Reviewing Writely, JotSpot Live & Writeboard

Writely Rocks

Not too long ago I was talking about useful collaborative workspaces and featured JotSpot Live. Oh how web 2.0 has exploded since then as we now have more collaborative spaces to work from…

More recently from 37signals (creators of backpack, basecamp, etc.) comes Writeboard, an application to build sharable text documents online. Writeboard is free and allows a user to create a new document very quickly, password protect it, and add users who can edit the document. However, according to TechCrunch, Writeboard can’t seem to compare with Writely and JotSpot Live, which both have much richer feature sets. We’ll have to see how they do with their upcoming service, Chalk. In the mean time, SolutionWatch has a review of Writeboard.

Having tried both JotSpot Live and Writely for quite a while now, I somehow found myself sucked into Writely. But this could just be me… I felt that JotSpot Live was great for people who just wanted quick meetings and have everything elegantly documented collaboratively. Writely on the other hand, took my heavy Word documents and went through them like hot knife on butter. While heavy formatted Word documents were easily imported with much of the styling in place, I had trouble saving it back out as a .doc file… I guess it works better if my documents weren’t so complex. In any case, it’s unlikely that you need that level of complexity in your daily routine, and if so, you can upload and download (save to your computer) documents you work on in Writely. Even without collaborating with anyone, Writely’s great as a solo word processor on the web, where I can simply go to any connect computer to continue where I left off… no more worrying about files and versions being on whichever computer, no more syncing around, it’s just there on the web ready and waiting for you to pounce on for your next report.

That said, I love Writely. It’s amazing that it’s free and I recommended it to my ETC colleagues since it was pretty intuitive and was easily adaptable to most of our current documentation workflow (using Micro$oft Word). The immediate benefits to the organization include: Live collaborative documentation (good for meetings/discussions), easy archival of documents, version tracking. Literally a great looking word processor on the web with collaborative features beyond our current word processing paradigm. Here’s what Writely had to say from their FAQ:

What does Writely do?
Writely allows you to edit documents online with whomever you choose, and then publish and blog them online.

What exactly can I do with it?
You can:
* Upload Word documents, HTML or text (or create documents from scratch).
* Use our simple WSIWYG editor to format your documents, spell-check them, etc.
* Invite others to share your documents by e-mail address.
* Edit documents online with whomever you choose.
* View your documents’ complete revision history and roll back to any version.
* Publish documents online to the world, or to just who you choose.
* Download documents to your desktop as Word, HTML or zip.
* Post to your documents to your blog.

In my order of preference for the Best Collaborative Workspaces:
1. Writely
2. JotSpot Live
3. Writeboard

Let me know if you see anymore of such services around.

— Kevin “MacDaddy” Lim

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