Poetica: The Track Changes Component Missing from Google Docs

poetica-iconRaise your hand if you wish Google Docs had track changes. I’m not talking about comments or versioning, but the workhorse in collaborative writing and feedback. It’s what keeps Google Docs in the shadow of Microsoft Word.

Exploiting that lack of functionality is the startup, Poetica. Currently, they’re in beta, invite-only mode; but, you may receive your account within a few weeks.

With Poetica, users are able to share docs, comment on text, add, delete, and move text. A collaborator may then accept or reject those edits. The document may then be downloaded as a text file. The interface trends toward skeuomorph aesthetics with the edits mirroring how they may look if written by hand on a sheet of paper.

In briefly exploring Poetica, it fills a big hole in Google Docs; however, users are not able to dial back to previous versions and if multiple additions are made in close proximity, they’ll stack up on top of each other and be unreadable. Furthermore, there is no ability to change fonts, style, or anything else you expect from a word processing application.

To give you an example of what a document in Poetica looks like, I used a transcription from the Walt Whitman archive.

Transcription [Nor you alone]

Then, I duplicated it in Poetica (imagining a modern day Walt Whitman working online).

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 12.44.20 PM

Instead of working with pen and paper as Whitman really did.


Overall, Poetica is useful and aesthetically pleasing; but, I wonder if their business hope is to be bought up by Google. For those of us who work often in Google Docs, we may have already adapted by using Dropbox and Microsoft Word when track changes are needed. Finally, is there enough worth in Poetica for users to try something new and is there enough support for this feature that Poetica won’t go the way of Editorially?

Please share your experiences with collaborative writing. What works best for you and what roadblocks do you face?



5 thoughts on “Poetica: The Track Changes Component Missing from Google Docs”

  1. Pingback: Online Collaborative Writing with Poetica | Faculty Instructional Technology at Hendrix College

  2. Thanks for writing about us Tim – really appreciate your feedback! Especially that you took the time to test it out with the Walt Whitman archive!

    We’ve actually built all of the version control stuff, but haven’t exposed it in the interface yet. But that, plus formatting support, is all on its way.

    I’d be curious to hear what you think of our Chrome extension too: https://poetica.com/poetica-button

    1. Great to hear, Anna. The “Edit in Poetica” button seems interesting. The example of getting feedback before sending an email is a great use case. Looking forward to watching Poetica evolve!

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