With a variety of our projects we have been looking into methods of how to provide easy and open access to documents produced that most people could understand how to edit and contribute.

Initially editable pages inside a CMS or Wiki seem like a good idea, but HTML is still unfamiliar to many. Whilst you may end up with quality content, depending on your CMS setup you often end up with messy HTML output that someone needs to tidy up after a contribution.

Despite their flaws, Word processors are still the most familiar writing tool to many, but despite strides in the right direction, their output is not great for display on the web.

I started thinking about how to somehow allow people to use Word (or equivalent) to edit a document and for that document to automatically publish itself online. I did some initial research into the possibility of working with the Google Docs API to pull documents online and that's till an option I may look into at a later date.

Then at TechCrunch Disrupt, I came across Documize, who are working on a service to create user friendly wiki pages from Word documents. Here's my initial feelings on the offering and how it may fit into what I was trying to achieve.

Here's the overall dashboard for your content:

[[{"type":"media","viewmode":"medialarge","fid":"28","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"212","width":"480"}}]]

Here we have created a 'site' with some placeholder text, this is a container for our content. The next interface element that interests us the most is the green 'arrow' upload icon.

[[{"type":"media","viewmode":"medialarge","fid":"29","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"226","width":"480"}}]]

Here we select our word file and upload it for processing. Reasonably quickly a wiki page of the document is created. Here's the original Word document:

[[{"type":"media","viewmode":"medialarge","fid":"30","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"348","width":"480"}}]]

And here's the Documize version:

[[{"type":"media","viewmode":"medialarge","fid":"31","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"288","width":"480"}}]]

As you can see, not a completely accurate representation, but I'm sure that will improve over time and as many images in Word documents are embedded or hosted locally to the document, I would image that would be hard to reproduce. You can see that documize has noticed our document structure on the right hand side and the small icons you see to the right of "Introductions" allow for inline editing of each section as can be seen here:

[[{"type":"media","viewmode":"medialarge","fid":"32","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"197","width":"480"}}]]

Currently directly from Documize's interface you can also export the document edits back out to word and print.

What's missing?

This is an early beta release, so is not likely to be complete, but in my mind there are several features missing for what I am trying to accomplish.

There's not much I can do with the documents outside of Documize, I would like some form of view only web publish ability, either through an embeddable option, or through Documize directly.

I would love to see an ability to 'watch' a folder instead of having to upload every file, Dropbox or Skydrive integration would be amazing.

I am assuming that Documize's intention is to create something for internal usage, which contradicts some of my points above. If this is the case then some sort of role and workflow system will be needed for sharing document editing.