Use Online Tools to Avoid File Management Headaches(2)

Four of my staff members and I just completed a grant application where the funding agency required use of 10 separate word processing and spreadsheet documents to write the application. By the time we each gave input, we were at a loss as to how to merge multiple versions of all these files into a coherent set of files for the final application. Adding dates to file names didn't help. Neither did using folders for each version. What could we have done differently?

I've mentioned Web-based applications such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets or Zoho in previous columns, but this question provides the perfect opportunity to remind readers about the collaboration feature of these tools. Here's what you can do in the future to gather input and avoid the file management headaches you describe here.

  1. Upload the files provided in the grant application to Google Docs & Spreadsheets or to Zoho.
  2. Use the Collaborate or Share feature to give review and editing permissions to the people who will be working on the files and to send them an E-mail link to the documents.
  3. Ask collaborators to make comments/suggestions online, each using a different text color.
  4. Incorporate appropriate changes into the online document and delete extraneous comments. (Remember: If necessary, you can review the document history and revert to earlier versions if someone accidentally deletes important text.)
  5. Download the final documents to your computer.

Next Tip: TBA