How collaborating with Simul compares to Sharepoint
On the surface, both Simul and Sharepoint appear to provide version control functionality for Microsoft Word, but you’ll soon see the two products are very different.
Better control of changes
Collaborating in Sharepoint means any invited user can make any changes to the document they want, and it’s almost untraceable. Simul provides more control over what content makes it into the document and what doesn’t.
How Sharepoint works
Sharepoint has two ways of collaborating on a document: Real-time co-authoring and check outs.
Co-authoring is where multiple people are in the document together making changes in real time. Think of it like a big whiteboard where everyone is writing at the same time.
Check outs is an option where when a user wants to work on a document they ‘check it out’ and everyone else is blocked from editing it until they check it back in.
No control of changes
When co-authoring, any invited user can edit any part of the document and it’s almost impossible to trace it. This means people can change things without you knowing, or even sneak content in (particularly bad for legal documents).
Only one person can work on the document at a time
When one person checks out a document to work on it, everybody else is blocked from editing it, meaning people can be forced to wait hours to make even the smallest of changes
No history of who made what changes
When co-authoring, changes are saved in time-based versions (I.e. 1:32pm, 1:34pm, etc) but contain no record of who made what changes, leaving with you no idea of who changed your document or why.
Forget to check in
If someone forgets to check a document back in, and goes home for the night (or worse goes on holidays) people can be locked out for days.
How Simul helps
Simul allows multiple people to work on a document at the same time, but offers much more control over what changes make it into the document and what don’t.
SIMUL VS CO-AUTHORING
Full control of changes
Simul allows you to control whether a user’s changes make it back into the original document or not, ensuring nothing gets in without you knowing.
Full history of who made what changes
Each time someone edits a document, Simul automatically creates a new version & shows you what they changed, giving you a full history of every change made to the document and who made it.
SIMUL VS CHECK OUTS
Multiple people can work on the document at a time
Simul allows multiple people to work on a document at the same time, and automatically creates separate branches for each version so people aren’t overwriting each others work.
You can then merge these branches with the click of a button & each authors changes are marked up as tracked changes in Microsoft Word, allowing you to easily accept or reject changes, fix conflicts, and keep moving forward
Quick note on external collaboration
Sharepoint is an internal collaboration tool, meaning you won’t be able to use it with external parties without having your IT team invite them into your Sharepoint instance. However, Simul provides numerous options for collaborating with 3rd parties in a secure way.
A proper version control system
Although Sharepoint provides basic version control functionality, it’s primarily a document storage & intranet tool. Simul on the other hand is a dedicated version control system with a number of additional features that make collaborating on Word documents much easier.
How Sharepoint works
Sharepoint’s version control functionality is more like a change log. It’s literally just a list that shows when a document was modified and who modified it.
PROBLEMS OF THIS APPROACH
Doesn’t show what changed
Sharepoint’s basic list doesn’t show what changed between versions. To see this, you’d need to download the two versions you want to compare, open them both in Word, and either manually compare them or use Word’s Compare functionality.
Doesn’t show who changed it
Sharepoint doesn’t track who made what changes, so if two people are editing a document at the same time the changes that were made will be saved as a new version, but there’s no way of knowing who made what change.
How Simul helps
Simul is a dedicated version control and collaboration tool for Microsoft Word documents, and provides advanced version control and collaboration features.
Quickly see a visual history of changes
Simul’s unique tree visualisation makes it easy to understand how a document came together
See who made what changes
Simul shows exactly who made what changes in a document, giving you a full history and accountability.
Easily see what changes between versions
Within the Simul interface, you can see exactly what changed between two versions. No messing around downloading multiple documents, opening them, comparing them, etc.
Name versions & add comments
Simul allows you to name versions and add comments (I.e. ‘Added results section’) which makes it easy to see not just what changed, but why it changed.
An easier way to fix conflicts
When multiple copies of a document exist, Sharepoint provides no way to merge them. Simul does.
How Sharepoint works
Due to Sharepoint’s shortcomings, it’s likely that someone will create and work in their own copy of a document at some stage (likely because the original was ‘checked out’ and they couldn’t access it).
This then means you have two conflicting versions of the same document, and will need to bring them back together.
Sharepoint doesn’t have functionality to handle this, so you’ll likely be opening both versions in Word, manually identifying the changes, and copying and pasting them across.
How Simul helps
Although it’s less likely to happen with Simul because it allows for simultaneous editing, if somebody does create and work on their own version of a document, you can easily merge the 2 documents back together.
You simply upload the modified version to Simul and with the click of a button the two versions are merged together.
Then, when you open the merged version in Word, each authors changes are marked up as tracked changes, allowing you to easily identify changes, accept or reject them, fix conflicts, and keep moving forward.
So which is best for me?
It’s a bit of a misnomer that Simul & Sharepoint are competing products.
The reality is Sharepoint is a company intranet and document storage product with very basic version history functionality, while Simul is a dedicated version control and collaboration tool.
Simul actually integrates with Sharepoint and many of our customers actually use Sharepoint as the centralised document storage service in their organisation, and then import documents into Simul for collaborating on if they need the advanced version control and collaboration features that Sharepoint doesn’t offer.
“Simul allows anyone on our team to access the latest version of a document instantly. It automatically creates versions, allows us to compare them to see what changed, and gives us a full version history of the document. It’s made writing research reports so much easier.”
Nikolas Balanis - Cancer Researcher, UCLA
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