Draftback is a Chrome Extension That Lets You Watch How any Google Doc was Written

One key feature required to collaborate in crafting a document online is the ability to see changes made (and possibly revert back to earlier versions of the doc). WordPress can do this (for saved drafts), Dropbox has version history, and any document made with GoogleDocs after about May 2010 has had a detailed revision history.

That GoogleDocs feature wasn't always easy to access, but writer/programmer James Somers has found a way to make it more useful. He's created a Chrome extension called Draftback which can play back the edits on any GoogleDoc in your possession, in chronological order (available in the Chrome Web Store).

Draftback is a Chrome Extension That Lets You Watch How any Google Doc was Written Web Publishing Writing

Not only can it show you the changes, Draftback can also show you a timeline of when a document was changed, the location where each change was made and how each change affected the length of the document.

I think Draftback is going to prove immensely useful as a collaboration tool, but that isn't quite what Somers had in mind when created the extension.

He thought it would help aspiring writers improve their skills by studying how a successful pro works their way from a blank page to polished prose.

I worry that most people aren’t as good writers as they should be. One thing is that they just don’t write enough. Another is that they don’t realize it’s supposed to be hard; they think that good writers are talented, when the truth is that good writers get good the way good programmers get good, the way good anythings get good: by running into the spike. Maybe folks would understand that better if they had vivid evidence that a good writer actually spends most of his time fighting himself.

That could be interesting, but not just for writers. It would also serve to remind us that editors can affect a document as much as the original writer.

Many people overlook the fact the editing process is almost as important to a work as the original writing. It's that second stage where the polish is truly applied, where the language is refined for greatest impact (or screwed up, depending on your opinion of the quality of the editorial work).

Somers explains in detail in his site just how he developed Draftback, so if you want more background you can head on over there.

But if you just want to try the extension, you can find it in the Chrome Web Store.

Draftback via TNW

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

5 Comments

  1. Rob Siders8 July, 2015

    I installed this a few months ago and it was interesting for about two minutes. It’s also an enormous resource hog (or was, anyway).

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder10 July, 2015

      That doesn’t surprise me. There’s no mention of a server side operation, which means everything is done in the browser. And Draftbook does analytics, which can take a lot of CPU cycles.

      Reply
  2. kariss9 July, 2015

    I have a Googledoc I use with people abroad and this could be really useful thanks!

    Reply
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