Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor

Draft. Version control for writing

Feb 1, 2013 —

Not too long ago I wrote a post about writing in version control. I essentially argued that keeping plain text or Markdown files in version control—using GitHub for collaboration—was a far better solution than Track Changes in Word, or any other existing solution.

There is, however, a huge barrier to entry. Even when using the elegantly simple GitHub Mac app, the learning curve is too steep for most people to try it. Essentially, I identified a problem, but the solution I posed was far too nerdy.

Today Nate Kontny announced a project called Drafts:

A lot of folks try to end up learning Git, which is a popular version control system used by software developers. It really is a great tool if you’re in software development. But even as a developer it’s full of headaches. Writers don’t need all this added complexity and overhead to manage versions of their work.

Draft solves this. Draft is a distraction free editor that auto-saves as you type. But as you go along, you can mark major versions of your work.

When you share your document, any changes your collaborator makes are on their own copy of the document, and you get to accept or ignore each individual change they make.

This sounds brilliant; a simple solution to a real problem. At this stage it’s a web app. In the future I’d love to see a native app to compliment the web service. Something that gave you a local file of the most recent version. So you could work offline, so you could use your favourite editor—but most importantly—so your master copy wasn’t tied up in a web service.

A native app could be as invisible as Dropbox, with all collaboration actually taking place on the web. Or it could be a full blown editor with all the collaboration features of the web app.

I’m looking forward to trying it.

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