The first wave of truly collaborative online writing tools are here. Will they knock Word off its perch?

The MIT Technology Review looks at some of the new online tools available to writers, (the Fargo outliner, the Editorially writing/collaboration tool, and the Medium blogging tool), and I’d suggest we’re seeing the first wave of online writing tools that may finally displace Satan’s word processor MS Word.

Draft online writing tool

I likee: Draft offers powerful version control and document merge tools

Colleagues know I love MS Word the way a farmer loves locusts, and I’d suggest it dominates the field not because it’s a better writing tool, but because it’s become the default container for the transmission of edits and comments between writer and reviewer.

In other words, Word’s primarily used as a collaboration tool, and frankly, it’s pretty bad at it. (If you don’t believe me, try being on the receiving end of four edited files sent by four different people.)

By contrast, tools like Draft and Editorially aren’t simply cloud-based, they’re designed from the ground up for collaboration — and they don’t enforce a proprietary file format to do it.

I’d suggest the time is right.

The vast majority of copy written today will find itself online, and using MultiMarkdown-based files only smooths the workflow.

Given the ridiculous deadlines now common in the copywriting and editorial worlds, seamless collaboration is probably more important than ever.

For now, Draft and Editorially are free. So kick the tires already. I suggested both to a friend running a publication, who thought — given the willingness of his younger writers to use Google Docs and other online tools — it was time to consider a change.

I still prefer to write in my programmer’s text editors (Emacs and Sublime Text). They’re fast, and the built-in productivity multipliers are astounding.

Couple those with Draft or Editorially, and I not only bypass the “.docx” phase entirely, I also get powerful version control, document merging and relatively intelligent commenting functions.

Sounds like a good start on the future of online writing.

Keep writing, Tom Chandler.