If you’ve ever tried to put together a document collaboratively then you’ll know the headaches involved. First there’s the initial draft which you email out to your cohorts, swiftly followed by emails containing comments, amended versions of the document, and amendments to the amendments. Pretty soon you can be overwhelmed and that’s before you’ve even tried to incorporate all of these elements into a cohesive second draft on which the next round of confusion can begin. Thankfully Google Docs' collaboration function eliminates most of the hassle as it allows several people to work on a document concurrently.

See also: Get started with Google Docs

When you create the document, you become the 'owner' and you can share it with up to two hundred people. Of these, fifty can work simultaneously, but these limits are more than enough for most projects. You can also dictate the levels of access that collaborators have. If you want only a few to be able to edit then you’d give them that privilege in the Share section. Others can be limited to adding comments or merely the ability to view the document - very useful for keeping the amount of alterations down as the document reaches its final stages.

Each contributor is automatically assigned a colour so their work can be distinguished from others, and their name appears as they type. Google also retains the revision history of these amendments so at any point you can go back and track where changes took place. It’s intuitive and easy to use.
1. To begin real-time collaboration on a document, click the blue Share button in the top-right corner. This opens a window in which you can enter the email addresses of the people you wish to invite.

Invite collaborators

2. When they accept your advances you can begin working together. In order to avoid confusion as to who's making changes, Google helpfully colour codes each user's entries and puts their name above any changes they make.

Google Docs collaboration

3. If you want to discuss ideas for the document, query something with your colleagues, or share a relevant link, then clicking on the ‘Other viewers’ drop-down menu beneath the ‘Share’ button opens up a Google Talk style chat box.

Google Docs chat

4. As the document is stored online, users are also able to create comments whenever they think of them by clicking on the Comments button. They can also comment specific parts of the document by highlighting them, then right-clicking and choosing the Comment option.

Google Docs comment