Sync.in: In Sync With Today’s Collaborative Teams
I love saving my notes from meetings and conferences online in one place so that I can easily locate, edit, and share them with others. Typically, I use CoverItLive, and I’ve been relatively pleased with our relationship, never hinting of a breakup. But, alas, I just met a new realtime document conferencing tool that is going to change all that. It’s totally intuitive, has a great tutorial video (albeit completely unnecessary) and I’ve been composing this blog post on it for about 30 minutes with not one single glitch or hiccup. Every button has worked quickly and correctly. I even invited myself to chat just to see if it worked. It did. I chatted. With myself. Lonely.
The new love of my online note-taking and collaboration life is Sync.in. Multiple users can simultaneously edit online notes with Sync.in for free, or for a fee they can access Sync.in’s broader list of capabilities. Everyone’s edits are reflected on everyone’s screens–simultaneously. You can live chat with other collaborators, and your chats are saved in perpetuity, along with your notes. You can even cut and paste–I’m typing this document in Sync.in, and I just did. Cut and paste, that is.
With the free version, the original user simply clicks on a button, no sign-in or sign-up required, and begins taking notes. Editing of the notes is simple–much easier than with CoverItLive (sorry, CIL, I never said I’d stay true forever!), allowing easy use of Bold, Underline, Italics, StrikeThroughs, Bullets, Undos and Redos, Indentions and Unindents. The undo history? Infinite. Saved on the server until Judgment Day just in case you’re the indecisive type.
Inviting collaborators is simple: the original author clicks on a button to share the note with her invited guests, via email, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, or other networking sites. These friends just click on the shared link to join in the conversation. If they can’t join in immediately–no worries, they can view the note whenever they have the opportunity; it’s always there, waiting patiently for them. Each user’s entries are continuously saved with a different colored highlight trail so that collaborators can easily distinguish their entries from those of their colleagues. Line numbers make it even easier for authors to discuss the note as they work.
Not only can educators use this application to collaborate, but their students can interface on Sync.in as well. Imagine you have, say, test review notes. You cut and paste them into a Sync.in note, which you open on your SmartBoard. Your students in the classroom can collaborate with you as you amend the document to accommodate their needs, plus homebound students can login, chat with the class, and add their own contributions.
Editors can return later and use the Time Slider feature to view the conversation and its progression. What’s the Time Slider? Why, it’s just the coolest thing ever! It’s a Camtasia-style screenshot video of the creation of your document, keystroke-by-keystroke. Removal of authorship colors is accomplished with the click of a button once the collaboration is complete. Sync.in can be used by multiple users in the same meeting or to allow users in remote locations to create a live wiki. The final note can also be exported as HTML, plain text, or a bookmark file. This is a great improvement over CoverItLive.
Be warned: your Sync.in notes created in the free version are public to anyone accessing the website. Worried about privacy? Why? a) Who’s going to guess the jumble of letters in the URL of your notes page because you’re only going to share that URL with your colleagues, right? What? Are you being stalked by an international ring of code-hackers? I tried googling my lame little note and it is safely hidden in cyberspace, plus b) you don’t even have to sign in to create a notes page, therefore you’re just “unnamed user” so it’s not like you’re identifiable in court, and c) if you’ve got valuable information like the combination to the safe in Fort Knox that you absolutely must private, ante up the bucks and go for the Pro version so you can keep your notes private by encrypting them over https.
So you’re thinking to yourself: Nobody’s perfect. Come on, spill Sync.in’s dirty little secrets or we’ll think you’re getting paid or something. OK, so there’s no spell check. And only one font. And I lost my formatting when I exported to Word, but that was probably my fault. But that’s OK. Because when you export your final text document, isn’t your word processing program going to do that for you? Of course it is. That’s the least it can do since Sync.in has already done the heavy lifting.
Ruth Fleet, Ed. S.
National Board Certified Library Media Teacher
Dean Rusk Middle School