Writeboard is live 03 Oct 2005

142 comments Latest by yang

Writeboard logoToday we officially announce Writeboard (and here’s what it looks like for those visual thinkers). It’s free and available as a standalone hosted web app. It’s also integrated into Backpack if you have a Backpack account. More on the Backpack integration below.

What is Writeboard?
Writeboard is a web-based writing tool. It lets you simply write, share, revise, and compare text. With Writeboard you can write solo or collaborate with as many people as you’d like. Writeboard isn’t about heavy text formatting, or WYSIWYG, it’s about the text itself. The words on the page. If you care about design and layout, you’re best bet is to take the finalized text from a writeboard and import it into a page layout program. Make your magic in the right tool.

Why Writeboard?
We always build products that we need, and over the years we found that we really needed a tool to collaborate on smaller chunks of text. If you’re writing a 100 page document you’ll probably want to use a dedicated word processor. However, 90% of the time you write, you write small chunks of text and often times you want someone else to review the text, make a few edits, and pass it back to you with their version plus the previous version(s) so you can see what changed (and even roll back if you don’t like the changes).

Sure, there’s email, but man, email sucks as an editing environment. Cascades of quoted paragraphs, no version control, no easy ability to see what changed in a block of text, etc.

Sure, there’s MS Word and other word processing programs, but they’re overkill for smaller chunks of text (who else out there is frustrated when they have to open Word to write a few paragraphs?). Plus, there’s the overhead of sending files, making sure someone else has the right program to open them, and then dealing with the often confusing and bloated “track changes” functionality found in commercial word processing products. It sucks to use these products to write a one page letter, or a two-paragraph product description, or draft and edit a blog post, etc.

So Writeboard solves the simple collaborative text editing problem by introducing simple web-based text pages, simple version control, and simple change reviews.

It’s fast
Writeboard doesn’t require an account. Just name a writeboard, give it a password, and enter your email address and the writeboard is ready to type. Just go to Writeboard.com any time and create a new writeboard. 5-10 seconds. Literally.

Where are all those fancy “WOW! WOAH!” features?
Where’s the MS Word export? Or the real-time live editing with other people? Or the WYSIWYG editing mode? Or the ability to drag and drop text around to reorder paragraphs? They’re in JotSpot Live and Writely. If you need that stuff check them out. If you just want to write, share, revise, and compare quickly, easily, and with minimal fuss, check Writeboard out.

What would I use it for?
Here are some quick examples.

What does it look like?
Here’s a 1-page quick tour.

What about that Backpack integration you talked about above?
Starting today, if you have a Backpack account, you’ll see a “Writeboards” tab in Backpack. This allows you to create writeboards inside Backpack. Plus, when you create writeboards inside Backpack, all those writeboards will be listed inside Backpack for easy retrieval. Further, you can import any writeboard into Backpack and even attach writeboards to any Backpack page via the new “writeboards” button at the top of every Backpack page. It’s pretty slick.

Now what?
Check out Writeboard!

142 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Kyle 03 Oct 05

What Writeboards button?

Deirdre Saoirse Moen 03 Oct 05

There’s a tab between Pages and Reminders. Went live sometime last night.

Also, there’s a button between Images and Links at the top of each page.

paul haine 03 Oct 05

So, it’s a Wiki, yeah?

Stefan Seiz 03 Oct 05

Ahem - no offense - but doesn’t the URL look a little ridiculous? Don’t we all agree, that usability on the web starts with a url one can actualy remember - a URL that makes sense?

Other than that, thanks for finaly bringing DIFF to the rest of us.

sj 03 Oct 05

Congrats gentlemen - I’ve been waiting to see this one for a while. We’re working on a new administrative backend at our office (one in which writers and editors from around the country could easily collaborate on documents, track versions, etc.) and I’m wondering if we’d be able to save the development time and just use this. Either way, I’m instantly seeing multiple uses for my own stuff.

As always, it’s great to see what you guys are able to come up with. Best…

JF 03 Oct 05

Re: the URL. Well, if you use Writeboard with Backpack there’s never a URL to remember.

And as far as remembering URLs, I don’t actually think that’s important. Can you remember the URL of the item you want to buy at Amazon? Can you remember the URL of that New York Times story you just read?

Plus, if you you ever do forget a Writeboard URL, you can recover all Writeboards attached to your email address here.

Anyhow, that’s for another SvN post. I’ll put something up about URLs soon.

Stefan Seiz 03 Oct 05

Jason, i figured the real use is integration in Backpack. Concerning Amazon, this is shopping - a one time thing. Buy and forget. Writeboard seems to be all about revisions so multiple visits to the page are very likely. Apple, Adobe Macronedia all offer nice shorcuts and for me it is very valuable to just have to remember macromedia.com/fireworks and such. It is good though, that you have a feature to recover writeboards by email.
And yes, i do have bookmarks in my browser but not “anywhere” i go. So IMHO, i’d have prefered to have my writeboards tied to an account with a login i can remember… Or a clever URL “/stefan/enormicom” — but that’s just me.

Rick Roberts 03 Oct 05

Congratulations! I love Writeboard. I can use WB docs for things I would have made a new Backpack page and not add to my pages quota. Nice.

Bye bye text files on my computer. Hello, WB files on the net and available from anywhere.

paul haine 03 Oct 05

“Can you remember the URL of the item you want to buy at Amazon? Can you remember the URL of that New York Times story you just read?”

No, I can’t, but that’s actually quite annoying, you know? It doesn’t make it OK just because a couple of big names do the same.

Chris 03 Oct 05

it’s just email?

everyone can use and has email so why try to reinvent the wheel when it’s spinning just fine?

Rick Roberts 03 Oct 05

For those concerned about remembering URLs, get a Backpack account. It’s free or $5. Or email the URL to yourself. Or put the URL in your bookmarks list on your Google homepage (google.com/ig). Or use del.ico.us. And there’s .mac bookmark syncing.

For me, the cryptic URL is part of the security. This is not a big deal.

JF 03 Oct 05

Email? It’s nothing like email.

Stefan Seiz 03 Oct 05

One last comment concerning URLs.
Amazon and the Times are nicely remembered by Google for me. I am not sure i want google to remember all my brilliant papers on writeboard — i am neither sure google wants to.
For me it isn’t the times anyway, it is “Die Zeit” and i can always find the article i just read since the last issue is always to be found in my WC ;-)

JF 03 Oct 05

One last comment concerning URLs…

Bookmark a page if you want to remember it. That’s what browser bookmarks are for.

Anyhow… ;)

Rick Roberts 03 Oct 05

“Please lets not even get started about security through obscurity.”

I didn’t say ALL of the security. I said PART of the security.

JF 03 Oct 05

Stefan, every Writeboard is protected by a password.

Danno 03 Oct 05

If you don’t mind my asking, what was the decision behind not using AJAX for dynamically viewing edits as they’re made?

That is, what were the opinions behind this software that directed that decision?

Gnome 03 Oct 05

I have one minor complaint. I signed up for an e-mail the “minute you launch” on writeboard.com several months ago. Regardless that I knew about the writeboard launch due to my daily blog readings I still think it’s bad ju-ju to offer a launch notification and not follow through.

CS 03 Oct 05

“It’s just email?” …


You haven’t tried, that’s for sure…

Rick Roberts 03 Oct 05

Ditto, Gnome. No notification email here either.

Brady 03 Oct 05

Gnome: I was thinking the same thing. I’m pretty sure I dropped my email off to be notified when writeboard goes live. What a seemingly waste of time. I agree those who perform such an action to be notified should be first to know.

JF 03 Oct 05

If you don’t mind my asking, what was the decision behind not using AJAX for dynamically viewing edits as they’re made?

We’re not believers in real-time group editing. Sure, it’s useful 5% of the time, but mostly it’s a technology showcase and not a practical solution to collaborative editing. “Collaborative” generally doesn’t mean real-time. It means people write, share, revise, and compare.

So Writeboard is a 95% of the time solution. Real-time editing tools are 5% solutions. At least that’s our opinion.

David Heinemeier Hansson 03 Oct 05

We’re sending out the notifications now. But we just wanted to ramp out slightly more gently that the onslaughter of all the signups would allow us to do. That way we could catch any last-minute bugs before exposing them to all.

And I think we are ramping up pretty quickly. There’s no preferred “invitation” system, there’s no beta tag, we’re live for all to see and use.

Anyway, I take it with a broad smile that you guys wanted to get going with Writeboard as soon as possible ;)

JF 03 Oct 05

Gnome, the newsletter was sent. It may take a little time to process the batch, but it’s been sent. You should be receiving it any time now.

Anonymous Coward 03 Oct 05

every Writeboard is protected by a password
Yes, i read that. And it is good like that and the reason i didn’t think the cryptic urls have anything to do with security. IMHO, they are just a short hash which offers enough variations and at the same time doesn’t need much storage space in the backend database.

Well, 10 people, 10 opinions — one of them mine. I look forward to your SVN Article about URLs.

Carl 03 Oct 05

I signed up to be notified when wireboard went live also… no email here either.

Next time I won’t sign up since it obviously doesn’t give you anything in return… 37signals just gets to gobble up your email address.

What ISN’T Web 2.0?

- Fishing for emails by pretending to notify the sucker as soon as a product launches

JF 03 Oct 05

Next time I won’t sign up since it obviously doesn’t give you anything in return… 37signals just gets to gobble up your email address.

Man, some people are overly cynical. We aren’t fishing for anything. The email has been sent. Check your spam filters too — perhaps it was caught in there.

Gnome 03 Oct 05

I knew I should have waited before posting. I figured you probably had a large batch and it was just taking some processing time. I think it’s great that you 37 Signals folks are so quick to respond. I rescind my complaint, thanks!

I also just jokingly bragged to my co-workers that DHH himself responded to my blog comment. It’s almost as good as speaking to him in person! :)

Gnome 03 Oct 05

Ha! And as I hit post on my latest comment my Gmail notifier went off and there was a shiny new message from JF. Almost creepy!

Jamie 03 Oct 05

Jason and team, I’m curious about the non-support of IE5. That is such a huge slice of the browser pie. I realize that you (along with me) have moved on to IE6 or Safari or Firefox, but what about the other 80%?

Writeboard is probably targeted towards niche markets, but why not open the floodgates? Simple, great apps for everyone?

TM 03 Oct 05

I didn’t see a response to this at all though someone else asked it:

How is writeboard any better than a wiki? Maybe you have plans for it in the future, but it seems a Wiki handles everything you mention:

- A Wiki lets you simply write, share, revise, and compare text

- With a Wiki you can write solo or collaborate with as many people as you’d like

- A Wiki has version control

- A Wiki doesn’t have to be about heavy text formatting, or WYSIWYG

Is this the Wiki for people who have no idea what a Wiki is maybe?

- TM

JF 03 Oct 05

80% of the people aren’t using IE 5.

Sam Hastings 03 Oct 05

Looks like a great product, but why aren’t you using semantic tags for your form fields?

TM 03 Oct 05

OK, I just read this in your FAQ:

Is this some sort of wiki?

No way. Not at all. Nope. Wikis are icky. Writeboard is about writing and editing solo or with others. It’s all about the words. Wikis are about way more than that which is why they are generally pretty confusing to most folks.

I don’t think that’s fair. You’ve basically made an easy-to-use Wiki, but seem to be passing it off as something totally different.

It really is just a Wiki.

JF 03 Oct 05

TM, ask people who don’t know what a wiki is to write, share, revise, and compare with a wiki. Then ask them to do it with Writeboard. You’ll see the difference.

Gnome 03 Oct 05

I think a wiki is overkill for many of the uses Writeboard would offer to an individual or small group. Why go through all the overhead of setting up (and hosting) a wiki if you just need a quick place to throw some ideas.

Chris Harrison 03 Oct 05

Great work on this initial launch of Writeboard, Jason. I played around with it a little bit earlier this morning. I like the Backpack integration… that’s what really sells it for me.

When are ya going to have something like this incorporated into Basecamp?

Jake 03 Oct 05

Great product guys, I love it!

BTW, I received the notification email…that’s how I knew it launched. :)

Mike Moscow 03 Oct 05

Nice!, Backpack/Writeboard is the sh*t!

Dan Boland 03 Oct 05

Great job on Writeboard, guys. I’ve appreciated the effort and results of your previous apps, but this one seems like one I’ll use on a fairly regular basis.

I think all the bitching about the URL is crazy. People don’t seem to realize that short, concise URLs aren’t possible all the time. Use your damn bookmarks, that’s what they’re for. And if you’re a different machine, check the e-mail address. It’s not hard.

I do have one question for you… why the inability to remove versions? Is it the “oops” factor?

Mark Gallagher 03 Oct 05

Congrats on the launch, one point of discussion…..

JF wrote: “Sure, there’s email, but man, email sucks as an editing environment. Cascades of quoted paragraphs, no version control, no easy ability to see what changed in a block of text, etc.”

I’ve used email (primarily Notes in a large corporate environment) for years to edit text (usually a few paragraphs) with teams of 2 to 5 people. It works well for quick editing of small amounts of text. Easy to send out a draft, your team member sends you back proposed changes using the font formatting buttons (underline text, strikethrough or colored type) to show changes. Version control is not perfect, but it works pretty well by just viewing the order of responses to your inbox.

With Writeboard, my team (communicators) needs to insert (and learn) a bit of code to highlight edits in the form of new text or deleted text. Is that correct ?

Thanks. Mark

Brad 03 Oct 05

Here are the two main impacts that I think Writeboard will have for me:

1. It removes the main barrier I had to using Backpack for real work, because I needed some form of versioning control for documents. Ditto for Basecamp.

2. It allows me to use my Mac for writing work now without having to buy Word for Mac. The only reason I couldn’t use Pages or AppleWorks for my work is that there is no “track changes” feature in those programs. Now I can either use WriteBoard directly or use TextEdit in conjunction with WriteBoard.

JF 03 Oct 05

When are ya going to have something like this incorporated into Basecamp?

That’s coming next. Backpack first (it’s simpler to integrate). Basecamp next.

Cameron Barrett 03 Oct 05

This looks great. Does WriteBoard have an API? It would totally rock if WriteBoard could publish directly to MovableType blogs, TypePad blogs, WordPress blogs, etc.

What we all dream of is a series of open web-based tools that can supplant the corporate hegemony of Microsoft Office,and do it without locking companies into expensive proprietary systems and document formats.

JF 03 Oct 05

With Writeboard, my team (communicators) needs to insert (and learn) a bit of code to highlight edits in the form of new text or deleted text.

No, not at all. Writeboard does that for you. Just check off two versions and click the Compare button. Writeboards compares what’s old and what’s new between the versions.

Cameron Barrett 03 Oct 05

To add on to my previous thoughts, it makes sense to have WriteBoard have some kind of API so that it can import and export data. With a strong API, WriteBoard could be made to export its data/documents in other formats: CVS, Subversion, MS Word, Text, etc.

While WriteBoard is really cool, I would not like to see my documents locked up on a server I do not have control over, even if the company is cool (not evil) and leading the charge of useful web-based applications.

Another cool feature for WriteBoard would be some kind of automated backup. For instance, the files in WriteBoard can be emailed automatically once a week or once a month. Or if an plugin for MovableType existed it could automatically publish to a private blog somewhere so you at least know your data is stored in a MySQL database somewhere that you hav emore control over.

endekks 03 Oct 05

Ironically, I also didn’t receive the “tell me about Writeboard the instant it’s released” until after I got the RSS feed for this SvN entry - which was also actually several hours after I noticed the Writeboard link on my Backpack page and had already started making a few pages!

Not that I am miffed or anything, as I felt kind of special with the half a day time difference between the US and Japan, so I was able to start playing around with it hours before many Backpack users were even awake.

Keep up the good work, guys. I’ve been wanting a decent Wiki that I could somehow tie into Backpack, and you just saved me the hassle of looking for something.

JF 03 Oct 05

While WriteBoard is really cool, I would not like to see my documents locked up on a server I do not have control over, even if the company is cool (not evil) and leading the charge of useful web-based applications.

You can export a Writeboard at any time. Click the “Export” button at the top of any Writeboard. There’s no lock in.

Rahul Sinha 03 Oct 05

It looks great, but a few “areas for improvement”

* as a Basecamp user, could we have some integration too ;-)
* when you send an email out from within Writeboard… it would be nice if one could choose to have replies to it come from the author’s email address (or an arbitrary one)

Needless to say this last isn’t necessary for everyone; a small “more options” link that expands the email-out interface to provide those options would be nice.


Frank Westphal 03 Oct 05

Last edit wins?

How is Writeboard supposed to enable collaboration if you effectively overwrite the edits other people have made in parallel? I cannot see who else is currently logged in and therefore am likely to reset their changes. Are we supposed to merge versions in a manual process?

Backpack suffers from the same flaw, btw. Last edit wins, changes on the server-side are not reflected on the page before attempting an edit and are therefore forever lost. I think, this is a severe limitation.

Josh Williams 03 Oct 05

The addition of Writeboards to Backpack is truly the nicest thing. Writeboard is great, but the integration into Backpack makes it extremely valuable in a multitude of circumstances. Good call guys.

kingbenny 03 Oct 05

Did you consider having a login-type form somewhere so you access your Writeboards by just re-entering the name and password again? I don’t like the idea of having to click a link from an email buried in my mailbox to get to the Writeboard… although, like you said, bookmarks work.

Javier Cabrera 03 Oct 05

Got to say it, is good looking, cool and we can use it really well for some things, but isn’t what most of us expected. Anyway, is cool to have some good people doing stuff for the web as you guys are: CONGRATULATIONS!

Stefan Seiz 03 Oct 05

Well, thanks for calling me crazy Dan! Wasn’t aware that you know me ;-) Opinions man, opinions…

Deirdre Saoirse Moen 03 Oct 05

I gotta tell you, I think it’s spiffy.

Elliott 03 Oct 05

This is a very well marketed text editor.

Good job.

Elliott 03 Oct 05

Just so you know.

When i tried to export text from the app it came out with errors.

Your strongly against the use of public beta’s. You may have to change your view on that given the errors.

Kyle Maxwell 03 Oct 05

This *is* the same as a wiki that someone else administers, at least to the extent that a wiki does everything Writeboard will do. A wiki, though, gives you a little more.

So Writeboard is essentially a wiki with some features removed (not that that is always a bad thing) that 37Signals will run for you. Actually, come to think of it, so is Backpack, it would appear.

There’s something useful there, I suppose, but this is not a world-changer. I ust don’t see anything here to get excited about, at least not any more than a hosted wiki service.

Elliott 03 Oct 05

Yup, i totally agree.

This is way off the mark from 37signals. I hope theres some more exciting stuff to come because right now…..its feeling pretty average, bordering on dull.

Been fiddling around in Backpack just now. Found a whole load of bugs. A shame really.

Don Wilson 03 Oct 05

This can/will be a commonly used Wiki product, but not a wiki in a sense.

F2 03 Oct 05

great product! glad to see it integrated with backpack and i can have multiple writeboards under one page. i was using backpack in such a way that my notes were getting longer and longer and needed to start combining them into one document.

Dan Boland 03 Oct 05

Stefan: I wasn’t calling you crazy. I just don’t see what the problem is.

Elliott: Have you elaborated on what those errors are to the 37s? Just saying there are errors doesn’t help them much if they don’t know what you’re seeing.

Jim Jeffers 03 Oct 05

As a developer I’m interested in:

1. How do you guys perform the comparison between versions in RoR?

2. How do you determine the degree of significance between each rivision with those circles?

I’m not interested in building my own writeboard. I’m just curious as to how you do stuff like that. Have any snippets of Ruby you could share with us?

Drew McLellan 03 Oct 05

The question is, would it seem such a let down to folks here if it had been market as a “Free, Simple, Single-Page Wiki”?

The only thing ‘wrong’ with Writeboard is that it’s been hyped to the heavens. For what it is (a free, simple, single-page wiki) I think it’s tremendous.

Apart from the fact it can screw up your document with multiple people editing - but they’re working on that I’m told.

Let’s not forget that no one is being asked for any money to use this tool. It’s free and it’s there if you’d like to make use of it, or not as you choose.

F2 03 Oct 05

Just to rehash two items regarding the fact that everyone has a choice:

1.) “It’s free and it’s there if you’d like to make use of it, or not as you choose.”

2.) “They’re in JotSpot Live and Writely. If you need that stuff check them out.”

The fact that for the basecamp accounts, you can have an unlimited number of writeboards for any page was reason for me to upgrade my account. Personally I’m not concerned what it is marketed as. Point is that I can use it. Use it simply and get things done. In the end, whatever the product is, isn’t that all that matters?

Minoru 03 Oct 05

Very nice — some quick feedback

- It’d be better if the formatting tips appeared on the right side of the text area, so I wouldn’t have to scroll up and down to see the tips while editing my text.

- I wish the exported .txt file kept the paragraph breaks.

thank you

Dave Woodward 03 Oct 05

This is like a stripped down Instiki, or more accurately i2 with a slicker interface on it and a different vector for managing the pages (user-brain-side instead of navigating a web interface) and with per-page commenting.

Tumble 03 Oct 05

Nitpicky, but important: I have always wondered why the 37signals apps don’t make proper use of form element labels. I am always frustrated by the checkboxes in the login forms and again in the writeboard terms agreement. Was this a concious decision or just an oversight?

Jean Wallemacq 03 Oct 05

I support to have a _close_ integration within Basecamp. Not having some basic form of version control was a reason why I had to rely on an external repository (an OpenText solution). For the time being, I found a workaround by creating a message containing hyperlink to a writeboard, but this is clumsy.

Keane 03 Oct 05

“For what it is (a free, simple, single-page wiki) I think it’s tremendous.”

I agree with that. Married with Backpack it works rather neatly for me.

Some more feedback (which I’ll also post to support at writeboard.com if I get the inclination):

- I’d like to be able to delete versions (that list of versions is going to quickly fill up and become unwieldy if I keep forgetting to check the ‘minor changes’ checkbox)

- It’d be handy to have some of the actions (particularly Edit, possibly Mark this version) at the bottom of the article as well as at the top. It’s not until I’ve read through an article that I’ve decided if I want to Edit or Mark it, so this would save me (the not particularly laborious, admittedly, but noticeable all the same) scroll back to the top. The footer is the new sidebar, after all, so why can’t it be the new header as well?

Jon 03 Oct 05

Jason and team, I’m curious about the non-support of IE5.

It’s a severely broken, outdated browser. That’s all there is to it in my opinion. Support for IE5 is more trouble than it’s worth.

Actually, come to think of it, so is Backpack, it would appear.

I can see how you may think writeboard is a simplified wiki but to call Backpack a wiki too is shortsighted and just plain ridiculous.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use Writeboard at first but after I saw the backpack integration, I’m loving it.

The ability to click through to Writeboard pages from Backpack is great.

Drew 03 Oct 05

Writeboard bug/unintended behavior:

if you have several lines of text like so:

*text 01*
*text 02*
*text 03*

it bolds them all and puts em on the same line.

It would be nice if there were a ‘set minor revision on by default’ option =O

Dan Boland 03 Oct 05

Hey guys, I found an error:

I imported a writeboard that I made yesterday into my Backpack account, then linked to it on my home page in Backpack. So I clicked the link and got sent to my writeboard. But when I clicked the link to go back to my page in Backpack, I got a “File not found” error. The link it tried to follow was:


On other thing, I noticed on my Backpack page that the date listed for the creation of the writeboard is when it was imported into Backpack, not when it was actually created. Maybe that’s not important, but you might want to consider adding the writeboard creation date or denoting that the date shown is the import date, or some combination of the two. Or nothing, it’s your company.

The anonymous rampant 03 Oct 05

“The ability to click through to Writeboard pages from Backpack is great.”

Fantastic. Pop goes the W3C, 37signals just invented links.

matt 03 Oct 05

Love the idea but i can’t seem to get the formatting to work correctly either. I have four h2. example lines in a row and none of them work. Same with the above bold example with Drew. Can’t wait to see it fixed…really could use this.

Jason 03 Oct 05

The above about an API is a good point, although I don’t see it happening. 37signals, like say Apple, is a design company. They have a specific vision for a simple and useful tool. Think of the paperclip. Simple. useful. easy to use.

speaking of Apple, it would be great to see a dashboard widget that would hold links to your writeboards. Something to think about, y’know, in your _free_ time.

Javier Cabrera 03 Oct 05

Just wanted to add that even if its too similar to backpack, isn’t backpack. Is WriteBoard! But if I have to choose, I’m inloved with the Ta-da lists, they are so easy and cool that I wish to have something similar for MacOsX.

brad 03 Oct 05

Love the idea but i can’t seem to get the formatting to work correctly either. I have four h2. example lines in a row and none of them work.

You and Drew need to look at the instructions more closely.

For bulleted lists, you just use the * and a space before the bulleted item, no closing *. If you use a closing * that’s the code for “bold” not a bulleted list.

For bulleted and numbered lists you need to be sure to follow the examples exactly, including spaces.

It works fine for me; although I did discover one little glitch: when I create a new whiteboard from within Backpack, after I’m done creating it, it asks me to submit the password. Whatever I submit is always wrong, because I didn’t get anything asking me to create a password in the first place. This doesn’t happen when a create a new whiteboard from the whiteboard page itself.

brad 03 Oct 05

More specifically, after I create the writeboard from within Backpack, and then when I log out of Backpack (which I always do, not sure why but it’s my habit), I get a message that says “enter the password for this writeboard.” That shouldn’t happen. I have no trouble opening the writeboard next time I log into Backpack.

Literally the only feature that would make Writeboard better for me would be to be able to export as RTF instead of TXT. If we have the ability to add formatting such as bold and italic, hyperlinks, etc, it seems logical to be able to preserve those in the exported version. But it’s not crucial.

Mike Lougee 03 Oct 05

Could there be a quick/easy way to place images (jpgs/gifs only, perhaps) into Writeboard?

According to the formatting guide, it can be done via a link, but I’d rather do it via cut/paste, so that a quick cut from my screen (via SnagIt, perhaps) could get added to WB.

Images are much larger than text, but I think this would be darn convenient and popular.

MH 03 Oct 05

>I’d rather do it via cut/paste, so that a quick cut from my screen (via SnagIt, perhaps) could get added to WB.

These are the expectations that AJAX hath wrought… ;-)

Josh Poulson 03 Oct 05

For the record, I received the email notification of the launch of Whiteboard, and I appreciate it.

Now I’m looking forward to Basecamp integration.

Matt 03 Oct 05


thanks for the post but i still can’t get the formatting to work like the formatting instructions say….h2. doesn’t work for me, only the first item.

Brad 03 Oct 05

I just experimented with this:

If you do

h2. Your Heading Here
Your bodytext here

You’re right, it doesn’t work. The bodytext shows up bold. I think what’s going on is that it treats one carriage return as a line break (like shift-enter) instead of a new paragraph. So try it with two carriage returns and it works:

h2. Your Heading Here

Your text here

It should work fine if you hit “return” twice after each one.

not sure if this is a bug or a planned feature.

A. Casalena 03 Oct 05

Where do people even get this IE5 data?

Squarespace doesn’t support IE5 either, and we’ve gotten a total of um.. 3 (maybe).. requests for help from people using that browser. That’s out of tens of thousands of requests.

If you’re on the web with IE5, not using newer web services is the LEAST of your problems (the worst of your problems being the 50+ exploits that you’ll get hit with as you browse about). Someone would be doing you a gigantic favor in helping you upgrade.

The only people I really feel for in terms of browsers are the OS 10.3 users who are apparently stuck with either IE 5.2 or Safari 1.0. These guys really got screwed by Apple, but nobody would dare say that on the open web.. Uh oh :)

Brian Benzinger 03 Oct 05

Just wanted to say, great work on Writeboard. I have been noticing all the little changes since my review and it is moving along nicely. I strongly disagree that it is like a Wiki. Today is seems like every solution that is released is a “wiki.” Writeboard is much more. It is a collaborative writing solution. Look at the diff/comparison feature and that just blows me away right there. Great work 37signals team. Sorry if my review came off a bit sour. I assure you, I will be using Writeboard quite a bit. :)

John Y. 03 Oct 05

OS X 10.3 has Safari 1.3, which uses the same WebKit as 2.0 — so it’s up-to-date in terms of web support, or at least close to it.

Mark Garrigan 03 Oct 05

Where do message boards/web forums/discussion forums/ fit in with all of these collabrative web apps? Isn’t everything we do now (blog, wiki, share, collaborate, comment, post, edit, administrate, etc.) some sort of derivitave of a message board?

Jamie 03 Oct 05

Jason (JF) and A. Casalena. Sorry you’re right. My stats on IE 5 are incorrect. I guess I’m just surprised because on our site (commerce site) IE 5 accounts for around 100,000 sessions. So I guess 5% is small or large depending on how you see it. Sorta like the Mac OS user base.

Jamie 03 Oct 05

I meant to say “100,000 sessions a week…” above.

Andrew 03 Oct 05

I got to read those instructions before posting:

Redcloth, a Ruby library for Textile markup and Mockup suggestion for a tighter integration between Writeboard and Backpack

Vaibhav Domkundwar 03 Oct 05

Very well done!

I think its again the usability and ease that makes WriteBoard better than other similar applications we have seen.

Jason, being a BackPack user one immeidate thing I thought off was - why can’t I have multiple WriteBoards within the same account so it is easy for me to go back and forth and work on multiple documents with multiple teams.

Good luck.

Ian 03 Oct 05

At first glance, the logo looks like an epitaph editor.

John Y. 03 Oct 05

Andrew: Thanks!

Anonymous Coward 03 Oct 05

Can we have email notification of changes as well as RSS. Many clients don’t use, have never heard of, and don’t want to work out what RSS is. Thank for a very nice app.

Chris McEvoy 03 Oct 05

Chris said… (8 mins ago, looking at version 8)
Want a word wrap option in edit mode - sideways scrolling is sometimes good

Chris said… (7 mins ago, looking at version 8)
When I check a 3rd version to compare it should uncheck the 1st one checked not both the 1st and 2nd

Chris said… ( I love it that there isn’t a read only version

brad 03 Oct 05

Just saw an easy solution to the fact that export to text file loses all formatting. If instead I email it to myself, it arrives as an HTML-formatted message, which I can then save in rich text format and preserve the formatting that way. Nice, although it would be nicer to be able to export directly to rich text file instead of just .txt.

John Y. 03 Oct 05

I’m a little surprised it doesn’t export textile code. So you’d get *bold text* etc.

Tommy 03 Oct 05

Thanks for this neat little tool. As someone that works for a virtual company I have been trying to get my fellow employees to use either Writely or JotSpot, but not everyone in my firm can get around them. Simply too many options. This is just what I need. Something stupid simple.

bmc 03 Oct 05

it’s a iWiki… so fool proof, that you need to be a fool to use it.

ceejayoz 03 Oct 05

MAJOR issue for me…

As there’s no warning that someone else might be editing the page, the following scenario is possible…

* I edit my Writeboard and save it as a new version.
* I go back into edit view to correct make some minor changes.
* Another person with access to the Writeboard saves a new version with lots of changes that they’ve been working on for the past hour.
* I save my minor changes.

Guess what? The other person’s version is completely wiped out. No history of it being there, as I’ve replaced it with my minor edit version.

My solution? Make minor edits be tied to the version you’re editing. Don’t just blindly overwrite the latest version, especially if the username on that version is different!

Anonymous Coward 03 Oct 05

This things needs a proper login. Asking a client to bookmark 10 or more pages just isn’t on. Asking them to login at a url (myname.whiteboard.com) and selecting a page is.

JF 03 Oct 05

This things needs a proper login. Asking a client to bookmark 10 or more pages just isn’t on. Asking them to login at a url (myname.whiteboard.com) and selecting a page is.

That’s what Backpack is for.

Josh Poulson 03 Oct 05

The complaints are right. Whiteboard really should have versioning, like wiki. If it’s multiuser, it will have collisions and need branches, rollbacks, and commits.

Don Schenck 03 Oct 05

P.S. Catch the name of the newest Airstream!

Amber Himes 03 Oct 05

I’m liking it. Thanks for another great tool.

Brad 03 Oct 05

Yeah, Jason, and while you’re at it can you add full Rich Text functionality? Oh, and columnar math?

Hey, I totally support the simplicity of Whiteboard, it’s just that if I spend time to format my Whiteboard text with bold, italics, headings, etc., it would make sense that the exported text version would retain that formatting.

But as I mentioned above there’s a workaround via email, it’s just not as elegant as exporting directly to RTF. And RTF can be read by free programs on both Windows and Mac platforms, so I don’t see a really good reason why the export should be text-only. Still, this is a minor complaint; I’m very impressed with Whiteboard so far.

Tory 03 Oct 05

I like it.

David Heinemeier Hansson 03 Oct 05

Hey Brad, we’re adding Export to HTML in the next version. That way you get the same clean export as the email version, but as a file. Lots of word processors, like Word, can open HTML files and retain formatting. Hopefully that’ll do the trick for you.

Brad 03 Oct 05

David, thanks — that’s fantastic!

Ben 03 Oct 05

Integration with Basecamp, please?

John 03 Oct 05

Any chance that we will get Spell-Checking in Writeboard? I think it is necessary part of any word processing application now days. It would save lot of embarasment if we had a way to spell check our stuff before showing it to our friends and collegues.

2) Also, could we have a option to receive an email, whenver someone updates the Writeboard. I know RSS feed is there, but unfortunately 99% of the internet population has no clue about RSS.

Writeboard Lover.

Steve 03 Oct 05

I am using Writeboard to organize 5 people’s scripts for a group presentation. So far, everyone has been using the “Add a comment” link rather than the “Edit” button to post their content. This highlights what I think is a serious UI issue.

To see what I’m talking about, create a writeboard called Shopping List, add one item, then save it. When you come back to the page, I contend that the most prominent thing on the page is the “Add a comment” link — apparently it was for my colleagues, too. How about moving Edit-Mark-Export-Send buttons into the white, editable area, and moving the comments link out of the white area? I think it would go a long way toward eliminating confusion. It sucks to have to copy people’s text from the comments, paste it into the editing area, and then delete the comment.

Bottom line, this app is simple enough that with a quick glance it should be really, really clear how to add or edit text.

ed fladung 04 Oct 05

Hey JF,

writeboard is great, i’ve already started using it for collaborating with our business partners in the Texas and Arkansas and we’re in Mexico. very very cool.

Just a suggestion, but it’s interesting to me to see how you as the “head” of 37 signals delegates time towards “free” projects like writeboard. obviously anything you guys produce has value from a development experience perspective but on a more day to day level, it would be interesting if you’d open up the inside of 37 signals and show how you guys balance your “billable” hours vs your “free product” hours. Now that you guys work for yourselves it must have been a hard transition to get off the “billable” hours track. but without a track like that, how do you know how the company is doing financially, other than “we have a boat load of money in the bank, let’s do a free web app”?

just a thought

Anonymous Coward 04 Oct 05

JF Said:

bq. That’s what Backpack is for.

My clients do use or need backpack.

Alexandre Simard 04 Oct 05

show how you guys balance your “billable” hours vs your “free product” hours.

WriteBoard looks like BackPack’s TaDa list. It’s marketed as a free tool, but it is also an entry door to another, paying product, as evidenced by this JF comment:

That’s what Backpack is for.

To get a nice, clickable list of all your WriteBoards, you’ll need to have a BackPack account. Ta Da! ;-)
ning isn’t working.

Jamie 04 Oct 05

Ed, Ta-Da Lists and Writeboards are gateway drugs to the heavy narcotics of Basecamp and Backpack. Get them hooked on a free taste. That’s how the pusherman operates.

andjules 04 Oct 05

I’ve always admired companies with the guts to mention their competitors in their marketing. 99 times out of 100, of course, the competitor’s product is much worse or much more expensive.

anyhow, spent a bit of time yesterday - on 37signals’ suggestion - checking out writely.com. wow. and their intention is to keep the core product free.

I do admire the 37signals’ less-is-more approach to a point, but perhaps writeboard is just too little. Nice for massaging small little marketing blurbs or page copy between design/marketing/writing professionals, but I think a typical corporate client just wouldn’t ‘get it’.

writely has a few too many features, but still looks friendly and is generally well done. and it doesn’t handle versioning quite as nicely as writeboard. But it formats (including links & images), it imports and exports to Word & and HTML, it handles all your documents in one place (no need for backpack), and handles registration/collaboration/passwords very nicely. and of course, real-time collaborative editing is pretty nice.

I’ll probably end up using both (once writeboard is integrated somehow with basecamp), but if you don’t ‘get’ writeboard, try writely. really.

Adrian 04 Oct 05

I love it, but I think the Edit button has usability problems similar to what Steve said about people adding comments rather than editing the main text.

I started my first whiteboard. “Got it” straight away, but then I’m a web developer with a ton of CM/wiki experience.

Invited some non-tech people in. The first one “got it” too (pretty much) and started editing the main text.

Then I added a comment at the bottom. This was the first comment made.

The second person to come along copy-and-pasted a paragraph of text out of the main document into a comment, edited it to taste and saved the comment/edit with a little note of their own.

Once people start adding comments, to the newbie user it looks like a message board - exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to avoid.

The Edit button at the top is too small and not significantly prominent. Sure, it’s in red, but it’s smaller than all the other buttons (mark this version, export as text, send via email) even though it’s a hundred times as important as these things.

Think Fitts’s Law. Stand it away from the other buttons. Make it look significantly different. Make it bigger. Make it pretty damned obvious that Edit is where the real action is and all the others are just bit players. Give it an eerie alien glow when you rollover it that none of the other buttons have.

As for the comments, I’d stand them off the bottom so that they appear separate from the main document (ie. not in the continuous white box). The comments aren’t part of the doc. They’re meta. Important in themselves, but nonethless second-class citizens to the main event.

Credit to 37signals as this is a wonderful version 1.0. I imagine the coding was relatively trivial but designing this well is jolly difficult. _You_ try it.

Adrian 04 Oct 05

Ok, got it apart from the name. Writeboard, not whiteboard. Ack.

I’ve been known to reflexively type “mysql” rather than “myself” in emails. Anyone else suffer from this? I think musicians call it “finger memory”.

JF 04 Oct 05

We just added HTML to the Export options.

JF 04 Oct 05

We’re working on the edit button right now. Will have something better today. Thanks for the feedback.

Lorenzo Bolognini 04 Oct 05

Hey guys, well done! BTW how does it work? Is it just interfacing to a Subversion repo?

Adrian 04 Oct 05

I had no idea this thread was quite that interactive, but that’s cool. All I got for my annoyances with MS Word was a “clip” round the ear. I’d say it was Web 2.0 but that’s been Decreed Unfashionable as of this morning. So I’ll just say thank you.

Alex Bunardzic 04 Oct 05

Right on time! I’ve just started a major multi-person project yesterday, and jumped head first right into wrtiteboard.

Serendipituously, the project I’m working on is completely centered around a single document. Talk about coincidences!

The final deliverable of the project is going to be a single document. What a marvelous way to kick off the project. Writeboard is exactly what we need at precisely this point. I simply couldn’t ask for more.

All kudos to the designers of the product. The app is simply humming. It is minimally intrusive, and is right there when we need it.


Dan Boland 04 Oct 05

Safari has spell checking built-in too.

Anonymous Coward 05 Oct 05

I really lke wb but there is a work flow probem with it. I have 10 wb’s with a client who dosen’t use rss and dosen’t have backpack. So he has to keeptrack of the urls via bookmarks which are not web based; this means wb isn’t really a web based app, the client is tied into one pc!

The other problem is with the lack of noticification of wb changes. How does the client know when a wb has been update? The client needs to be told via an email, in the same way messages/comments in basecamp send out emails.

dave 05 Oct 05

Google’s toolbar, for both IE and Firefox, provides spell-checking (and a couple of other neat tools) for you poor folks not using Safari on Mac OS X.


Possibly worth adding to your FAQ.

moroder 08 Oct 05

I kinda like the less is more thing, I tend to like 37signals stuff, but writeboard seems a bit of meagre offering.

Brian, and others, to say that it is ‘more than a wiki’ is ridiculous: every decent wiki has decent version/diff control, nice editors, change merging and concurrent user options, etc. Also, all GOOD Wikis don’t offer a lot *more* than that.

On another note, something called ‘Writely’ actually offers parallel editing by more than one person instead of 45-minutes lockouts (which is kinda like going back from CVS to good-old-lockout-MS SourceSafe).

As I see it, the ease-of-use may not be enough to fill in the still small Product Opportunity Gap between Outlook/Word/Email/Wiki. Seen from the view in which 37s products make up your working environment, it’s a bit more rosy though.

Oli 10 Oct 05

I like Writeboard, does exactly what it should and does it well - except for one thing: International (non-English) text. There are several problems:

1. International characters become seriously mangled in the RSS feed.

2. Random international characters throughout the document become corrupted after saving an edit and change into someting like d; or o;. The problem becomes more apparent/serious as the docyument gets larger. Going in to fix such a character results in another one or two becoming corrupted as you save.

3. Exporting .txt ruins international characters too.

Items 1 and 2 make it next to impossible for me to use it for editing, even though I would really want to (and might very well purchase a Backpack plan to do it). So you’re in effect losing money because of these problems with accented and special characters.

David Heinemeier Hansson 10 Oct 05

Oli, we’ve fixed #1. I can’t replicate #3. #2 sounds pretty weird. Could you write support@writeboard.com with more details? Thanks!

Gary Bloom 25 Oct 05

Is anyone using Writeboard in Omniweb? Seems to me that Writeboard with textarea zoom, and find/replace turns Writeboard into a competitive text editor for regular use — that is, unless Omniweb is likely to crash in that mode.

ddd 19 Nov 05

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