For years Google Docs had the online collaboration game to itself. If you needed to work with colleagues on a single document it was the only option.
Google Docs showed everyone the value of collaboration. It was a far more efficient way of working than, say, the Microsoft Office approach which meant batting documents and revisions back and forth.
Tricky editing jobs that would take days with Word could be done in minutes on Google Docs.
Then Apple added collaboration to the cloud versions of its iWorks apps. A few days later Microsoft pulled similar features into the Office web apps.
All three competing software suites now allow co-workers to co-operate on the same documents, making real-time changes. In their way, each of them is good.
Although I’ve investigated the iCloud version of iWork’s – or more accurately Pages – and the Word web app, I’ve not needed to use either yet for serious production work.
I have worked extensively in the past on collaborative Google Docs documents.
The collaborative approach is well suited to modern publishing where colleagues often work from home or remote offices. I’ve filed stories from overseas hotel rooms, then worked online with editors to tidy them up for publication.
Significantly all three online suites are free – which means publishers get full access to advanced tools for no more than the cost of a computer, phone or tablet and a data connection.
It’s partly a matter of taste and partly to do with practical matters, but I’ve always found, collaboration aside, Google Docs is a second-rate tool for serious writing. It is fine for short snippets of writing.
In comparison, Both the iCloud version of Pages and the Word Web App are powerful, elegant writing tools. I know of friends and colleagues who are perfectly happy with Google Docs.
Either way, publishers, editors, journalists and bloggers now have real choice when it comes to online collaboration.