My Herald on Sunday column dealt with the very good free software Google Writely. I haven't started doing the bulk of my word processing in Writely but what I am doing is transferring the file from Word to Writely so I can convert it into a smart looking PDF file. I'm also going to start using it to create posts for this blog as I'm not a big fan of the Blogger user interface and Writely is much smoother. Give it a go! The headline on the story was a little off, it's not designed for bloggers, but word processor users!

Google Writely sets standard for bloggers
Sunday August 6, 2006By Peter Griffin

If you spend a lot of time using word processing software, you can imagine how frustrating it is to log on to a machine that doesn't have any.
Being reduced to using Microsoft's bare-bones Wordpad program after working in Microsoft's Word or Corel's WordPerfect is a real let-down.
But I'm amazed at how many times I've logged on to computers in internet cafes, hotels and the homes of friends and found no word processing software. I have to constantly remind myself that not everyone makes a living from writing.
Still, for those who want access to the same word processing tools wherever they are, Google has the answer in its new acquisition, Writely.
Google's web-based word processing tool lets you create and edit documents quickly and easily. It's completely independent of the programs on your computer - all you'll need to run Writely is a web browser and internet access.
Anyone familiar with Microsoft Word will be at home with Writely's user interface. Pull-down menus give you all the options you'll need to put together documents and import elements such as pictures, HTML content from the web and Word documents.
Your documents are stored in your Writely account on Google's servers, and you can email documents to your Writely account to add them to the collection. Whatever security qualms you had about storing personal information in Google's Gmail service can be applied to Writely, but Google claims that the contents of documents are kept private - if we want it that way.
The most powerful element of Writely is a collaboration tool that lets several Writely users work on the same document. This is fantastic for business people who are in different locations but want to draft a letter or business proposal together. Students could do a class assignment together via the internet in real time. You simply grant access to users you want listed as collaborators. Even then you can decide whether they can merely view the document or also edit it.
Several people can work on one document simultaneously, and when their updates are saved, any changes are highlighted in a colour specific to each editor.
Another great feature is the ability to save documents as PDF files - you usually need a paid-up version of a PDF maker to do this. Documents can also be saved as OpenOffice or Word files, HTML files, RTF files and even as RSS feeds.
The service seems to be skewed towards those who are writing for the web and want to easily convert content to post on websites. Writely lets you create, format and post blog entries automatically. This is a great feature for me, as the Blogger.com interface I use to generate entries for my blog isn't very user friendly. I've been using a Blogger plug-in for Windows to write blog postings, but Writely allows you all that functionality, wherever you are. A host of common blog services such as Wordpress and LiveJournal are supported, and you can set up posts to be added to your own website domain.
Writely is entirely web-based, but I hope Google develops a desktop-based version, because although Writely is in its early days (62 per cent complete, according to the site's beta meter) it could give MS Word a run for its money if released as a free download.
Sign up is by invite only, and you can join the waiting list at www.writely.com.

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