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Synchronize documents across SharePoint, OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive and Box

The short version

Collaborating on Word documents is often fragmented and takes place via email, Google Docs, SharePoint, OneDrive, DropBox and many other platforms. The same document can be copied all over the place and keeping track of all the distributed versions becomes exponentially more difficult.

Simul Documents is a version control system for Microsoft Word which now supports direct integration with the web’s most popular online storage providers! This allows versions to be easily tracked across multiple platforms:

* Box.com is not mentioned in this article but is fully supported.

The longer version

In an ideal world, everyone would agree on a single platform to store a document, and share the same strict views on version control. At Simul, we recognize that collaborating on a Word document can have some hurdles which are best overcome by quickly sharing a document on a popular platform. This can have consequences as the document becomes fragmented. This is when the concept of a “master” copy becomes important.

Firstly; What is Simul?

Simul Documents is a version control system for Microsoft Word. This means we provide tools to help you understand what versions of your document exist, the differences between them, as well as a full audit trail of your work.

Simul works slightly differently to the established document management platforms like SharePoint or Google Docs. Instead of a real-time co-authoring experience, Simul uses branches and provides tools to help you merge conflicting versions. This provides a much cleaner version history and allows you to make better decisions when consolidating revisions.

Alternatively, we can take a look at a very simple example, if the following document exists in Simul:The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

If two users, let’s call them Peter and Paul, edit this document at the same time, Simul will create a branch for each of them.

This document now has two versions with Peter and Paul’s changes kept separate until one of them decides to merge their changes.

Simul Documents will automatically show the revisions made by each author to help you understand exactly what has changed.

Peter’s changes:The quick brown fox wolf jumps over the lazy dog.

Paul’s changes:The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog cat .

If Paul now decides to merge his changes with Peter’s; a new version will be produced containing both of their changes.

Both changes will appear in Microsoft Word as tracked changes which can then be accepted or rejected.

Merged changes:The quick brown fox wolf jumps over the lazy catdog .

This works regardless of whether “Track Changes” was turned on and Simul lets you compare any two versions of a document to see what’s changed.

You can see this in action by taking a tour of Simul.

Branching & merging across platforms

This model of working is borrowed from the software development industry, where a master copy of a code base (similar to a document) is declared and software engineers create their own private branches. They make any changes to the code in their own private repositories and eventually push the changes to the master copy. If multiple programmers change the same code, they simply merge their changes and create a new version.

Simul believes that collaborating on a Word document would greatly benefit from such a model. You can read about Simul’s advanced branching features in detail here.

We understand it’s not always practical to enforce that every user has a Simul account and access to the document.

Today’s announcement means that Simul can extend its branching and merging features across the web’s most popular sharing platforms.

By exporting a document from Simul to a popular platform like SharePoint, you are creating an external branch. SharePoint members can then make revisions to that copy of the document and it can be imported back into Simul. Once imported you will have Simul’s advanced version comparison and merge tools to help you see what was changed and to assist in creating a new, unified version of the document.

Simul does more than just copy the document to your external drive. It records a digital signature of the document’s contents which can be used to detect changes externally. If someone makes a change to the document in SharePoint and anyone tries to export a new copy, Simul will prevent the document being overwritten and, instead, import the altered copy to be reconciled.

Importing a new document

Let’s take a look at this in action.

To import an external document as a new Simul document, navigate to your documents console and select “Add a New Document”:

Select the “Import” tab in the new document dialog box:

Select the external provider which is hosting your document. You will then be presented with a bespoke document picker for that platform. Select the desired document and press “Upload”. That’s it, your document will be copied to Simul.

Importing a version to an existing document

You can also import an external document to an existing Simul document. This allows you to easily synchronize documents between multiple platforms.

To do this, select the document tile for which you wish to import a new version:

Select “Import a new version” from the document options menu:

Select the “Import” tab in the import new version dialog box:

From here, it’s the same procedure as described in the previous section and your document will be imported as a new version.

For more detailed instructions, refer to our support article: Importing a document to Simul.

Exporting documents

To export a document, select the document tile and then the specific version you wish to export.

Select “Export document” from the document options menu:

You will see a list of external files which have previously been imported or exported. If this is the first import / export with an external platform, the page will look as follows:

Select the platform you wish to export to – each platform behaves slightly differently but for the purpose of this example, we’ll export to OneDrive.

By default, Simul will export the document to the root folder of your account’s OneDrive. If you wish to export the document to a sub-folder or SharePoint site, select “Browse”:

You will see a browse dialog allowing you to select all sites and folders which you have access to:

Once a destination has been selected, provide a document name and decide if you want to overwrite a file with the same name if it exists. The document will automatically default to the Simul document name.

That’s it, press “Export” and you will see a success message like so:

The next time you export the document, you will see the previous export listed:

This provides more than a shortcut to export the document in the future. When exporting again, Simul will detect if any changes have been made to the document in the external platform.

If so, a new version will be imported into Simul Documents. The conflict can then be resolved by merging the documents or by reverting the revisions:

Once the conflicts have been resolved, you will be able to export the document knowing that no data has been overwritten. This allows you to see exactly what has changed across multiple platforms.

Google Docs

It’s worth pointing out, that everything mentioned above also works with Google Docs. When you import a Google Doc to Simul, Google will automatically convert it to a Microsoft Word document allowing it to seamlessly integrate with our product.

When you export a document, you will have an additional option of whether you would like to convert the Word document to a Google Doc or simply export a copy to Google Drive:

Simul also keeps track of changes to a Google Doc and is able to compare them to a Word document to ensure no content is accidently overwritten.

Helping Enterprises

Simul recently launched its Enterprise Edition. This allows organizations to host our software on their private networks. You can read all the details here.

This is a great tool for the privacy concerned organization with strict document management requirements, but it can make it difficult to share documents with external organizations. This new feature allows enterprises to use Simul’s strict version control and collaborate externally when required.

Work smarter with your documents

We are very excited about this feature as we believe that once you embrace branching and merging, you will wonder how you ever got by without it!

Extending Simul’s collaboration methodology to external users makes our tool far more powerful and helps you work smarter with your documents.

As always, we appreciate any feedback.

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