With the advancement of technology, online collaborative projects are becoming more conventional. And after the coronavirus pandemic, several businesses are shifting towards work from home culture.
Today, most of us are spending a considerable chunk of our days in front of some collaboration tools, and writers are no exception.
As freelance writers, we often use remote collaboration platforms to complete our projects. We wait for clients’ feedback and are bound to please every stakeholder who might be sitting in a different time zone.
Multiple versions of the documents and repeated revisions make such collaborative writing even more complicated.
But fortunately, collaborative writing tools have hugely simplified collaborative writing for bloggers, novelists, scientific researchers, and students.
Online shared writing software is beneficial for projects that involve multiple writers, real-time editing, and proofreading.
There are several collaborative writing tools with their unique features, flexible pricing, attractive layouts, and different degrees of complexity.
Truthfully no tool can be branded as the ‘best’ as the definition of ‘best’ changes with every project and the complexity involved.
So, What Features Set Some Collaborative Writing Tools a Class Apart From the Rest?
Given below are the top 6 Online Collaborative Text Editors that would be a great value-addition to writers helping them write, edit, and view documents simultaneously.
But, it is always better to understand the grounds on which these selections have been made. So, here are the most vital elements that make them versatile:
Real-time Sharing: Collaborative writing involves sharing of documents between multiple users with different roles. Thus, the tool must have a real-time sharing facility. It should help individuals to view recent changes and finish off any pending work.
Multi-user and Role Management: The tool must ensure that multiple users can work together smoothly without overlaps. Also, it should have a role management facility so that the owner can restrict every user’s role.
Commenting Facility: You’ve witnessed the changes, but it’s of no use if you cannot comment on them and provide your feedback. A good collaborative editing software surely helps you here!
Version Control: It helps you to keep track of the changes made in your absence. It is a must-have facility for any shared writing software.
Export Privileges: You should be able to export your work in multiple formats, including pdf, doc, etc.
Most collaborative writing apps facilitate any one/two features mentioned above, but with the following 6 tools you will enjoy most of them.
#1 Google Docs: Best Free Collaborative Writing Tool
For most writers, Google Docs is the first name that comes to mind when they think of a collaborative writing app, and I don’t blame them. I’m even drafting this post on Google Docs.
It’s been around for quite some time and has become extremely popular among every kind of writer.
Google Docs is a part of GSuite, a freemium set of apps by Google that’s easy to connect and simple to use. Its simplicity, ease of use, and access through Google accounts make it the go-to writing tool for most writers and students.
Above all, the tool comes fully loaded with some of the best features of collaborative editing tools.
One of the most important features is its ability to handle multiple users in real-time. According to this official forum post, up to 100 users can work on a project simultaneously and more people can view the changes made by others.
These changes get saved automatically and ensure that there is no loss of work or overlap of thoughts.
Another beautiful feature of Google Docs is its ability to manage comments. You can comment or highlight texts with commentaries and make it simple for others to go through them.
The comments readily pop up as you read through the document, but they never hamper your reading as they are not inline. Instead, they are shown on a side with options to show, hide, or mark them as resolved.
The sharing facility helps you to decide on what role you and other contributors would like to play. They can be allowed to view, view and comment, and edit.
Moreover, a suggested edit doesn’t become a reality unless accepted by the author, a great feature when editors want the writer to be the decision-maker.
The autosave facility keeps your file up to date. With version history, you can quickly get a detailed revision history of the file.
Google Docs allows you to export your final manuscript to multiple formats, including docx, pdf, and epub.
- Real-time Sharing
- User Role Management
- Autosave and Version Control
- Export to Several Formats
- No Distraction-free Writing Mode
- No Dark Mode
#2 LivingWriter: Best Paid Collaborative Writing Tool
Recently, I came across this collaborative book writing tool and is completely amazed by its ability. If interested, you can read my thorough LivingWriter review.
Though it was designed explicitly for book writing projects, you can use it for collaborative writing projects such as research paper writing and college assignments.
Start to write, edit, and organize your work and export it to the publishing house sitting in the comfort of your couch. This is what makes LivingWriter my favorite writing tool.
It’s a relatively newbie in the market. However, the tool has smartly made use of its late entry by incorporating the best of several collaborative writing tools into a single one.
I must mention that this cloud-based shared writing software has all features of Scrivener but with a touch of modernity, better user interface, and facility for users to do live edits.
If you are a novelist or a non-fiction book writer, don’t search any further for your next collaborative writing assignment.
LivingWriter allows you to start writing your story from several time-tested storyline templates such as The Hero’s Journey, 27 Beat Chapter Plotting, etc.
View your story from the board, drag and drop almost anything inside the board, reshuffle your plot, or organize your story elements from a single place; LivingWriter can perform all.
It also allows you to add photos, descriptions, notes, and history to your story elements. View and edit your notes on the right sidebar but collapse the sidebar if you want a distraction-free full-screen view!
LivingWriter lets you share your story with editors or co-writers and collaborate with them in real-time.
Version history can save you from any accidental deletion of your precious work, and autosave keeps on saving your manuscript after every edit.
The interface is beautifully designed. You don’t need any prior knowledge to use this software, which is a huge bonus.
Start writing with their 30 days free trial offer.
- Real-time Collaboration
- Autosave and Version History Management
- User Role Management
- Distraction-free Writing
- Dark Mode
- Bank-level Security
- Integrates With Grammarly and Prowritingaid
- No Desktop App
EtherPad could be a tailor-made choice for you if you wish to host a collaborative writing software on your own server.
The tool allows users to create shared documents known as ‘pads.’ A built-in chat box inside pads lets users communicate in real-time. They can also communicate via an inbuilt video conferencing app right from the editor.
These facilities make EtherPad a perfect collaborative text editor.
Every change reflects in real-time. Each writer’s changes pop up in a color-coded format using the distinct color assigned to him/her. The changes made to the file can be recorded and revisited for reviews and finalization.
Ultimately, there could be a rainbow of colors sitting snugly in the document, which could be retained or cleared depending on your needs. Being the host, you can give access to anyone who could start working on the document without any account!
The interface is minimal, and the app provides a limited number of formatting features compared to other collaborative writing tools.
Though not modern or fully loaded with features, Etherpad could be the much-needed tool if you are looking for a comfortable platform with a simple interface.
The version control feature helps you to witness the previous versions of the document. You can even keep track of changes with this feature.
The availability of external plugins lets you incorporate several features like social media sharing and image annotation. Additionally, you can export your documents in several formats, including docx and save it for offline.
EtherPad is an open-source software and is available for free.
- Real-time Collaboration
- Version Control
- Chat Facility
- Availability of Plugins
- Limited Formatting Facility
- Don’t Support Rich Media Content
#4 Word for Microsoft 365
Word for Microsoft 365 does not require any introduction. If you have a computer, you probably have a copy of Microsoft Office. The updated version has been rightly introduced in a period where people mostly connect remotely to work or study.
Now you can collaborate with people worldwide, and translate documents in a non-native language with just a click.
A great feature of Word that’s loved by writers is its ease of researching. Keep your document open and simultaneously read articles in the task pane.
Use the Editor’s features to improvise on your writing skills and present your content with clarity and preciseness.
You could use the ‘Rewrite Suggestions’ option in your Word doc to find different ways of phrasing your sentence.
Plagiarism-free text is the foundation for a good piece of content. The Editor’s similarity checker helps you keep your content original and insert citations wherever needed in a simplified way.
You can share required files, co-author write-ups, chat in files, and collaborate with other peers sitting in any corner of the world giving them appropriate access options—read, write, or read-write.
Another feature that I love about Microsoft 365 is that word documents shared by your colleagues could be opened and edited directly in the browser.
You can see their online presence as well as the current changes that are made by them.
The newly introduced Editor is available for free with limited functionalities while the advanced functionalities are priced at higher costs. Microsoft Word also comes at different rates depending on your selected plan.
- Powerful Editing Features
- Real-time Collaboration
- Newly introduced Editor and Similarity Checking Facility
- Slower Than Google Docs
Draft is another engaging tool like Google Docs that’s absolutely free but with slightly different process flow. This collaborative text editor enables multiple users to log in, edit, read, and contribute simultaneously.
The beauty of the app that makes it stand apart from the rest is that the changes incorporated by every writer aren’t integrated immediately in the document. Instead, a new version of the document is created, making it easier for the users to keep track of version history.
Some users may feel this to be quite annoying as the tool gives permission to the original author only to accept/reject changes made by other contributors.
Draft allows you to easily export your documents using various export options. It comes in handy for every collaborative writing project and provides them with analytical data such as the number of words written per week, which helps to calibrate the efforts.
Another feature that I like about Draft is its ability to publish documents to several online platforms like WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr right from the editor.
- Version Control
- Inbuilt Analytics Software
- Context-aware Comments
- Ability to Publish on Several Writing Platforms
- Poor Collaboration Methodology
#6 Zoho Docs
Zoho Docs is a comprehensive online document management system that helps users to create, edit, share, store, and collaborate on various documents.
The app comes with two unique features—document storage and management, and document editing and collaboration.
Feel free to save anything from documents to music and videos and access them from anywhere. View over 160 file types and enjoy uninterrupted syncing of office files simply by using the drag and drop feature in the app.
The user-friendly file management system helps you to import docs from Dropbox and Google Drive. You can edit live documents using the built-in office suite and share them with anyone within/outside your company.
If you work as a team that requires a professional office management system and real-time collaborations, go for Zoho Docs.
You can enjoy a free trial for 15 days and continue to use the free plan with limited features. There are also standard paid monthly plans which could be chosen based on your needs.
- Virtual Drive
- Syncing From Desktop App
- Setup and Admin Control
- Virtual Collaboration
- Free Forever Plan
- The Platform Looks Very Basic
Work from home, remote logging, and interaction between users living in different parts of the world are becoming the standard now. Collaborative writing tools along with custom writing services have become an absolute necessity to ensure the smooth flow of work.
Virtual collaboration is a difficult task without a proper collaboration tool. The writing apps listed here are the best in the industry that can bring all features necessary for a crisp, conflict-free collaboration. Pick a tool according to your needs, and feel the difference in your workload.