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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Writely - The (Free) Web Word Processor

I spent some time last week trying out a new way to share and edit documents securely online. This was using a (currently free) piece of software called Writely.

Writely is a web word processor that allows multiple users to share and edit a word document on the web using only a browser - you don’t need a word processor at all.

Here's how it works:
  • First, you create a document: Either by typing it in, or by uploading one (could be an existing document, html, text or image file.)
  • Next, you share it with others: Enter people's e-mail addresses to grant them access to the document. Send them a message from Writely to tell them about it.
  • Then, you can edit it together online: If another person starts editing the same document, a small notice will appear. Your changes will be automatically sync'd with theirs every few seconds.

There is an introductory tour here so you can see how those various stages look.

This is great way for a group to work together on stuff without having to circulate revisions of documents back and forth. (Yes you could use the 'revisions' and 'track change' options in Word for this, but this is still a better way as it's based on one document being held and edited centrally.) You can also revert back to previous versions and track all changes that have been made and by whom.

I won't go on too much about it, if you need to know more there's loads more info here. The website says it can be used for meeting notes, team calendars, technical specs etc but I'm sure it has lots of other uses too - feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below!

I'd like to spend more time playing with this and I'm pretty sure I will too. But even from what I've seen so far I can see it has lots of potential. If you use Word for any kind of group working it's at least worth a look!


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