October 7, 2005 in 3 out of 5 stars, Free, Hosted software

What is it?

Writeboard: Shareable, web-based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version, and easily compare changes.


Who makes it?

(WorkHappy.net interview with 37signals founder Jason Fried here)

Why is it the killerest?

Writeboard does just what it says it does, and does it well. It isn't a wiki, it isn't Writely, it isn't even fancy, it's just a simple way to collaborate with someone (or alone if you want versioning) on some bit of text, and keep track of any changes you make. There's no formatting, no fancy Word integration, just simple collaborative content editing.

I used it at length yesterday with a client. We were proofing an outline for a project, we both contributed to it, we could track changes, it was spiff.

I also like that I can compare 2 versions and see what changes have been made. Quite cool.

It's super simple to sign up and use. No accounts required, just create the board, invite your friend to collaborate with you (through the in-page invitation sender) and craft your masterpiece together.

It also keeps you from writing over each other's work by letting you know if someone is currently editing it.

You can integrate your writeboards as pages in Backpack (and integration with Basecamp is coming).

You can subscribe to a writeboard and track changes through RSS.

You can export your final documents (or any version) to an HTML or text file.

They've thought of lots of little details that make it a pleasure to use. A tight, simple, small, well done little application.

(Sounds like 37signals doesn't it?)

What could be improved?

Part of it's redeeming value introduces a pain. Because you don't create an "account," if you wish to have multiple writeboards you've got this hodge-podge of scary URLs and no way (except with Backpack, which is actually pretty cool) to tie them together, edit them with a single login, etc. It gets kind of messy. Note: here's a hidden feature to help you retrieve all writeboards associated with your email address.

The neat freak in me would also like the ability to delete certain versions for good.

How much does it cost?

Free like pumpkins at midnight.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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There is in fact formatting, although it's not wysiwyg formatting. Writeboard uses Textile, which is was actually conceived as a "writer-friendly" formatting tool, much like John Gruber's Textpattern. I know people have complained about it, but I certainly prefer it to writing straight html.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 7, 2005 8:52:00 AM

Thanks for the clarification Andrew. They also allow HTML formatting as well, but neither are WYSIWYG, so most users shouldn't count on it.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Oct 7, 2005 8:56:25 AM

But with http://www.spoiltchild.com/basecode you get right click formatting in firefox.

A little closer to WYSIWYG :)

Posted by: Alan | Oct 7, 2005 4:07:31 PM

Alan, looks interesting... going to check that out.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Oct 7, 2005 6:43:57 PM

"The neat freak in me would also like the ability to delete certain versions for good."

Seconded! I just can't see why the don't do this. It's not like it'll break simplicity.

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