Collabio Spaces
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Collabio Spaces

Co-authoring Documents. What’s Good and What’s Still Missing

Haven’t you attended Web Summit this year? No problem! We are sharing our roundtables here, in our blog! So, you won’t miss anything!

We were discussing collaboration and team work. So, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • Why should teamwork on documents become faster and better?
  • Why does it still need an improvement?
  • How to arrange teamwork to achieve results faster and ensure better quality?
  • Which tools do we have now and what’s still missing?

Let’s start! ;)

Editor, especially office format documents editor, is one of the most complex type of software. This is actually the reason why so few of them appeared during the last decade. Such software has to support a great variety of modern document content such as rich text, tables, shapes, formulas, charts, etc. You need to implement all that before you propose something new to users.

Let’s imagine a typical modern user of such software — maybe a startupper or a marketing director.

This person runs several projects and creates numerous documents for them. They work from home or office, on business trips, on the way in a taxi, while waiting for a plane and while drinking coffee at a cafe.

Which tool would make them happy? The one that works from any device: phone, home laptop, office computer and personal tablet. Documents should be well organised by projects and tasks and always be synchronized between devices, so that work can be picked up at any time from any point. But access to the documents can be limited by the Internet connection, that is still not reliable in numerous situations, like on a plane, in a coffee shop or on a business trip.

And the best part — this tool should provide the ability to work together with other talented people to create, discuss, update, polish and deliver their work in form of documents.

Think how incredible it is: humans invented writing 6000 years ago, but it used to be solely an individual activity. Modern technologies let us co-write, co-edit and collaborate, but any team work requires good organisation.

Let’s take a closer look at a collaboration on a document. For example, I am working in Sales and am responsible for preparing Business Proposal for a new Customer. Business Proposal should include a Business summary, problem statement, solution overview, project schedule, payment terms, responsibilities of the parties. I am working in cooperation with development, accounting and lawyers to make a really good proposal. Such an important document should be also checked by an executive before it is submitted.Such a group work is hard to coordinate without the right tools, but if you can manage that, it will be worth it.

Here is why…

Collaboration has plenty of advantages and we recommend that you pay more attention to it.

  • Firstly, you work faster in a team. Teamwork is strength, intelligence, efficiency multiplied by the number of people involved.
  • Secondly, when you work alone, a blurry gaze does not notice mistakes that can be critical. Colleagues, on the other hand, can look at the issue from a different angle, suggesting better solutions and minimising the risk of mistakes.
  • Thirdly, collaboration includes brainstorming by default. They say, that two heads are better than one — that’s the point.

All this results in enhanced communication and mutual understanding, which leads to an increase in the quantity and quality of ideas, improved productivity of each team member (who work in synergy, reinforcing each other’s strengths). When you achieve great work results, the financial benefits will follow. For the company, this will mean growth of the client base due to the improvement of the product and for the employee, it will result in a career advancement and bonuses for outstanding achievements. We see a complete “win-win” situation.

Can you imagine, that still most of collaboration is performed through emails and all the changes have to be merged manually? Discussions and tasks are performed in separate systems. That does not seem either efficient nor time saving!

Cloud solutions for document editing are becoming more and more popular. They greatly improve user experience, but make us highly dependent on the Internet connection and external infrastructure.

So what do we need for quality collaboration?

  1. We need stable and fast Internet connection to access our documents at any point from any device. Alternatively, we can sync documents between devices and find a way to collaborate without involving a cloud server.
  2. Working in a group demands serious organisational efforts that should be ideally automated. Keeping focus on your task is a major productivity challenge when you work in groups. So the ideal tool should eliminate the loss of focus, when one needs to switch between writing, checking tasks and hold discussions with colleagues.
  3. Cloud services give us huge advantages, but why do so many users still use emails to collaborate on documents? Mainly because of privacy concerns. Cloud solutions give us excellent services but it is out of our control. How often are we not ready to rely on something, that is out of our control?
    And while we speaking of control. Another issue that users have to deal with is losing control over changes made to their documents, either due to the endless abilities to share a document or to simple inability to track the changes.
  4. Finally, the last but not the least is team management, which is a big and complex area with its own specialisation. We have all these great tools to support team work, but what we don’t see much, is their total integration in the document work itself.

We definitely saw huge space for innovation in work process of documents editing. And we now came to our first big milestone — the release of Collabio Spaces, documents management system from XCDS.

We come to the market with a rich and powerful editor that supports primary industrial standards — Open Office XML from Microsoft and Open Document Format from ODF.

First, we launched apps for mobile and desktop Apple platforms — iOS and MacOS. Next year, we are going to extend the list of supported platforms with Windows, Linux and Android. Even more, we are going to introduce a Web version closer to the end of the next year.

How we serve users’ needs:

  • All your documents are stored and processed in one system of the app throughout all Apple platforms: iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs.
    Spaces are much more than just boring folders — it is your own space of opportunities for organising documents, metadata (tasks, comments, time line) and managing your work across them.
    Just switch to what you need and get back to the current document without losing the progress and focus. Don’t waste time on searching documents — always find what you’ve been working on.
  • Collaborative editing is empowered by our cloudless collaboration technology that turns your iPhone/iPad/MacBook into a server that transmits a document to your colleagues which you gave access to the sharing session. It’s convenient and private — so, you can collaborate even on documents containing commercial secrets without fear that your data will be compromised by anyone around.
    You might wonder whether competitors can cope with this, seemingly easy task. Google Docs have been offering their cloud solution for several years. Still, it’s very dependent on Internet connection. What Collabio Spaces offers is different, it works with the very essence of collaboration in conditions where you have a minimal number of elements standing between you and your teammate(s). Imagine if all you needed was you and your co-author(s) with smartphones or laptops.
    A team of 10–15 people can work on a mid-sized document simultaneously without any errors occurring! The distance is limited by your device’s WiFi range. Collaboration might disconnect if your peer is literally on the extreme edge of the connection.
  • Powerful text and spreadsheet editors enable you do the work. They are compatible with the most popular formats — ODF and OOXML. Except for the main capabilities of these editors like rich text and paragraph formatting, styling, tracking changes and checking spelling, you can enjoy unique features like adding audio-comments to text documents on iOS.
    As for the spreadsheets, the app offers all the possible tools for data management — filtering, sorting, designing cells, as well as calculations with hints (when you start to type in a cell and the editor offers relevant formulas with explanations on how they work).
  • The mobile version of Collabio Spaces offers more useful features. For example, there are fully-fledged PDF annotations — where you can leave handwritten notes, format text in documents, add comments and erase the changes made. We also have a mobile scanner built into the text editor with the option to digitally sign text and PDF documents.
    We understand how a user deals with an editor on mobile and desktop differs, so we started to build mobile specific scenarios for the mobile version. Our favorite one is to scan text from a paper with my phone’s camera, translate it into text inside the document to work with it further.

How does local P2P collaboration work?

Think of this: your phone alone will be enough to provide similar experience as powerful cloud-based collaborative editors do. You don’t need to access the Internet, as such collaboration works with almost any local network, including iPhone’s hotspot. You’re limited only by your device’s hotspot power.

Let’s look at a simple example. This feature can be extremely useful during business travels or when there is a poor connection to the web or if you want to privately share documents with your colleagues within one office space. We bring safe and convenient collaboration closer to the end users.

Social distancing. Imagine you’re visiting a partnering company and need to discuss a document with people who are out of your company’s infrastructure. In such occasions, people commonly send documents via email. However, if this is just a draft, sending one document to everyone results in a plenty of different edited copies you’ll have to merge later. Sounds terrifying! Collabio’s local P2P collaboration technology can help you to collaboratively edit document at a meeting with customers or partners without the need to send or copy this document. The Collabio app will automatically save changes made by different editors in any text file or spreadsheet.

We are the new kid on the market and we see a lot of possibilities.Through the years the main trend in the industry was to move into the web, move into the cloud. Definitely web solutions have many advantages. But everything has its own price. We come up with an alternative. With our portable solution we are going to extend the list of supported platforms as much as possible. Our goal is to give a user ability to work and share documents natively on any platform, any device and our technologies can do this.

  • Lot’s of market research and our own experience show that privacy is still an issue for many users. We believe that our technologies will help to overcome this issue and we are going to continue work in this direction to build even more efficient solutions for private collaborative editing systems.
  • Internet coverage is getting better all over the world. I believe this will reduce our dependency on connectivity. But wee plan to continue work on combining local and cloud documents storage, online and p2p solutions to get best from both worlds.
  • If I look a bit further in the future… Seems like big part of work with documents consists of routine and the use Artificial Intelligence algorithms would be the best fit. Excellent example here — the work done by Grammarly team. Their correction tool has shown that real complexity here — is how to integrate ML into an editor. But what if ML can become one more collaborator for your document to help you improve grammar, address text formatting and more tasks? Follow us to not miss interesting news on this topic.

For our team, this journey has started about ten years ago at the Quickoffice company and their product Quickoffice for an iPad. When Quickoffice was acquired by Google we decided that we still want to implement ideas. We got an excellent chance to implement our ideas from scratch, with all our experience behind us.

So we selected a few principles to base our solution on:

  • Single core for all platforms with almost all the document related functions.
  • United document model, when table is the same to text, spreadsheet and presentation, so we got great level of reuse.
  • Collaboration is a base of the editor’s design.

And we set our goal to create an editor for team work. This is the first document editor that makes support of team work its primary goal.

Many believe that the history of humanity is the history of writing. Others say that team collaboration made us humans in the beginning of mankind. We are working to help to combine these two things together.

See our roadmap describing our achievements and goals.

  • In 2015–2019, we developed the core for our editors and built a strong tech base.
  • In 2020, there was an MVP and the first commercial release. We introduced the co-authoring suite for iOS and macOS with the cloudless collaboration feature and local spaces for sorting documents by projects.
  • In 2021, we are going to integrate the app with 3rd party software and services: cloud storages, task trackers, chats. Also, we’re going to create similar apps for other platforms: Windows, Android and we’ll finish our Web app.
    As for new tools for the app, we are going to extend and improve team collaboration features, introduce tools for planning work inside the document, integrate communication instruments, introduce the access levels, and enhance local collaboration.

Feel free to try the app and share your thoughts! Collabio Spaces is available on the App Store and Mac App Store.

Also, we regularly update our audience on new features and their use in everyday life on socials: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Besides, here on Medium we have handful of recommendations on productivity at work, tips for editing documents, organising working files, cooperating with teams both offline and online.

If you have any questions, recommendations or press inquiries you can contact us there or via email specified on the official website. Feel free to drop us a line and we will not delay to answer as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention! ;)

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Collabio is your way to boosting productivity thanks to both a top-notch app and our blog with dozens of useful tips. Join us and become even more productive!

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Collabio is your way to boosting productivity thanks to both a top-notch app and our blog with dozens of useful tips. Join us and become even more productive!

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