Just ironing out more differences between using an EDMS (Electronic Document Management System) along with MSoffice in comparison to using a wiki.
They are both different tools and have their unique benefits and uses but sometimes they can overlap and you might want to choose one over the other…a wiki can sometimes be the choice tool for the job, only not everyone knows about their existence and that they can replace email, MSoffice, and an EDMS in certain situations. Even so, people are ingrained with email, they have to learn to let go and at the same time learn something new, it’s not always easy.
Anyway lately I’ve found that instead of using an EDMS and MSWord for collaborative brainstorming a wiki has been just awesome.
When using a wiki people cannot edit the same page similtaneously (it’s controlled for one at a time just like a EDMS). Instead of files, a wiki uses webpages, make as many webpages as you like…the content is written in the webpage, whereas the alternative is to write the content in a file (MSWord) and store it in an EDMS. You have to make a folder in your EDMS and store all the files, whereas in a wiki the folder is the homepage, and the files are webpages.
The difference is instead of a filing cabinet we get a website, very presentable and smooth, it just feels right…take advantage of designing it into a real homepage (website).
Also in the end the wiki can be used as a presentation tool as the website design and navigating is an appropriate presenting medium, this is not so with a folder full of files in an EDMS.
NOTE: I thought of using a forum, but each wiki page has comments anyway, plus using just a forum is just for discussion, whereas with a wiki you can communally edit the same page, and the brainstorming can be refined into the final product.
Regardless, both systems (a wiki or MSWord plus an EDMS) achieve the same fundamental task, people can collaborate on documents with the security of version control:
- automatic email notification of changes
- create a new document
- edit an existing document
- version control…as only one person can edit a given item at a time
- stores previous versions of items
- shows highlighted (red mark-up) changes
At this stage I’ll say that an EDMS has the advantage that every item can be assigned metadata, not sure if any of the sophisticated wikis enable metadata. ie. search for wiki pages from an author, search in the title, etc…
And obviously a wiki only comprises of webpages, whereas an EDMS can store various file types. That’s the difference between storing content (EDMS) and being the content (wiki).
Tracking red mark-up changes
In an EDMS people can edit a document (one at a time, this is control), if you make changes to a document and save it back to the EDMS, others will not know what these changes are…what you can do is compare the previous version to the new version, but it is a bit hard to see the differences.
The easiest way to actually see the differences is to compare these in MSWord via the Track Changes function…you can compare a document to the current document, your current document will automatically highlight the differences.
The above scenario assumes you don’t care to display highlighted changes, you just want to share the document for editing and keep a version history. If you are collaborating on a document and you want to see highlighted changes what you can do is activate the MSWord Track Changes feature, this allows people to make edits to a document, these edits are highlighted with red mark-up. Everyone can have a go at making changes, in the end the owner of the document can choose to accept or reject these edits (once the edits have been accepted the highlighted changes disappear).
eg. the 10th version will display the accumulated red mark-up from all the subsequent versions, but how will the owner know which person made which changes…if 10 people made changes, you are going to have to look at all 10 versions to see the red mark-up change from each person.
NOTE: I’ve been told MSWord 2005 displays red mark-up within the document as usual, but also re-displays this as a summary at the end of the document.
In a wiki everytime you edit a document and save a wiki page you make a new version of that document, you are also able to view older versions of that document and compare them just like an EDMS, you can also revert an older version as the current version.
Wikis also have a changes register which is kind of like an audit trail, it records and timestamps who has edited a wiki page and highlights (red mark-up) just the excerpts of the changes
eg. on this date, on this page, this person made these changes
…the text excerpt could be just one line showing a spelling correction.
This is all automatic whereas in an EDMS you have to make sure the MSWord Track changes is always on, and who wants this always on, documents look messy with this activated.
MSWord tracks changes (red mark-up) if you activate it (to the discretion of the owner of the document), you may choose not to activate it even though you are communally editing a document, it so happens you may not be concerned with see the changes in red mark-up for some documents. In hindsight if you actually do want to see the changes to a past document it’s too late…the best you can do is view the Track Changes>Compare Documents feature. That means if you have 20 versions of the same document you’d have to compare all of them, and you can only do two at a time.
The benefit of MSWord Track Changes is that the changes are in context, you can see the changes made to the document as you are reading it (red mark-up is shown within the document).
In a wiki the mark-up changes are always on (you don’t have to turn it on), this is a real advantage, but the difference is that the changes are kept in a separate section from the wiki page. You can’t view an old version of a webpage and see the changes that were made within the page, ie. you can’t see changes in context…you have to view this in the changes register.
This means that when you are collaborating on a wiki page you can’t see the red mark-up changes on the page itself, you need to also have the changes page open and view what’s been added and what’s been deleted.
It would be good to see an option in a wiki where you can click on any version and have a toggle to include the changes compared to the previous version, all displayed within the document.
In this respect the mark-up changes feature in a wiki would incorporate the pro’s of the MSWord Track changes function, plus its own powerful way of tracking changes, making a wiki the ultimate collaboration and tracking changes tool.
I’ve only used a couple of wikis so this could very much be a feature in other wikis.
What other experience or tools have people had with tracking red mark-up changes?
Services like Writely add to this picture…with online wordprocessors you can also collaborate on documents, the owner of the document allows others editing rights.
It will also save a version history, so you can always see earlier versions of a document, and even compare them.
But unlike MSWord or a wiki you can’t view the highlighted changes:
- in MSWord you view them within the document (in context)…and perhaps as a list at the end of a document (out of context)
- in a wiki you view them in the changes list (out of context)
But as we mentioned it is always on in a wiki, whereas with MSWord you have to turn it on, the only thing you can do in hindsight is use the compare documents feature.
This is where I think online wordprocessors like Writely can take off, if they in the future include a changes register like a wiki, they will be in great competition with desktop wordprocessing.
In fact, if they add a changes register (red mark-up), along with the present features, such as, version history (plus communal editing), then this kind of negates the need for MSWord coupled with an EDMS.
- a URL for each item
- email notification or RSS to notify a new version of an item
- comments (just like MSWord and a wiki)
- version history (and compare documents)
- communal editing
- red mark-up changes history for each item
(a timestamped list of when a change was made and by whom, and when you expand an item in this list it shows the excerpts of where the changes were made, with changes highlighted in red mark-up)
(display red mark-up changes from the previous version within the current version, and enable to toggle the display on or off…this way you don’t always have to view ugly red mark-up)
(like a wiki track changes is always on…unlike MSWord)
If Writely were to be equipped with all these features, then we wouldn’t need an EDMS to control version history of documents, or to collaborate on documents, or for email notifications of new versions
…all we’d need an EDMS for is a repository to store items (of various formats), metadata, and to search.
The good thing about an EDMS is that it is a central repository, so people that share documents can find them in this one place…but can’t a wiki do this, a wiki page can be a folder, and the document files can be links listed on this wiki page, as now online wordprocessing documents have URL’s.