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MoonEdit text editing freeware lets 15 users collaborate on file

Every now and then I come across a piece of software that's hard to pigeonhole into a category, but is too intriguing and useful to be dismissed.

That's the case with MoonEdit, a text editing program on the order of the humble Notepad, but

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with a key difference: It works collaboratively. Several people can log in at once, type and have all their typing collated in a way that's far more flexible than, say, a chatroom, and with a lot less overhead than most whiteboard applications.

MoonEdit lets you and up to 14 other people edit a text file together in real-time. The program can be run in a peer-to-peer fashion or with a central server, but everyone involved must be running the MoonEdit client. Each person's typing (and changes) are annotated separately in a different color, and everyone's changes show up on everyone else's screen in real-time.

Other people can change each other's text, but the changes during each session can also be browsed (so you can see exactly what's been changed). The color selections can also be set so that, for instance, everyone's text contributions except for yours can be highlighted.

The program's creator, Tom Dobrowolski, probably had users in mind when he came up with the idea for MoonEdit, but I can also envision it being used as an admin tool. For instance, if a group of administrators needed to do some collaborative editing on a configuration file, everyone who needed to look at the file and make changes to it could do so all at once.

A MoonEdit server can be used to serve one or more files, so different groups of people can work on different files on the same server if needed. At the end of a given session, everyone has a copy of the file which they can continue to work on individually if they choose. Also included is a calculator (for impromptu math) and a bunch of other on-the-spot utilities that make the program easier to work with.

A full commercial/shareware version of the program is in the works, but for now you can download the basic edition for free. And while there's no version specifically for Vista, but the 98/XP/2K version should work as-is (in fact, it works as-is on my Vista system).

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in April 2007

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