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I have a large project where I need to have 10 people editing different portions of what will eventually become the same document. Though my preference for something like this might be using LaTeX the editors here aren't knowledgeable on the subject...so I'm stuck in Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007.

Right now we're stuck using a very kludgey macro-driven/outline-based document, where a macro points to a sub-document. Other macros then build the whole document. Unfortunately, when we need to change something in the outline this macro driven system seems to be causing substantial pain.

Is there a way to allow multiple users to edit different portions of the same document concurrently? If not, is there a way to split up the document and reassemble it later using built-in functionality?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you have 10 people editing the same document, I am guessing you are a large(ish) company with full copies of Microsoft Office.

Take a look at Groove in the suite, it should allow you to do what you need - multiple people on the same document.

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Thanks -- I am part of a large company, and this looks like what we're looking for. –  Mark Elliot Sep 27 '09 at 15:44

Having the document be stored in a Dropbox allows multiple users to edit it sync the changes, though I'm not sure how well it handles concurrency. I think Google Documents allows something like this, but that also may not be exactly what you're looking for.

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This isn't really a good idea for the environment suggested. Using Dropbox wouldn't really be any better than just storing the files on a network share - which if 10 people are using it, it probably is already. Opening the same file and saving changes with drop box will cause sync issues - and the only option is which one to keep. With a UNC share, one gets open for real and the others as read only. –  William Hilsum Sep 27 '09 at 15:50
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Yeah, I sort of missed the large-project thing and assumed it was for something smaller. –  DeadlyBrad42 Sep 27 '09 at 15:57

If you don't need all of the fancy word style stuff while this document is being created, it might be easier to set up a wiki or source control server, then assign somebody to copy it to Word and add the styling at the end of the project. That way, you get the HUGE benefits of being able to track changes and go back to any point in the history of the document.

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You might like to try XpressDox. (Disclosure: I am the developer of XpressDox)

The way I would approach it is to take your full document, and then cut-and-paste the different parts that are to be edited by the 10 different people, saving each part as a separate document, say "Doc1", "Doc2", etc.

In the main document, in the place where the wording for Doc1 is required, put the XpressDox command:

«IncludeTemplate(Doc1)»

And, of course, similarly for all the other documents up to Doc10.

Save the main document (containing the IncludeTemplate commands) using the "Save Template" button in the XpressDox ribbon in Word (if you save it and the Doc n files in the same folder then you won't need to include path information in the IncludeTemplate commands). Then whenever that template is run (using the XpressDox "Run Template" button), the full document will be reassembled. This can be done any number of times as a sort of preview until all the editors have finished.

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If you're more interested in content that formatting for now, Google Docs would be a good free solution. Multiple people can edit the same document simultaneously.

If you definitely want to use Word, you could use master documents/subdocuments to split the document up. Each subdocument could be edited independently, but would still be linked into the master document. If you choose this option, be very careful to make frequent backups -- it's rather easy for master documents to get corrupted (although this seems to be improved with more recent versions of Word).

If you have the budget, you could take a look at Author-It or MadCap Flare/Blaze.

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