Now that Google-owned Writely – the online collaborative word processor – is accepting new applications again, I thought I’d take a quick look and see if it’s any good.
It works only in IE or Mozilla browsers, so Firefox is probably your best bet (particularly if you’re on a Mac)
Signing up is easy enough – all you need is your email address and a password. It’s a shame you don’t appear to be able to use your Google account details as with their spreadsheet – maybe that will come in time.
The main document editing window is clear with large icons along the top giving access to common functions. At first I thought ‘no tables’ (well, after I’d marvelled at the shiny icon colours – no really), but that, amongst other features, are in the menus above the icons.
For a web-based application, there are plenty of formatting options:
fonts, colours, tables, images, hyperlinks, etc. There’s also the
ability to save in several formats, including Writely’s own, HTML, RTF,
PDF, OpenOffice, and MS Word.
Print Preview relies upon your browser’s own interpretation of HTML,
and will also be subject to whatever headers and footers it puts on, so
you’re possibly better exporting to another format (like PDF) and
printing that way.
Documents can be shared over the web with a group of people you
specify. I haven’t had a chance to try this feature out yet. There’s
also a Revisions menu which lets you compare two previous versions of
the document for differences, which are then highlighted. It’s a simple
system that works pretty well. Documents can also be tagged with
keywords for later searching.
Overall, the system is responsive (though of course that depends upon
the reliability of your Net connection). This isn’t going to be a Word
killer (yet) if you’re used to all the extra functionality it offers,
but if you only use Word for simpler documents because it’s there, and
you like the idea of collaborating over the web, this could be for you.
It’s still in beta, and you can vote on whether you think the product
is ‘ready’ yet. I think it has further to go, but nevertheless it’s a
solid Web 2.0 product.