Published on December 12th, 2015 | by Guest


Top 4 Tools For Collaborative Writing

Modern technology has changed the way we do, well, just about anything. It has permeated every pore of our lives, for better or worse. Writing is no exception. While collaborative writing is anything but new, since that’s how every newspaper works, virtual collaborative writing tools, on the other hand, are a relatively young concept. The ultimate goal of using these tools is to refine the written work, and by allowing two or more people to contribute to a single article, you wind up with something that is far better. We choose five different collaborative writing tools for you. Check them out below.


Google Docs

The daddy. This probably the most complete and most robust collaborative writing tool there is. Google Docs allows you to export your work in nearly all formats you can think, and there is also a number of features which might come in handy in academic work, such as footnotes, tables, formulas and plenty of others. Working in Google Docs may seem overwhelming at first, writing with 2 or more people at the same time. You sort of feel like you’ve been dumped in a 1930’s newsroom, filled up with cigarette smoke and boozing journalists yelling ideas back and forth at each other. This particular brand of creative chaos makes for some interesting results.

Google Docs can do a lot of things well, so you may think of it as multi-purpose tool, like a screwdriver, or a wrench. There are some downsides to it. For example, if there are too many people working on a single document, or if the document itself is pretty large, the editor becomes less responsive. Also, when it comes to version history, you won’t be able view the changes between any two drafts of the work. It’s not open-source either, which is hardly surprising, since it’s made by an IT behemoth like Google.


Etherpad is not as huge as Google Docs, nor does it have its polished user interface, but it’s the absolute best if you are looking for a tool that will provide you with outstanding real-time collaboration. This is about the closest thing to a brainstorming session there is. In fact, Etherpad allows multiple writers to edit the same sentence at the same time, which really speeds up the writing process. Plus, it’s not that chaotic or hard to follow, because all contributors are color-coded, so you can keep track of who wrote what and when. The entire collaboration process is recorded, and you can play it back, which is really interesting to watch.

If you like to have complete control over your work and data, which is something that is not possible in Google Docs, Etherpad is just the thing for you, because it’s open-source. Since we’re drawing comparisons with Google Docs, Etherpad is more a lightweight tool, and doesn’t have any of the fancy stuff, such as formulas or footnotes.



Penflip, in essence, is a front-end to GitHub, the code repository of choice for software developers, but it’s used for conventional writing instead of coding. It’s far more streamlined and simple than Google Docs, but its user interface leaves much to be desired. User friendliness was the last thing on developer’s minds when they created Penflip. That being said, Penflip is absolutely brilliant when it comes to documenting and accessing version history. Working in Penflip can be loosely compared to writing on a piece of paper, and then passing it along between collaborators. Unfortunately, its user interface is about as attractive as a piece of paper. If you are a writer with a background in coding, or vice versa, you will love it, but for those among you who are simply writers, its functional but unpolished looks may put you off.

iCloud Pages

Pages, which is a part of Apple’s iCloud service, is probably the closest thing to Google Docs on this list. Mind you, Apple is still developing this tool, with new features being implemented all the time. Any time you use an app made by Apple, it requires you to readjust your way of working to its capabilities and user interface, and not the other way around. Some hate that approach, and some grow to love it, which is sort of like the digital Stockholm syndrome, and Pages are no exception.

One area where Pages needs to step up if it wants to be a true competitor to Google Docs is conversational capabilities. Google Docs is brilliant in that aspect, with both comments and chat available at any time along with the document. It’s fair to assume that Apple will want to have their piece of the collaborative writing pie, which means we’ll probably see similar features implemented in Pages soon.

If you are taking the collaborative approach to writing, and you still haven’t tried any of these apps, we suggest you do so as soon as possible, because you are truly missing out on some powerful tools that will speed up the writing process significantly.


About the author:

Kenneth Waldman is a freelance writer and content editor at essay writing service You can get in touch with him on Linkedin.

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