Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Document collaboration in "Plain English"

Lee Lefever has created another of his wonderful explanations of technology "in plain English."  This one is about using Google Docs to  collaborate between groups of people.  (I've written about Google Docs a number of times before including here, and here.)

While sometimes it's difficult to help people to understand the power inherent in collaborative authoring.  Lefever does a great job.

There are a couple of limitations with Google Docs that you should be aware of. First, documents with complex formatting do not render well.  I've had this problem in two cases.  The first is with a document in large A3  (roughly 11x13) format that contains our team's strategic plan.  The document contains a large number of cells that just don't reproduce at all in Docs; it's unusable.  The second case was a learning contract I was working on with an intern.  It was a normal multi-page document that had a lot of spacing and tabs in it.  It didn't render well either, though it worked fine in Zoho (which I've written about here).

The third thing to keep in mind is that it obviously assumes that you have an Internet connection.  That's not a given where many of us work.  At the same time, if you regularly work on documents with teammates who live far from you (as in another continent) Google Docs and/or Zoho Writer are great tools.

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