Monday, May 18, 2015

Google Docs is an Amazing Tool for Collaboration


This is the second post in my series about a horror project that my pal Jolene Haley and I are collaborating on. Last time I wrote a bit about how the project came together, but this time around I wanted to start talking process a bit. More specifically, I wanted to gush about what an amazing collaboration tool Google Docs is.

I pretty much do all of my first drafting in Google Docs now, having abandoned Word a while back. I love having the ability to jump into my projects anywhere, anytime and get stuff done. But it wasn't until the past year or so that I really started to take advantage of the collaboration tools that are built into Google Docs. My pals at Kitbash Brand Design use Google Docs for group projects, and all of the copywriting work I do for them is done through Google Docs, so I can get instant feedback on whatever I'm working on.

More recently, I have been using Google Docs for the fiction project that Jolene Haley and I are working on, and it's a godsend. We are on opposite coasts, and we're often working on the project at different times. When we do happen to be working on it at the same time, having everything we need built right into Google Docs helps keep the focus on the project, so we can communicate while we're working.

Take the live chat, for example. Anytime more than one person is in a document at the same time, a chat icon becomes available, allowing you to open a live chat with your collaborator. It makes communicating back and forth super easy, and the only real drawback I see is that fact that is doesn't save a record of the chat, so you need to make sure any important info (like plot decisions) is also written down somewhere else. Which is where the comments system comes in.

With the comment function, you can highlight any text in the document and attach a comment to it. So, this line of text was highlighted:


And this comment thread was attached to it:


Pretty cool, right? I know that most word processing programs have a comment system, but I really like how intuitive this one is. When a particular comment thread has run its course, you can just click "Resolve," and it will disappear from the main document. BUT, the comment thread is still saved, and you can revisit it any time by clicking the "Comments" icon at the top of your document.

My absolute favorite thing about Google Docs is the fact that you can actually be working with your collaborators in the same document at the same time. You will see what they're typing in real time. And if you want to offer instant feedback, you can just bring up the chat window.

It's pretty amazing. There have been times over the past few weeks where Jolene and I will be working on different scenes at the same time, on completely opposite sides of the country. Like two mad scientists tinkering with different parts of their creation, there's a kind of magic to it. And it's one of the many reasons I love Google Docs--it's a fantastic collaboration tool.