EtherPad for collaborative online note-taking: Advantages over Google Docs?

14 10 2009

Around a month ago I learned about another web 2.0 application called EtherPad that is currently the only web-based word processor that allows people to work together in real-time.

A no-cost “public pad” can be created instantly without any sign-up.  On the other hand, a “team site” (“group pad”) can be easily created with a few steps and the first three user accounts are free.

I created a “group pad” that had private access where I need to set-up an account for folks I wished to collaborate with.  However, anyone can set-up a public EtherPad, give people the URL and then ask them to comment/collaborate in real time, for example during a presentation or conference, etc.  The big advantage I see over Google Docs is the ability to very quickly create a public document then have people collaborating instantaneously without the need to create logins and invite others (although creating a group is very easy for group/private collaboration).

Additionally, EtherPad has a range of import/export options and you can immediately see all the saved revisions by everyone.  Once a person has written something then they can click “Save Now”.  Color coding and line numbering are also neat features-each person’s changes/additions are in a different color and it is then easy to refer back to certain people making comments at specific lines.

EtherPad does not accommodate presentations and spreadsheets (as does Google Docs).  However, I think the above-mentioned features give EtherPad the advantage over Google docs for word processing.

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