A while ago, I asked for suggestions about how a research group could collaboratively edit documents. More than one person suggested that I try Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I signed up, uploaded a file or two, played around with the editor and didn’t take it much further.
I went back to it this week and now I get it. On your own, it serves as little more than a backup or a way to publish on the web. It’s the collaborative features that make it shine. Your documents can be private, open by invitation or public. Invitees (up to 200 of them) can be “view only” or collaborators (editors). Several people can work on a document simultaneously (up to 50 for docs, 10 for spreadsheets). There’s a very nice revisions feature where you can view differences between versions, colour-coded by author. You can upload and download in all the common formats that people are likely to use and convert to PDF. This means that I can work on my documents in LaTeX, run them through latex2rtf, upload the RTF and let other people work on them in a format with which they’re comfortable.
As usual, now all I have to do is convince my colleagues to stop bouncing documents around by email and use this far-superior tool instead.