Writely announced today on its blog that they had been bought by Google. Writely is described as “the web word processor.” All in your web browser, you can create new documents, give them tags, share them out with other people to co-author documents and more. You can upload Word documents, download the document to any computer, make it publicly viewable on the web, post it to your blog, see all the previous revisions, or e-mail directly to it, and then it has all the major word-processing functions plus more: formatting, color, tables, images, links, save to Word format, OpenOffice format, RTF, get the document’s RSS feed. In terms of features, Writely is chock-full.
For educators, it is a fantastic tool for collaborative writing. Think a group of students working on a paper or document. The teacher or students create the original document, and then give editing privileges to everyone in the group. Whenever a change is made, it is documented as to who made the change. You can watch the evolution of the document, leave comments for one another and keep moving forward. For a bigger project, like a student novella, it could be a continuing process of adding work, revising and editing past work, with all the history documented and stored.
From a school level, I could see the administrative team working on a letter home to families which goes on Writely. Then, each administrator works on the document on their own time, adding, deleting, refining, until a final document was agreed upon. Thing of the time saved – no meetings with 5 people reviewing the smallest word choice in each paragraph. Just keep writing until it’s right for you.
Some might say Writely is a glorified wiki. In some ways it is, but they have taken the ease of use and the value of word-processing and joined it with a wiki. For the average user who doesn’t want to bother with wiki formatting, and just wants to write, Writely is it. Unfortunately, the Google purchase means a temporary delay in signups. In the mean time, head to their signup page, and put your e-mail address. They will send you a note when they reopen signups. I am guessing you will just use your Google username once that happens.
For another post: Google’s may be farther behind in the web-based Office suite everyone suspects they are making. Maybe Writely will be their word-processor. The folks at iRows (free, web-based, shareable spreadsheets) may be gobbled up next.