Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Using WRITEBOARD, a Web-Based Collaborative Document Authoring Tool

by Dennis D. McDonald

Jeremiah Owyang and I recently co-authored a “white paper” titled “Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New ‘Web 2.0’ Tools.” For joint authoring we used the “Writeboard” web based collaborative authoring system. This article describes our experience.

Jeremiah is in California and I’m in Virginia. I’ve published the paper here on my blog and Jeremiah has done so on his own blog.

This was my first time using a collaborative tool like Writeboard. Here’s the Writeboard website: All you have to do is create a free account, post the initial text, create a password controlled group of authorized users, then people in different locations can edit and compare versions of the text using a standard web browser over the Internet.

The Writeboard system keeps track of individual document versions by apparently creating a separate addressable file whenever you click the “save” button. Text is displayed on the left side of the screen and a list of the dated and numbered versions (Jeremiah and I got up to 47 — we clicked the “save” button a lot!) is kept on the right side of the screen. When you select two versions of the document the system will compare the two and display differences with color highlighting.

The interface is not entirely WYSIWYG. Display formatting can be toggled back and forth between plain text and a semi-WISIWYG display with plain, bold and italic display. For our purposes, though, that worked just fine as we could concentrate almost totally on content.

The Writeboard system makes it easy to export and email any version of the document in plain text or HTML. I cannot say how good the security of the system is or whether one would want to use this for collaborative authoring of a document that contained confidential information. Nor do I understand the business model; this service is free and I didn’t see any ads during the course of our little project. I was accessing the document via either a Windows XP laptop, a Windows 2000 laptop, or a Macintosh running OS-X.

In summary, Writeboard works well with two people working on a document. I can’t say how well it would work with more people involved or with a document that required a more complex character set or the inclusion of multiple images. But I will definitely use the service again.

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Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New "Web 2.0" Tools