Thursday, 18 August 2011

Documents in the Air

Having documents available online, with the possibility of working on them from different computers and sharing them with work colleagues, has been a dream of mine since I first started working in the library. Especially in this specific library where I am employed. There are nine different locations housing the collections. Access in all of them to the documents created in one place would be perhaps not essential, but very convenient. And so much better than emailing these documents to myself and to my colleagues, copying them on memory sticks and then transferring to the other computers, creating a number of versions of the same thing - a recipe for confusion (sometimes).
There are many aspects of our work where sharing and editing documents online would be very useful. For example all sorts of lists which need constant amending (reading lists, users lists, leavers lists, overdue fine lists) or indexes to classification systems (in our libraries almost every collection has its own classification system and indexes either do not exist or are not very comprehensive).
Discovering Google Docs, thanks to 23Things, was a highlight of last year's course (for me). Unfortunately as soon as I learnt about that, had created the account and started investigating it, a big disappointment came. Docs did not work as I expected!
I blogged about the Google Docs last year. Having read this text today and looking at the documents placed there I do not think that much, if any, has changed since then. Still, formatting of the documents (both in Word and Excel) is different to those in the usual office programme. Still, downloading documents from the computer files (if it is more than a couple of pages in Word or a very simple spreadsheet in Excel) takes a long time. And sharing them - even longer.
With high hopes I looked at this year's Thing 13 (!?) - the Dropbox. At first sight it looks more promising than GoogleDocs. First of all the documents which are "dropped" to the Box from existing folders are uploaded in the same format and with the same features and facilities of working on them as they are in original. As the GoogleDocs, they can be shared with work colleagues who are able to edit them, add to them, create together. But... This is where the "BUTS" start. First "BUT" is that documents can be edited only in those computers (or other e-devices) which are added to the account and have Dropbox files installed. An IT officer may not agree to this (I haven't asked yet). The second "BUT" - the programme is not completely free (only basic and small box of 2GB is free). The third "BUT" - the whole process of "dropping", opening, saving documents is not straight forward. If the document is to be worked on and the changes saved, the document has to be opened from the computer Dropbox folder, not online. If it comes from the online box then changes cannot be saved. There is of course a way- first the changed document has to be saved somewhere in the computer and then dropped to the Dropbox online, but it will not be the changed version replacing the old one but an added second (third etc.) document. A bit similar to memory stick or emailing new versions again.
I have tried this programme using my two home computers and I liked it but if I am not allowed to install Dropbox in five library computers in my workplace, the whole idea would be lost. Back to emails and memory sticks.
The best would be to have a combination of GoogleDocs with Dropbox - the docs online only, with a possibility to amend and save them from anywhere at any time and of course free!
Just dreaming...
Wikis had been looked at and blogged about in the 23Things programme last year too. I do appreciate the idea and all the possibilities which this application offers. Privately - yes, I do use the Wikipedia, as a source of quick and mostly reliable information, no matter how much criticism it receives. Also the idea of contributing to it is appealing, e.g. in cases when one can add the information about events which one has experienced or people who one knows or knew.
At the moment however I cannot identify any particular case in which Wiki(s) may be used at my work except for, of course the Wikipedia - a quick reference "book" without the necessity of going to the the shelf where Britannica lives.

1 comment:

  1. It is also possible to go to your "dropbox" online. Just surf to and sign in there. Maybe that is helpfull for you.
    You find my cpd23-blog at