Collaborative online office solutions

Many Cooks


To keep different versions separate, Etherpad also has an editing history. Editing states can be saved and played back via a timeline. Each change appears as a separate edit version. Saved versions are marked with an asterisk in the timeline to allow users to jump quickly to them.

Users can save individual versions by clicking on the asterisk in the top right corner of the browser window toolbar. To the left, you then call up the version history by clicking on Editing history . The software switches to the version view, which shows the timeline at the top and the document below (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Etherpad offers a smart approach to keeping a version history.

Jumping back in the timeline also updates the assigned version of the document. The user can also play back the entire edit history of the document via the Play button. Clicking on the Back to Pad button takes the user back to edit mode.

Ethercalc has a far larger feature set than Etherpad and also a menubar – although this is admittedly fairly rudimentary. Ethercalc also implements teamwork via individual URLs, which the respective user calls up in the web browser.

After typing the IP address of the server followed by the port number 8000 into the URL box, you are taken to a start page where you can either create a new spreadsheet or import an existing one. Ethercalc supports CSV, ODS, and XLSX files. In the test, however, it was unable to correctly read several simple ODS sample documents, making them unusable (Figure 5).

Figure 5: The Ethercalc import filters seem to need some improvement, at least in the case of ODS.


Ethercalc does not have a chat module, but participants can talk to each other via a comment function. To do this, you can click on the Comment entry at the top of the menubar, which opens a multiline field for free-text input. After typing in the comment, press the Save button.

Please note that the comment function is cell sensitive. To enable other users to understand comments, the author of the comment must place the cursor in the table cell to which their comment refers.

In the table itself, Ethercalc does not mark comments and does not indicate them by symbols or color changes. To view comments, team members instead must explicitly select the Check menu item in the table view. Only then does Ethercalc list all the comments and show the cell number in front of each comment (Figure 6). Other users assign individual remarks using this number. The software adopts the comments in real time.

Figure 6: Ethercalc logs comments and displays them in a table.

Google Docs

Docs, developed by the Internet giant Google, is a component of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. The office suite includes programs for managing texts, tables, presentations, drawings, and forms [4]. The package is exclusively available as a SaaS solution, and users need a free account with Google. Google Docs automatically saves the documents on Google Drive, a cloud-based storage solution also operated by Google. Google Docs exclusively runs in standard web browsers and can therefore be used across platforms. There are separate apps for widely used smartphone operating systems.

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