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  1. #1
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    collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Is anyone aware of inexpensive (relatively speaking) software that would let me place a formatted Word document on my website that several people (remote users) could access simultaneously, make additions, deletions, and other corrections to the document, and download the revised document as a Word file. The kickers are the following, which is why I need (I think) to use a Word document: the document has to be able to display and correctly download italics, super- and subscripts, symbols from the Word symbol drop-down, and small caps. It can't require the reviser to code; the revisor needs to be able to copy an entry from a document on their PC and paste it into the master document on the website. Also, because the contents would be a list of terms, after adding a term to the web doc, there needs to be a way to realphabetize the contents.

    I am not stuck on using a Word document but I can't use anything that would result in essentially a plain text file because the formatting (italics, small caps, Greek letters, math symbols, etc.) are extremely important. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    What server OS & web server are you using? Have you checked Microsoft Office Online: SharePoint Portal Server 2003 Home Page (not <img src=/S/free.gif border=0 alt=free width=30 height=15>)or Windows Server 2003: Windows SharePoint Services (included <img src=/S/free.gif border=0 alt=free width=30 height=15> with Win2k3 server)?

    Joe
    Joe

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    We are not doing our own hosting. We use 1and1 and our current site is on a Linux server. However, 1and1 does offer a MS Sharepoint option (http://tinyurl.com/zw6vy) and I only need 6-9 people tohave access.

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    I would agree with Joe, except that I would recommend Windows SharePoint Services <img src=/S/free.gif border=0 alt=free width=30 height=15>

    WSS has all of the necessary document-sharing and versioning functionality that the full SharePoint Portal Server has, but is essentially free for Windows 2003 Server users. I'm not sure how a vendor like 1and1 would approach WSS over SPS.

    The only other option I can imagine is to use a custom-written web application to accomplish your goals. This would be prohibitively expensive and unnecessarily risky...

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Thanks, Mark. Based on Joes suggestion, I have asked the person who is working on our new website to check into SharePoint. Truthfully, I don't consider 1and1's price of $20/month for up to 50 users very costly. If it would work as I want, it would be a very cheap solution to my problem. I would consider the free version except that we don't have our own server. We are a small company whose employees all work from their own homes on standalone PCs. Until now we haven't had the need for real-time collaboration and because of what we do, this would be the only document that would need the collaboration. (I don't mean to imply that it would be a one-time collaboration. There would be many collaborations on many projects over the years, but only on this one document. I probably cleared that up like a mud puddle.) Anyway, for me to invest in a server (a minor cost) and someone to maintain it (which is the big problem/cost) is more than I can forsee us needing.

    But another question re: SharePoint. If we were to use Word on Sharepoint, is it just like using Word on our local PC? What I mean is could we use our Word macros and styles, and other customizations? (In case you can't tell, I know nothing about SharePoint and what it can/can't do.)

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Hi Rich,

    When you collaborate through SharePoint, it's actually acting as a document storage mechanism rather than a real-time sharing application.

    Essentially, it will work like any version control application:
    User A uploads the document for the first time. User B opens the document from the website (which flags it as checked out and downloads a copy of it). User B edits and saves the document (which uploads it back to the site and marks it as checked in). User A opens the document (which flags it as checked out and download a copy of it). User A edits and saves....(repeat as needed)

    Does that make sense? All normal Word feature are supported since the DOC file is what is being uesd back and forth. An additional benefit is that when you try to email the document to another user (using Outlook, of course), it automatically prompts you to email a link to the shared document rather than emailing a copy of the document. Finally, you will be able to use the collaboration tools built into Word (and other MS apps). This will show you who has the document checked out, pending tasks, active users (integrated with MSN Messenger), etc. It's very neat!

    See the SharePoint home page for more details and demos...

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Thanks for the overview, Mark. Based on your description of how it works, SharePoint won't be a solution for me. It would be too cumbersome a system. I need something that involves real-time sharing.

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    In that case, you might try Microsoft Live Meeting.

    Good luck!

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Also, check out WebEx: Web Conferencing, Online Meetings, and Video Conferencing for a non-MS product in the live conferencing arena.

    Joe
    Joe

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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Thanks for the two suggestions. I'll check them out.

  11. #11
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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    No idea whether this would work for you, but I've heard it recommended in a couple Podcasts:

    http://www2.writely.com/info/WritelyOverflowWelcome.htm
    --------------------------------------------------
    Jack MacDonald
    Vancouver, Canada

  12. #12
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    Re: collaboration software for multiple remote users

    Thanks for the Writely suggestion. I had also heard about it and checked it out to the extent that I could. It was sold to Google and no new registrations are currently being accepted. Unless Google changes it, Writely is currently limited to a maximum 500K, which usually would be sufficient but often enough would be insufficient that it wouldn't pay for me to use. Of course, there is also the Google problem. If Google follows its usual pattern, Writely (or whatever Google will call it) will be loaded with ads and/or require a Gmail account. Yet another problem is that Writely does the inviting; i.e., you give Writely the e-mail addresses of the people you want to collaborate on the document and Writely sends them an e-mail with a link -- a perfect way to gather valid e-mail addresses for Google marketing. Interestingly, Writely doesn't let you work on the original document as such; it converts the uploaded document to HTML and then when you save it to your desktop, reconverts it. For me that is just another invitation for problems.

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