I’ve always been in the lookout for tools to make niche writers’ lives easier. Screenwriting is a product category that I’ve become really passionate about. It’s an area of interest for me — screenwriting is a hobby of mine, and I’d love to see the tools used to write them improve. After all, we’ve all been stuck with the same few standards for years — Final Draft being chief among them
Final Draft is really unwieldy, though. It’s one of my least favourite programs, and for a while, it was also one of my most used. Today, I spend a lot of time using apps like Slugline, which use a fantastic Markdown-inspired markup syntax called Fountain (developed in part by John August, the writer of Big Fish). But for many people, a new syntax can only do so much in our Internet-based world. Enter Writer Duet, an online screenwriting app built for writers who want to collaborate on the go. Read on to find out what makes this product so unique in a sea of contenders.
Collaborative writing has been one of the many things the web was supposed to simplify, and yet it’s still as broken as it’s ever been. Live co-editing like Google Docs offers only works for a very few niche scenarios, and newer tools like Draft and Editorially only work great for one writer and one editor giving feedback on a finished work. And the old style of emailing documents back and forth — or the slightly updated version of saving them to a shared Dropbox — is still far from ideal.
There’s one tech tool that’s seemed promising recently, though: git. The geeky version control system used most famously by GitHub is designed to let software developers collaborate on code, and is the very reason people around the globe can contribute to open source projects. Code is just text, of course, so earlier this year two dozen mathematicians wrote The HoTT Book collaboratively using GitHub. That was quite an undertaking, both for its unprecedented collaboration and for using git for writing even when it wasn’t exactly designed for it.
But what if GitHub was reinvented around writing? That’s what Penflip, a new git-powered writing app, aims to find out.
When Apple first released the iWork for iCloud web apps, I noted that the apps included far more features than Google Docs, especially for page layout and formatting. There was just one major thing missing: collaboration. That was rectified this week, when at the Apple announcement they went to great lengths to show off (with, of all things, what’s essentially Word Art) that their office suite now has real-time collaboration.
Google Docs — and smaller apps like Etherpad — pride themselves on letting you collaborate with others in real-time. I’ve used it to great effect in the past to work with others on translating documents, among other things, and we share a number of documents at AppStorm on Google Drive — though we rarely if ever are all editing at once. For the most part, it just seems like real-time editing is too much, an opinion seemingly shared with the newer writing and editing apps Draft and Editorially.
And yet, live collaboration seemed like a big enough need to Apple that they added collaboration to their iWork web apps over what others would consider more-needed poweruser features in Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for Mac.
That made me wonder how important live collaboration is to you. Do you regularly live co-edit documents with others, or do you just share documents with others and each edit them at your own leisure? We’d love to hear your thoughts on live editing documents — and, if you’ve tried them, on Apple’s iWork for iCloud web apps — in the comments below.
Remote working definitely has its advantages. That’s an assertion I can back up with my own experience, not least in terms of my writing for AppStorm. The opportunity to work anywhere within range of a Wi-Fi signal provides wonderful freedom, and the lack of workplace distractions can make a significant, positive difference to productivity.
Not that it’s perfect, by any means. One of the key challenges of employment-by-broadband is trying to work with a team. An on-site employee or employer needs only to get up and walk a few steps to give or receive feedback, share ideas, or simply have a chat at the water-cooler. Of course, those of us who work from afar do not have that luxury. It’s not surprising, then, that there are plenty of video-calling and instant messaging options aimed at suiting the needs of geographically spread business teams.
Whilst no online platform can replace the instantaneous, spontaneous communication available in person, the next best thing, in my view, is a chat platform which works swiftly and efficiently. New beta collaboration service Fleep is aiming to provide just that, together with productivity aids such as file sharing. Fleep is up against some tough competition though (we’re all very impressed with Slack here at AppStorm, for example), but can it shine through?
Box is one of those enterprise-focused startups that’s never made tons of sense from a consumer perspective. They’ve offered generous amounts of free storage just for signing in with their mobile apps, but that’s never been enough to get most of us to move away from Dropbox — especially since, originally, their desktop sync app wasn’t included for free. That hans’t stopped them from being the document sync tool of choice for many businesses, where the clunky UI didn’t matter as much as did the security and syncing features.
Then, there’s the apps, that great equalizer that stands to make or break any platform. Most of our consumer mobile apps are integrated with Dropbox, not Box, but on the web, Box has a solid library of apps that let it do much more than just sync files. It’s had a basic office-type app for some time now, along with a Mac and PC app that syncs Office document changes in real-time. But now, it’s going even further, with a brand new app aimed to compete in the collabortive writing space that’s taking off this year.
With Microsoft’s former Office VP Steven Sinofsky now on the Box team, it seems they’re more than ready to take on Microsoft — as well as Google and other online collaboration tools. And this time, they’ve got an app that looks nice enough, it’ll likely attract more than just enterprise customers.
Project management apps are great for working with teams, both local and remote. They allow for easy communication and sharing of information and assets, and even allow clients to participate in conversations and stay on the same page all through their projects. However, most of these apps have thus far failed to address the need for sharing visual feedback that’s so important for creatives like designers and content developers.
ProofHub hopes to be the solution we’ve all been looking for: the new kid on the project management block offers all the features necessary for planning and executing tasks as a team, with the vital addition of an image proofing tool that allows professionals and clients to mark up images to share ideas and feedback. ProofHub is also competitively priced and features a fresh look borrowing from the current trend of flat design. But is it good enough to take on the heavyweights in this domain? Let’s use it to plan a website build and find out.
The web’s got more than its share of project management and social networking apps. There’s more online storage and team chat apps than you can keep track of. It’d be crazy to imagine launching a new project management or chat app today that doesn’t have a web app — the web’s the de facto platform for them like no other category of apps.
This year, the word processor market is the one that’s getting disrupted and oversaturated with web apps. We’ve got the old-timers – Google Docs and Microsoft Office Web Apps – alongside Apple’s still-in-beta iWork for iCloud web apps, and plenty of smaller competitors like Zoho and the many Etherpad clones. But then, there’s the brand-new writing and collaboration focused apps like Draft and Editorially, both of which are aimed at collaborative Markdown writing online.
Then, there’s Quip, the latest entry into the fray. Just launched today by a team that worked together on Google Maps, Google App Engine, and later Facebook, Quip bills itself as a “modern word processor that enables you to create beautiful documents on any device — phones, tablets and the desktop.” With native apps on iOS and a beta Android app, and a web app to cover desktops and laptops, it’s taking on the quest, as so many others have, to unseat Word as the king of word processing. (more…)
Sometimes it seems that apps comes in waves. It’ll seem like a whole category is stagnant, with nothing seriously new coming out in years — then all the sudden there’s several new upstarts competing for the crown with brand-new features. It’s felt like that this summer with iOS photo apps, and it’s been the very same with collaborative writing and editing web apps.
Google Docs was the state-of-the-art for document collaboration, and then Draft, and Editorially burst onto the scenes. We’ve looked at the former already, seeing how it is the word processor reinvented for the web, and how its grown to include a paid editing service, stats for your writing, plain text todos, and more. The latter, though, hasn’t picked up traction as quickly due to it still being in beta. Editorially is still interesting, and with hints being dropped of its future and expanded feature set, it’s more than worth a look.