A Complete Guide To Collaborative Authoring

The way content is managed, created and published will forever be changed by collaboratie authoring. The once burdensome task of producing complex content with multiple contributors – including e-learning materials, regulatory guidance, and legal commentaries – has been transformed by advanced software. Technology is elevating collaboration within the creative process, streamlining workflows, and making content publish-ready with just a few clicks. Here’s our complete guide to collaborative authoring.


What is collaborative authoring? 

Collaborative authoring is when people work together to create, edit, and revise content. Multiple authors contribute ideas, expertise, and perspectives to produce a final product. Taking a collaborative approach to writing takes different forms. These include:


  • Co-authoring: two or more authors work together on the same piece of writing, sharing responsibility for the content and development.


  • Team writing: involves a group of writers working together on different sections or aspects of a larger document or project.


  • Peer reviews: authors review and provide feedback on each other’s work to improve its quality and accuracy before publication.


  • Online collaboration: digital tools and platforms facilitate real-time editing and commenting, allowing authors to work together remotely and asynchronously.


The tools needed for online collaboration

Publishing content in sectors such as education, law, and public services requires a range of digital tools: from project management and communication, to document sharing and version control. Here’s a table of essential digital tools:


Tool Summary Examples
Word processor An app or platform that allows multiple authors to work on the same written document simultaneously, enabling real-time editing, and commenting.
  • Google Docs
  • Microsoft Word
  • Apple Pages
Project management  Tools for organizing tasks around collaborative projects, setting deadlines, tracking progress, assigning responsibilities, and centralizing communication.
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Monday.com
Communication  Instant messaging and video conferencing platforms that facilitate real-time communication among co-creators, enabling quick discussions, and feedback exchange.
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Zoom
Version Control System (VCS) Essential for tracking changes and revisions in collaborative writing projects, especially for larger teams, and technical documentation.
  • Git
  • Mercurial
Reference management  Tools to manage references, citations, and bibliographies, organize and store references, generate citations in various formats, and facilitate collaboration.
  • Zotero
  • Mendeley
  • EndNote
Content Management System (CMS) Platforms for publishing and managing content online, providing collaborative authoring capabilities, content review, approval workflows, and user permissions.
  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
File sharing and storage Cloud storage services are essential for storing and sharing documents and resources related to collaborative writing projects.
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
Learning Management System (LMS) Learning Management Systems are used by trainers and teachers to create, deliver, and manage online courses including course creation, content sharing, and assignments.
  • Moodle
  • Educourse
  • Canvas


Need advice on choosing the right document collaboration tool for your needs? Take a look at our blog: Getting The Best Business Value From A Document Collaboration Tool.

Standard authoring vs collaborative authoring 

There are key differences between standard authoring and collaborative authoring. The right approach for your organization depends on the business case and the type of content being produced.


Standard authoring

Standard authoring relies on a single author to create and develop content. The content is typically limited to the author’s own perspective and insights. A single editor or a small group of individuals gives feedback and suggests revisions. Documents are emailed back and forth between the author and other contributors, leading to multiple versions of the same content. 

With a single author, the production time may be longer. There’s also a higher risk of errors going unnoticed, as fewer people read the manuscript or draft, or might work from different versions. Standard authoring tends to suit works of fiction that most rely on the creative efforts of one or two individuals.  


Collaborative authoring

Collaborative authoring involves multiple authors working together to create and develop content. Drawing upon multiple authors’ perspectives, expertise, and insights into a particular nonfiction topic, collaborative authoring is typically more authoritative. 

Authors can provide feedback, suggestions, and revisions to each other, leading to improved content quality. They typically work on specific areas of the content. With multiple authors working simultaneously, collaborative authoring can result in faster production times. And, with more eyes on the content, there’s a lower risk of errors going unnoticed, leading to higher-quality content.

Whether you’re involved in standard or collaborative authoring projects, structured content authoring can revolutionize the way you work. Discover more in our blog: How Structured Content Authoring Can Transform Your Publishing Workflows


The technical challenges of collaborative authoring 

Collaborative authoring has many benefits, but it also has its challenges, especially when it comes to technology and integration between different digital tools:


  • Compatibility: if various team members use different software platforms, operating systems, or versions, it can lead to compatibility issues when collaborating on documents or projects.


  • Version control: managing multiple versions of documents, and tracking multiple changes can get complicated, especially with larger projects.


  • Security concerns: sharing sensitive or proprietary information via collaboration tools poses a risk to data security, data privacy, and unauthorized access.


  • Integration issues: integrating various collaboration tools and software platforms can be challenging, leading to disjointed workflows, and communication breakdowns.


  • Learning curve: for authors and editors, learning new or multiple collaboration tools and technologies requires training and adjustment periods, slowing initial production.


The skills needed for collaborative authoring

Overcoming technical barriers is just one aspect of collaborative authoring. As with any new technology, people make or break successful implementations. That requires these skills:


  • Effective communication is crucial for collaborative authoring. Challenges can arise if collaborators have different ways of communicating.


  • Conflict resolution skills are needed to overcome differences regarding content, edits, or project direction, and maintain collaboration and productivity.


  • Time management to coordinate schedules, deadlines, and priorities across the team  – especially when different time zones and availability come into play.


  • Collaboration skills are essential. Things like: working effectively in a team, sharing ideas, providing constructive feedback, and incorporating input from others to maintain the integrity of the content.


  • Technical proficiency is needed for authors and editors using collaborative tools, navigating digital platforms, and troubleshooting technical issues that arise in production.



What to look for in a collaborative authoring platform

Choosing the right platform is one of the keys to successful collaborative authoring. Here are 7 features to consider:

1 Accessibility and ease of use

A user-friendly publishing platform can make it easier for your team members to access and navigate the collaborative authoring environment. Intuitive interfaces and straightforward features reduce the learning curve, ensuring that all team members can contribute effectively regardless of their technical proficiency.

2 Real-time collaboration features

Your chosen publishing platform should offer robust real-time collaboration features, such as simultaneous editing, commenting, and version control. These features enable seamless collaboration among team members, allowing them to work together on the same document simultaneously and see each other’s changes in real time.

3 Version control and tracking

Effective version control mechanisms are essential for managing changes, revisions, and updates to the content. A publishing platform should provide you with reliable version control features that track changes, allow for easy comparison between versions, and facilitate rollbacks to previous versions (if needed).

4 Security and privacy controls

Data security and privacy are paramount when collaborating on sensitive or proprietary content. Your publishing platform should provide robust security measures, such as access controls, to protect confidential information and prevent unauthorized access.

5 Integration with collaboration tools

Seamless integration with other collaboration tools and software platforms enhances your productivity and workflow efficiency. The publishing platform should allow for integration with your regular collaboration tools – such as project management systems, communication platforms, and file sharing services – enabling smooth communication and coordination among team members.

6 Configurability and flexibility

A flexible publishing platform that allows for configuration and adaptation to specific project requirements is essential for accommodating a diverse range of collaborative authoring workflows. The platform should offer customizable templates, workflows, and settings to tailor the collaborative authoring environment to the needs of your project, and team. 

7 Scalability and performance

As collaborative authoring projects grow in complexity and scale, the publishing platform should be able to scale accordingly and maintain optimal performance. Scalable infrastructure, reliable uptime, and responsive support services ensure that the publishing platform can handle your increasing demands and support large-scale collaborative authoring initiatives effectively.


In a collaborative authoring environment, there are various contributors using different digital tools. Writers often prefer the familiarity of Microsoft Word, whilst publishers usually need a more complex XML authoring tool. Discover how your collaborators can work on the same document in different ways in our blog: What To Look For In An XML Authoring Tool.


Collaborative authoring with PublishOne

PublishOne is an ideal platform for collaborative authoring. That’s because ‘the friendly publishing platform’ is designed with collaborative authoring in mind.

Version control is a critical aspect of collaborative authoring, ensuring that teams can track changes, revert to previous versions, and identify who made specific edits. PublishOne helps prevent conflicting changes and enable easy recovery, enhancing the efficiency and reliability of the content creation process.

Good communication is the key to collaboration, so comments and annotation features inside PublishOne allow users to provide feedback and engage in discussions about specific sections of the document. This facilitates collaboration and promotes idea sharing among team members, leading to richer and more refined content.

 Access control mechanisms in PublishOne provide granular control over who can access, edit, or view specific documents. This not only enhances security and privacy but also ensures that sensitive information remains protected throughout the collaboration process.

With PublishOne, integration is everything. It’s not just another tool siloed inside your tech stack, it’s built to integrate with all your favorite authoring tools, from Microsoft Word to XML editors. Connect your preferred communication tools – like Slack or Teams – to further streamline collaboration by facilitating real-time communication among collaborators.

On top of that, built-in notifications and alerts within the system keep your users informed about changes, comments, or other relevant activities related to the document. This ensures that team members stay updated and can respond promptly to any developments, further enhancing collaboration efficiency and effectiveness.

Built on Microsoft Azure, PublishOne’s cloud-based storage capabilities enable documents to be stored and accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, allowing your team members to work on the latest version of the document regardless of their location. This flexibility enhances productivity and enables teams to collaborate seamlessly regardless of geographical constraints.


Interested in how organizations use it to enhance their collaborative workflows? Read our case study: How Buro Zero Supports Large-Scale Publishing With Content Management From PublishOne.


To discover more about collaborative authoring using PublishOne, contact us today