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Would you like a better way to edit documents and collaborate on ideas? Emailing notes back and forth is a mess and wikis can be complicated to use. Plus, neither of these let you see your team’s document changes in real time. Google Docs now allows collaborative editing, but it makes it hard to get a sense of what was added and when.

For a time, Etherpad was the king of online collaborative writing. No matter where you and your coworkers were, you could log in to the same Etherpad, edit together in realtime, then playback the document revisions to see how the document progressed over time. Then, a couple months after Google Wave was announced, the Etherpad team was bought out by Google. Their code was opensourced, but their original site was shut down and, before long, Google Wave was canceled and opensourced as well.

Today, if you’d like to keep using Etherpad, you could obviously install and run the opensource Etherpad code directly on your own servers for your company or personal use. However, running it directly can be difficult, and if you just want to get started writing collaboratively, you’ll want something easier to manage. There are then a number of sites that let you use the original Etherpad code on their own servers. Some of these services simply use the original Etherpad, while others have taken it and expanded its feature set. is a great service from Cynapse that has taken the original Etherpad and given it a fresh theme, a desktop launcher to access your pads easily, social network sharing, and more. Let’s take a look at the service and see if collaborative writing has been given a fresh start with