Etherpad: Edit Stories Across Computers


Your Pandora is awesome for office applications. You already know it. You have LibreOffice in your pocket, Geany and gedit to do real code, and so much more to actually be productive when you are stuck in a small space. One thing was missing from LibreOffice : the online collaboration bit. You could try to use Google Docs with Firefox, but honestly this is a little bit too demanding for the Pandora (JS junk heavy) and it’s so slow you can make a coffee between typing two words. So, is there any solution for you, for online collaboration ? Well, there is Etherpad.

Etherpad is a node.js application (and its source is available on github, the “lite” version being the most recent iteration of it) enabling precisely just that: online collaboration for text edition, in real time. You need to install Etherpad on a server (or you can use one of the many public, free ones running Etherpad-lite instances: i can recommend for example) and then you open a room, using a unique name, through your browser.


No login, no password.

Just the room name to identify your work.

You can enter the room as long as you have the name of the room memorized. And any computer can join at the same time, so you could be working on your document on your Pandora when in the train (using your wifi connection to your phone, for example), and then switch to your computer when reaching your home, or even ask someone else to edit the document at the same time. You can identify what inputs were made from who, as each text input is highlighted depending on the color of the user who is logged in. There is even a chat function to discuss in real time with your online collaborators.


In terms of edition capability, don’t expect something highly complex or feature-full, but the most common edition elements are available and work just fine. Nonetheless, there are some features such as “import/export” in several document formats, as well as a timeslider function to review all changes on time-based slider, so that you can easily review what changed and when it occurred.

Using the timeslider function
Using the timeslider function

Now here I am, back on my computer, editing the very same text, and my input now appears in a different color:


Since most of us lead lives fragmented between multiple devices, it’s good to know you can actually use this kind of system outside of the google sphere, and that it works well on mobile CPUs as well. On Pandora, it works perfectly with Qupzilla and Firefox 26, and I’d definitely recommend it as a simple and straightforward collaborative tool. On both browsers, using the full screen mode us awesome since it gives you a lot of space to do your work and focus on the text.

The fullscreen mode. Clean, Effective, the right way to do work.
The fullscreen mode. Clean, Effective, the right way to do work.

Since all articles are potentially “open” to anyone who can guess your room name, you need to be careful not to share stuff that’s highly confidential. If you want a minimum of privacy, you probably need to make the room name long enough, or use a name generator to make it very hard for anyone to guess it. But it’s really not made for privacy, rather for collaborating with people on stuff that has no such concerns. And as it stands, it’s a simple and elegant solution to do so.

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8 Comments on "Etherpad: Edit Stories Across Computers"

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Stephan Sokolow
If you run your own copy of Etherpad Lite, you can set the config file to always require authentication and specify some users. I recommend using a service like DynDNS and running it on your home PC, given how little upstream bandwidth it requires and how easy that makes backups. Heck, while not likely to be useful, Etherpad Lite’s ~30MiB memory footprint means you could probably run it and the SQLite backend on the Pandora and still have room for a browser. Setting up your own copy is very easy. They provide an installer for Windows and, on Linux and… Read more »

You may wish to have a look at a commercial implementation of an etherpad-lite:

It’s still in beta and free for the time being.

Stephan Sokolow

The lack of professionalism in the technical aspects of that site design really worries me. If they’re that incompetent on that front, I don’t think I’d trust them with my money or my data.

Yes, you do have a point there : several sources pointed out to us that our web-frontend needed a complete rewrite, so that’s what we’ll be doing next. This is also the reason why our platform iscompletely free at the moment! At this stage, it is meant to be a concept of proof : you can have two components working together simultaneously: an online text editor (Etherpad Lite) a vocal server (FreeSWITCH) By the way, your email is stored in a one-way encryption format and it will not be given away to anyone. For the time being, feel free to… Read more »