WordPress’ editing interface is great for writing – and it’s only going to get better – but collaboration is a weak point. It is possible to collaborate on a WordPress article, but only if writers and editors take it in turns. Several contributors can’t work on the same document at the same time, which is one of the reasons so many WordPress publishers turn to third-party editors like Google Docs.
Google Docs offers excellent collaboration support. Any number of participants can edit a document and – most of the time – Docs will do the right thing with the changes. It’s easy to see who has made each edit, suggest edits without committing them to the active document, and add comments.
But for WordPress users there’s a major stumbling block: getting content out of Google Docs and into WordPress isn’t straightforward. The obvious solution is to copy-and-paste, but that plays havoc with formatting and links. When I’ve used this method for longer documents, it’s taken a lot of work to knock the article into shape for publishing.
In a move that recognizes the value of collaboration and that WordPress’ native collaboration features aren’t quite there yet, Matt Mullenweg has announced the release of a Google Docs add-on that can send documents to WordPress sites as a draft. The big win here is that all the formatting – images, text styles, links – are maintained.
As with many of the innovations coming out of Automattic, the Google Docs add-on only works if you have a JetPack-enabled WordPress site.
The add-on isn’t perfect: image layout can go awry, and any edits that happen in the Google Doc after it’s been pushed to WordPress aren’t synchronized. As a consequence, it’s not possible to edit any existing WordPress drafts in Google Docs – it’s a one-way process. I expect some of these limitations will be overcome in the future, and the features that are available are welcome.
As someone who writes a lot of content that ends up in WordPress via Google Docs, this tool will save me a lot of time. Apart from single-writer blogs, almost every publishing workflow involves collaboration with other writers, editors, and clients. Google Docs is the perfect app for that sort of collaboration.
When I write an article, it starts life as a Markdown file which is converted to HTML and uploaded to Google Docs, where editors or clients can review it, add notes, and make edits. That process is smooth – but once the article is ready for publication, someone has to take the Google Doc, paste it into WordPress and then spend a lot of time redoing formatting, images, and links that were already part of the Google Doc. For a busy site owner, that’s a frustrating waste of time.
The new WordPress Google Docs add-on has the potential to improve that process, providing a friction-free workflow that can take documents from drafting to publication-ready without an onerous duplication of effort.