Collaboration in Documents

  • November 28, 2016
  • Scott

TeamMatt Richman posted some interesting statistics on his blog, namely:

When students write papers by themselves, only 12 percent use Google Docs. But when students write papers in groups — when they collaborate — 78 percent use Google Docs. On the other hand, 80 percent of students use Microsoft Word for individual work and 13 percent use it for group work. The dynamic is the same for all millennials, regardless of gender, the phone they use, or where they live: Microsoft Word for individual work, Google Docs for collaborative work.

I keep hoping a richer client experience (Word, Pages, whatever) will add enough collaboration functionality to displace Google Docs – not because I don’t like Google Docs – but because I want the richness of a native client combined with the collaboration of web applications. So far, despite some promise, Apple’s apps have not met that challenge.  For one, they rely on apple IDs and often the collaboration fails at the “login” moment with work colleagues.  And another failure point is the “version number” test.  The browser-based version of Apple’s Apps just doesn’t have all the features you need to collaborate properly (see: no speaker notes in Keynote web version). 

Still, there’s been progress.  Richman’s post focuses on the very real divide between Word and Google Docs -but I think this divide exists whether you use Word or something else – Google Docs is a good platform for collaboration on documents. 

Alternately, a really good wiki platform would do the trick. In-place editing in a wiki is a beautiful thing. And keeping it web-linked to the real world is also a beautiful thing. But in practice, many wiki platforms just don’t quite live up to the usability promise required to make it work. 

We use a lot of Google Apps behind the scenes to collaborate, but we also use file-sharing services to synchronize documents and back them up. 




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  • David Bailie

    I bet this will begin to change with the current crop of public school students who are used to using Google Apps for Education for most of their school work. I couldn’t find any good stats for Google’s education market share, but I know many public schools, including my kid’s Elementary, Middle, and High schools, are using Google Apps for Education. Google is gaining market share for Chromebooks in the education market, and that will impact this behavior as well. My 8 year old goes to the browser and Google Docs first, because that’s what she’s been taught – plus she can access her docs from anywhere, school, home, ipad… I use Sublime Text for most of my “local” docs, but I’m old school.

    • Yep, I think Google Apps is getting good airplay. I don’t think the hardware necessarily dictates that though (our school has Mac hardware and still heavy Google docs usage).

      On twitter, John Lilly recommended Quip for document collaboration. There are other options – but it is hard to compete with Google single sign on for collaboration – ie, everyone is already in the system and part of your organization.