Recent advancements in online tools have evolved our life in several aspects. Content Collaboration Tools is one such progress. They come in handy, not just to business organisations but to individuals as well. You can create, structure and edit your documents in-real time without worrying about being in the same space.
The idea of a collaborative environment might seem great but choosing the best for yourself is a big hassle. When I first got into it, it seemed puzzling to choose one for my purpose. So, I decided to try them all and came up with this collection of top Content Collaboration Tools mentioned ahead.
What you seek out of collaborative tools could be different from someone else. I for one prefer self hosted solutions. But platform hosted tools have their own importance and charm.
Platform Hosted Tools
Google, Microsoft and a few other massive companies have their own content collaboration tools.
Pros: Stable and centralized, making it more robust and requires pretty much no configuration.
Cons: Centralized and if someone gains access to any of your connected accounts, they can see all of your documents easily.
When your documents are saved on the servers of these massive companies, do keep in mind that humans work in such companies, no matter how “hands off” they claim the process to be. That being said, if you’re just writing for small projects or some homework then, generally the ease of Platform Hosted tools suits best for you.
Lark is a platform hosted tool, released in April 2019 by Bytedance - same company that produced TitTok and is available for all major platforms (except standalone Linux application) and has a fully functional web application. It’s more like a workplace environment and content collaboration is a significant block of it.
The user interface of the collaboration tool pretty much resembles the Wordpress content editor, Gutenberg. So, if you are already in touch with Gutenberg, Lark would seem next to home for you. It comes with a bundle of other tools which might suit the needs of big organisations. If you’re a small team however this could feel very bulky in the beginning.
Word Count is just one selection away. Just select the text and you can see word count on the bottom right corner.
Both speed and auto-save works pretty well and it's almost as fast as google docs.
Ease of use: 8/10 (being a part of big application it seems a bit bulky for personal use)
Security & Privacy: 5/10
Almost everyone has a google account these days. Most of the products released by google have that premium touch to it. Google Docs is no exception when you think about content collaboration tools. You might skip over this beast, but do give it a try. It has almost everything that you need and more.
If you’re someone who makes a living by content-writing, you will probably appreciate the word counter feature that it comes with. If you can't see it when you first open up google docs, simply press Ctrl+Shift+C or go to Tools > Word Count to enable the word count section.
Auto save works amazingly fast. Auto-save is a feature that almost all the major content collaboration tools have but google simply seems to do it better.
When it comes to speed, google docs performs really well compared to microsoft word online. The experience felt amazing especially in collaboration mode where the speed matters.
Ease of use: 10/10
Security & Privacy: 5/10
Microsoft Word Online
If you’ve ever used a computer you’ve most probably used Microsoft Word regardless of the OS that you prefer. Microsoft has dominated the content creation space in both business and personal spaces.
That being said it has fallen a bit behind compared to its competition when it comes to cloud based online tools. The ease of use and the style also feels a bit dated compared to the competition. It surpasses any other tool on this list when it comes to the amount of features. Word has been around since 1989 and it shows. Speed does leave much to be desired however.
Ease of use: 9/10
Security & Privacy: 5/10
So what should I choose?
Well, I won't recommend a particular platform. Choice varies as per usage.
But here’s what i conclude:
Google Docs as a standalone seems quite commendable for document-oriented small-scale teams while Lark is a bulky collection of multiple tools focused mainly on organisational use. Microsoft Word is completely out of competition because of its retro look and slow speed but has a really vast variety of features that you might like.
Self Hosted Tools
Most of the world’s best tools out there are open source and that’s a fact. Think, VS code, Chromium based browsers (Chrome & Firefox), TensorFlow and much more. Most big companies have given up on competing with open source software and have joined them instead. Even Microsoft has jumped ship from the Chakra engine to Chromium.
Setting up a self hosted solution can be a bit technically challenging if you don’t know about it or don’t have someone who can set it up for you. But the amount of privacy, security and feeling of control it provides is priceless. It’s like the difference between renting and owning your own home.
That being said, the security and privacy depends upon the measures you take to secure your self hosted tool. You could compare it to having doors and locks to your self hosted home except you get to choose the locks and you are responsible for everything. Granted this does feel a bit scary for some people but if you have a good security team or are skilled yourself this option is the best.
Etherpad is an open-source, content collaboration tool. You can get the entire source-code on
Github. Self hosting is the key feature of Etherpad, which is clearly not meant for non-techies as it can be full of hassle.There are several instances of Etherpad already running on the web
(You can find one here) but that clearly demerits the entire purpose of the self-hosted tool.
When self-hosted, no other tool can match its security level, provided it is configured correctly.
Simplicity is another feature of the Etherpad as there are no login requirements. But you can add a login system if you wished. The contribution of each member is well highlighted.
Plugins like word count and many more can be installed if the tool is self hosted. Or, you can go for the desired instances of this tool.
Speed-wise etherpad is highly commendable and gives perfect real-time experience to users.
Ease of use: 9/10
Setup: Hard (When self-hosted)
Security & Privacy: 9/10 (When self-hosted)
At the end of the day all that really matters is what feels the most comfortable to you. If you prefer speed and reliability google docs is probably the way to go, If you’re looking for something that has a lot of team centric features then Lark might be of interest to you. Microsoft Word Online has an ocean of features and if you’re writing for a complex project it might be very useful.
If you bother about your secrecy then self hosted Etherpad seems the best choice, Though it comes with a difficulty of installation process. But if you love to tinker then it might best suit your interest. I prefer etherpad personally but if you don’t want to deal with technical hassle and at the same time love the speed and simplicity of this tool, Then give a try to pre-existing instances of Etherpad.