October 28, 2009

EtherPad – Collaborate in Real-Time


EtherPad is an online-based word processor that allows users to collaborate on projects and work together in real-time. Rather than emailing documents back-and-forth or mistakenly overwriting the work someone else has done, EtherPad allows multiple users to edit the same text document at once—while highlighting each person’s text on the screen to avoid confusion. Although there are a handful of online word processors that allow users to collaborate on documents, EtherPad stands apart by introducing real-time text editing that makes each user’s keystrokes visible on their collaborators’ computer screens instantly.

Getting started with EtherPad is easy. Simply open up a pad, begin typing, and email the document’s unique URL to anyone you wish. Each user’s text is highlighted in a different color, to avoid confusion over who is typing what, and the most recent version can be saved by any user at any time. To look back at older versions of the document, just click on the Saved Revisions tab. In addition, EtherPad features a scrolling chat box along the right hand side of the screen, allowing collaborators to discuss their revisions before making any changes. When the project is complete, simply export the document as a Word, PDF, Plain Text or HTML file.

For users who need a higher level of security—such as if you are working on a business presentation—EtherPad also offers a Professional Edition, which is free for up to three users and $8 per month for teams of four or more. By signing up for the Professional Edition, users are guaranteed a higher level of security, including password-protected documents, individual user accounts, and global project lists for everyone in your organization. Overall, EtherPad’s streamlined design and innovate real-time technology make it the ideal solution for coworkers or classmates looking to collaborate on a text-based project.

Practical Uses:

  • Keep group meeting notes in a centralized location
  • Work remotely rather than going into the office to collaborate on a project
  • Maintain a shared record of ideas during business meetings
  • Collaborate on class notes with your peers

Insider Tips:

  • Click on Saved Revisions to view an older version of the document
  • Invite up to 16 users to collaborate on a document at on time
  • Sign up for Private Network Edition to keep sensitive documents behind a secure firewall

What we liked:

  • Highlighted text makes it easy to determine who is responsible for what parts of the document
  • Ability to export the document as a Word, PDF, Plain Text or HTML file
  • Chat box makes it easy to discuss the document without making any changes
  • Option to choose your own URL for a document, even while using the free service

What we didn’t like:

  • Because free pads aren’t linked to individual users, there’s no way to recover a document if you lose the original URL


Company Info:

  • Launched: November 2008
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: San Francisco, California
  • Founded by: AppJet
  • Web site:


  • Public Pads are free
  • Professional Edition free for up to 3 users, $8 per month for 4 or more users
  • Private Network Edition is $99 per user

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