I did a lot of collaborative writing this past year with my husband, Fahim, including freelance writing work and editing for a magazine, and here are two of the tools we found exceptionally helpful.
We’ve used it since before Microsoft bought it out, but didn’t use it as extensively until this year. We created a shared workspace and, as a document needed reviewing or editing by the other person, we dumped it in there and the other person received it in their Groove space nearly instantaneously. Groove makes sharing files very very easy.
We also use it for editing the magazine – that shared space also includes magazine owners and layout / graphics guy. And again, it makes sharing files with multiple people very easy.
The only downside is that the computer that holds a file has to be on for the other computers to be able to retrieve it. Not a problem when it’s a small file, but can be problematic if it’s a 20 MB file or a group of files adding up to, say, 160 MB, as was the case of images I dumped in to the space to go along with a gaming article. Synchronizing files that large with the slow internet speeds we have here can take a day or three. But, it’s still better than emailing and clogging up the email servers and all the inherent problems associated with that, and it works with nary a hitch or glitch.
Honestly, we’re not Microsoft fanboys / fangirls, but we do recognize good tools that fit their purpose. Microsoft Word with Track Changes works very well for our purposes.
Whether Fahim writes the first draft of a document, and I then do the first editing round, and pass it back to him, and so on, or I start with the first draft and he edits first, track changes is a remarkably useful feature. With it enabled, I can edit his text – whether deleting whole swaths of redundant text, adding necessary commas, or using more clear language – and, when the draft is passed back to him, he can see exactly what I deleted, what I added, and, for that matter, what formatting I changed. I can leave notes asking for clarification or indicate that I didn’t understand something.
Then, he can accept or reject each change I made individually. He can make further revisions, still tracking what changes he made, and he can also leave notes. And so on and so forth.
With more than one person working on a document, this is a fantastic tool to track changes. While we’ve used it mostly for our freelance writing, it’s equally useful for editing rounds in short stories or novels.
Fahim has checked other writing software, and none, thus far, include tools to compare to track changes. With the way we work, this is one tool that we consider absolutely essential.
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