In my operating systems class, we have 8 projects for the semester, all of which must be completed in groups of 2. These labs are time-consuming to say the least, and the last thing any of us students want to do is rot together for 30 hours sitting in the university computer labs for each project. Thus, we decided to look for time-saving tools and give real-time text editors a try. Turns out, they’ve been extremely helpful, saving us from having to meet face-to-face. One such product is Stypi, a Y Combinator-backed collaborative text editor for programmers.
There are other editors that can prove useful to remote teams, like PiratePad, and PrimaryPad. Sync.in is the first one that my project partner and I tried. Stypi was the one that stuck because we could not afford to keep having syncing issues and unfortunately losing data with other text editors. In the time that we used Stypi, we distinguished some very helpful features that we will discuss further in a moment.
Like I mentioned, there are many other editors that are suitable for remote teams and allow real-time editing. One of the real-time collaborative tools that garnered quite a bit of attention when Google acquired it for integration with Google Wave is EtherPad that we covered a few years back. The service has since shut down, and so has Wave, but the need for real-time document editors for remote teams remains very much alive.
Stypi can satisfy the needs of such remote teams with three distinctive panes. The one on the left is an area where the most recently accessed files will be displayed, while the larger center pane constitutes the editor that you will spend a lot of your time in. The right pane is the area that you can make use of to chat with your colleagues in real time.
When you first visit the Stypi website, you are given a secret URL automatically. If you register for an account, which is just a matter of typing your email, a username and a password, you can keep track of all your secret URLs and source code files. One of the features that code editors will find pleasant in Stypi is syntax highlighting, so your C/C++, Java, or other code will be nicely dressed up in colors, ready for easier digesting. You can bring up the syntax highlighting option by pressing on Settings, which also offers font and color options to make your coding area less dull.
You also have the option to replay the changes that were made to the current source code file. This ensures that any absent team member can get up-to-date with the code, or that any present colleague that missed a line of code can quickly see what changed in the file.
I’ve used this service for at least 3 projects, so I’ve noticed a few things that could improve Stypi. In the chat area, for example, everything is text-based, so even if you type an URL, it won’t be clickable (yet). Another small detail is that code isn’t color-coded by author, something that most other regular real-time document editors seem to have (or at least the ones that I’ve mentioned at the beginning). I’ve also found some glitches when I create a new file and even give it a new name, but the code area remains unchanged, displaying the code of the last opened file. A page refresh seems to solve the issue though. The service was just released around September of last year, so sooner or later, it’s bound to add some features that I’m mentioning at the moment.
If you’re interested in checking out additional real-time text editors, be sure to also check CollabEdit, which I’ve found to nicely support syntax highlighting, which should be a delight for coding teams.
Do you use real-time document editors? Share your favorite tool in the comments section below.