I’ve just finished creating eBook and paper book versions of a paper that I recently wrote called, “Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex“. It should be helpful for anyone doing research, but especially for high school students, university students, teachers and faculty. At 55 pages in paper book format, it is a short but informative read.
As a personal learning project, I’ve made the book available in multiple formats, so that it is accessible to everyone who is interested in reading it. Feel free to send a link to this page to anyone who you think might find this short book helpful. I’ve published it using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
If you have an iPad, be sure to download the “iBooks for iPad only” version, as it is a multi-media edition, that includes embedded videos that unfortunately the other formats do not yet support.
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for the book. If you read a free version of the book, please leave a review in the Kindle Store, as I suspect this will help others discover the book.
Why would someone use an web based word processor for a school paper instead of Microsoft Word? Here are three reasons:
- When collaborating with classmates on a group project, do you get tired of trying to figure out which of the versions that have been emailed to you is the most current?
- Do you get discouraged when you are faced with the task of merging edits from 2 or more students into a single document near the end of the group project?
- Do some of your edits get lost in the group collaboration email shuffle?
If you’ve said yes to any one of the questions above, then you should take a serious look at using either Google Docs or Microsoft Word Web App for your next group project. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you being to collaboratively create and edit documents on the web:
- While the look and feel of Microsoft Word Web App is very similar to the desktop version of Word, you cannot add or edit footnotes, end notes, or tables of contents in the online version of Word. You can connect to the file from your desktop version of Word to add and edit those elements in your group document however (on a Mac you’ll need Mac Office 2011 to do this).
- Google Docs supports foot notes, end notes and tables of contents in the web browser, but the editing interface is not as rich as the desktop version of Word. For some people this is not a problem. For others it is a show stopper. You can decide for yourself.
In any case, if you need to collaborate on a document, don’t just reflexively email it to your collaborator, instead think about writing it in Google Docs and sending them a link and leave the email document shuffle behind.
Wordle is an interesting way to visualize a body of text like a blog. Students are research appear to be my two most favourite topics on my blog; at least by word count. If I had guessed before hand I would have thought that “collaboration” would have figured prominently as well.
Google just released it’s own URL shortener to compete with Bit.ly. Goo.gl has most of the features that Bit.ly brings to the table, but has a couple of extra features that I am very interested in.
- Along with creating very compact URL’s, Goo.gl also generates a QR code for every URL that you shorten. If you see a Goo.gl URL you want a QR code for, all you need to do is to add a “.qr” to the end of the URL, like magic a QR code will appear. If you are creating QR Code for a large number of web pages, this is going to be a real time saver.
- With Google putting it’s weight behind it’s own URL shortener, I have a lot more confidence that it is going to be around 2 or 3 years from now.
Google Docs has been my choice for collaborative document editing for some time now, but this past week a new feature was added, that will make the process of collaborating on a single document even less painful. If you and your classmates are working on your project document at the same time, the text that others in your group are adding or editing will be highlighted so you can easily see the changes as they are made, and make sure you’re not inadvertently working on the same section of the document.
Not only does collaborative highlighting show you where you classmates are working, but it will also show you when they highlight blocks of text, so you can watch to see if the text get deleted or moved. I wish I’d been able to use Google Docs when I was a Bachelor of Commerce student continually working on group projects!
Some of the other features that college students will appreciate are:
- Footnotes and Endnotes
- Table of Contents tool
- Inline Thesaurus and Dictionary lookups
- Add new words to a Custom Dictionary
- Auto save every few seconds
For anyone who has worked on a University website committee, the venn diagram below is very recognizable! Another great XKCD cartoon.
I found an email in my inbox this morning about an new building Way-finding utility that UC Davis Law School is working on. You’ll need to use your Firefox web browser for this early version of the app to work (a Chrome and Safari friendly version will be released soon). Here is a working demo of the application. The application is obviously early in it’s development cycle, but has the potential to be an extremely useful utility for libraries.
Put most simply, Wayfinding is a building map router, that uses jQuery and SVG to help individuals navigate from room to room in multi story buildings. Ideal for libraries that are often a complicated maze of book stacks. Enjoy!
Google just launched a new version of Google Apps for US Governments. Why do they need to have a version of their “Apps” product specifically for US governments? Because of a sensible requirement that American government data be store only on US based servers. I’m glad that Google Was able to do this for American governemnts. What I’d like to know is when the internationally based version is going to be launched?
I live in Canada, specifically in the Province of British Columbia, and our government passed a law several years ago requiring that publicly funded institutions store personal data on servers in Canada only. This makes sense especially in light of the US Patriot act, which allows for American law enforcement agencies to look through private data without necessarily obtaining a search warrant, and without notifying the owner of the data that they have been snooping around.
So Google, when is the Google Apps for Canadian Governments going to be launched? I’m looking forward to the press conference!
I’m happy to see that Microsoft is finally getting into the on line office market. There is nothing better for inovation than competition between two companies with a lot of money, and a lot of smart employees. I’ve been a heavy user of the Google Docs wordprocessor and spreadsheet apps since 2006. The Google Docs apps are not as powerful as the desktop Microsoft Office programs, but now have enough features that I have almost stopped using Microsoft Office desktop products. The thing that drew me to Google Docs in the first place was it’s excellent collaboration features, like real time multi-user document editing and a strong version control system – all essential features for college students.
Here are my thoughts on Microsoft Word Web App (live.office.com). Before you test drive it yourself, you’ll need an active hotmail.com or live.com account.
Word Web App Pros:
- The look and feel of the Word Web App is very similar to Word 2007. Similar, but not as many features, which is to be expected at this point in it’s product development. If you use Word 2007 you have a very small learning curve.
- Sharing a document with others is easy to do. Having the document on the internet makes collaboration simple… no more worrying about whether or not you have the most recent version in your email inbox or not.
- The built in version control looks solid. It is now a trivial task to revert the document back to an earlier version if necessary, or see what was deleted by accident.
- 25GB of file storage is excellent. I’m not sure what the limit is in Google Docs to be honest.
- You can edit documents in any web browser, not just Internet Explorer. I’ve been working in Google Chrome on a Mac, and the experience has been good.
Word Web App Cons:
- No footnotes, endnotes or Tables of Contents. For students this is a problem. You can add footnotes, endnotes and Tables of Contents in the desktop version of Word, but you can’t edit them or even see them in the online version. Hopefully this will change soon, as this is a big problem for students who need to cite their references. Google Docs started out without footnotes, but added them in October of 2008.
- While you can edit documents just fine in any web browser, if you want to edit the file in your desktop version of Word you need to be on a Windows computer in Internet Explorer. Not a huge deal, unless you need to add footnotes, or are on a Mac.
Whether you end up using Microsoft Office Web Apps, or Google Docs, we’re all going to benefit from Microsoft getting into this market. Overall this is a good first effort from Microsoft. Hopefully they’ll quickly add footnotes to their otherwise excellent product.
Here’s a short Google Apps video that shows how useful real time collaboration on a document can be… no more emailing a document back and forth between collaborators: