s also Microsoft SharePoint Workspace, which supports simultaneous edits of documents saved on SharePoint.

If multiple people edit a document in Microsoft Word, it’s possible to merge different documents and have their comments show up in different colors, but slogging through various edits and determining which to accept is a cumbersome process in this software. Still, Word is the dominant word processing software so it pays to become familiar with the basics of Track Changes—chances are you’ll be asked to use it as an editor or content creator sooner or later.

This helpful PCWorld article outlines the features, and drawbacks, of using the collaborative suite of tools in Word.

 

Google Drive/Docs

Google’s attempt at addressing frustration with Microsoft Word and other word processing software is Google Docs, freeware offered within Google Drive. Originating from Writerly and Google Spreadsheets, Google Docs allows real-time collaborative editing.

There are some size and storage limits, and Google Docs requires a working Internet connection (so don’t expect to revise your novel on the beach while reading edits in real-time).

But the biggest drawback to Google Docs is that the revision history isn’t so great. Although it’s possible to view past edits, this only works for adjacent revisions—and it’s impossible to search for or isolate changes in longer documents. You have to manually search for changes, and can only see one edited version of the document at a time.

You’ll receive a notification if an editor makes a comment or begins a discussion on the text, which can theoretically aid in collaboration. But some of the missing features include being unable to highlight changes made by a specific editor, quickly jump to changes made or even control how often a revision is changed. Google Docs is free and some people prefer it, but much like Word, it has its share of problems.

 

Draft

Some online collaborative editing platforms have failed, Editorially—which may be much missed—chief among them (it shutters on May 30th), but Draft is still going strong.

This software allows multiple people to edit your post all at once, and each version is tracked individually. Once it’s completed, you can see different versions of your original document alongside edited versions in a sleek, easy-to-read interface. You can keep track of changes and suggestions, accept the ones you like, and have a neat record of previous drafts.  A good primer on Draft’s features and workflow can be found here.

Draft has myriad other features as well, including the ability to import and export documents in various formats, and a ‘simplify’ feature which uses an algorithm to send you suggestions on areas that may be repetitive in your document. The service is also making headway in allowing users to push finished documents onto publishing platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr.

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