Making the case for Word Processing on the Web: Collaborative Document Editing

Why would someone use an web based word processor for a school paper instead of Microsoft Word? Here are three reasons:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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