Not everyone has a need for this. However, if you do have such a need, TitanPad may be a great time saver for you. Pam and I have such a need.
I write articles for this newsletter, then send them to Pam for her editing. She improves the articles in many ways, then sends the results back to me. We are often many miles apart, but modern technology solves distance problems. We used to exchange the files by email, even though one or the other of us, or both, may be traveling. In one rather extreme case, I remember a few years ago when I was writing articles from a hotel room in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and she was editing them from a hotel room in California. (We both live in Massachusetts.)
In the past, we have normally used .DOC files created on a variety of different word processors for Windows and Macintosh. Most word processors have the ability to RECORD CHANGES. That is, I write the words and, when Pam makes the edits, her changes show in a different color or are highlighted in bold. When the document is returned to me, I can see the changes instantly. Occasionally, I might make changes to her changes, then send the result back to her for approval. She can thereby quickly see the original text, her changes, plus my changes. Changes made by different people are shown in different colors. Using the RECORD CHANGES feature saves us a lot of time.
However, swapping files back and forth by email is rather old-fashioned. It works well for two people, but becomes unwieldy when three, four, ten, or more people work together to create a single document. A number of modern tools are designed to simplify the process. Lately, we have been using a shared folder on Dropbox. That's an improvement, but I am always looking for something even better.
I have recently used TitanPad and have been impressed with it. TitanPad is a replacement for the earlier EtherPad product that was later purchased by Google and then removed from public access. TitanPad is based on the open-source source code of EtherPad as it existed at the time of the Google acquisition. The code has since been updated, and new features have been added.
TitanPad is a web site where you create your documents. The web site has a built-in rudimentary word processor that features bold, italics, underlines, strikethroughs, bullet lists, indented paragraphs, and more. To be sure, it will never compete with a real word processor such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, but it suffices for many simple tasks. It works well for writing newsletter articles.
Text written in TitanPad is "live." That is, if two or more people connect to the TitanPad web site and access the same document at the same time, each person sees all the changes within a second or two as the changes are being made. I can watch Pam's changes as she makes them. That is especially nice when we are simultaneously working together on a document while talking back and forth on Skype or by telephone.
Each person's text is highlighted in a different color. For instance, when I wrote this article, my text was highlighted with a light blue background. When Pam made changes, her words were highlighted with a yellow background. If a third person had been involved with the process, the text entered by that person would have been highlighted in a third color.
Text may be entered directly from the keyboard or copied-and-pasted from most any Windows or Macintosh application. In addition, text may be imported from ASCII text, HTML, Word, or RTF files. All documents can also be EXPORTED as HTML, ASCII text, Word, PDF, or Open Document files.
If you INVITE others to share access to a document, and if they are accessing the document at the same time, you can see a list of those other people in a window on the right side of the screen. That list is also color coded so that you will know who is changing each bit of text.
TitanPad is available FREE of charge. It is a great tool for group collaboration. It does, however, have several drawbacks. First, its built-in word processor is rather "bare bones," to say the least. It performs the basics, but not much else. If you want fancy text formatting or want to insert graphics or spreadsheets, you'll need to find a different tool. Second, the word processor does not have a spell checker, something I absolutely require. Another drawback is that you always see the document as it exists right now. You will always see the new additions, but you will not see any deleted text or formatting.
Finally, TitanPad is a public web site with little security. It uses "security by obscurity" by storing each document at a cryptic address, such as http://titanpad.com/mbBBjJUxNk. There are no user names or passwords. That's fine for documents that are going to become public anyway, such as the articles I write for this newsletter. However, I wouldn't use it for any sensitive information I wish to keep from prying eyes.
TitanPad is a useful tool for those who have a need for group collaboration. Whether you and an editor work together or you and several cousins are involved in a group research effort, or if your entire genealogy society is working together to transcribe old tax lists, TitanPad can reduce the problems of keeping everyone in sync. To be sure, it is "bare bones," but you get what you pay for. (Free.) It can be worth that and a lot more to some people.
I doubt if Pam and I will use TitanPad on a regular basis. When there are only two of us involved in writing and editing, TitanPad's advantages are not that great. However, if we had three, five, or more people working on a document, I'd probably use TitanPad instead of swapping files the old-fashioned way. After all, it is a group collaboration tool. The bigger the group, the greater the advantages of TitanPad.
This article was written in TitanPad by me on a Macintosh desktop system, then edited by Pam, using a Windows computer. Finally, I used a Mac laptop to export the final text from TitanPad's web site to this newsletter's web site in HTML format.
You can find TitanPad at http://www.titanpad.com
Would you like to try TitanPad for yourself? You -- and everyone else -- can edit this article right now at http://titanpad.com/mbBBjJUxNk. However, you won't impact the final article as published here in the newsletter's web site. Please feel free to experiement all you want.
I suspect there will be a jumble of colors as many different people make edits!