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Setting up your own Etherpad site... in short, you don't have to

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 15:50 -- rprice

Some time ago, I heard about a company that was acquired by Google that had created some software called EtherPad. If you ask me, this is how Google Wave or Google Docs should have been done. You can see the updates in real-time, everyone's changes are tracked, you can save revisions, you can chat with other collaborators, and it even uses wiki-style red links, so that when you click on a link to a page that doesn't exist, a new one gets created. It's all the best things about wikis, documents and IRC.

I set up the site at - initially to get things going during BarCampOrlando, but I plan on leaving the site up there for locals to use.

You can even embed the results in another page, almost like Wave:
Edit: I have taken out the embedded pad. Not a good idea for your home page.

EtherPad runs on Java, and the version I downloaded uses Jetty, which is to Tomcat what Lighttpd is to Apache (I think, I'm not a Java guy). EtherPad is a package in a repository that you can add to your apt-get list in Ubuntu, and it basically installs itself.

I ended up doing a little bit of customization, and turning on a few plugins, like the Twitter-style tags, which is a great way to get things to show up on a search page.

If you've never heard of EtherPad before, visit the site and create a page. Then invite a friend to come check it out and edit the page with you (or ask me). When you use it at a live event, like during a meeting, your workflow for working on meetings, and the way you think about wikis will change.


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Submitted by Curtis Michelson (not verified) on

Very cool Ryan. I created a random pad and toyed with it. Seems idea for small real-time doc creation and collaboration. But it did start to choke after the document got past 1500 lines. CPU meter on my client machine would peg to max with any copy/paste action, and then eventually, it just stopped adding more text to the document. There must be some basic 'upper limits' to the app, at least this version of it?

Interesting findings, Curtis

I guess if your wiki page needs more than 1500 lines, it might make sense to break it up into sections anyway.

The whole thing is running in Javascript in your web browser, so that's one place I know it could be improved. Every browser has recently released a new javascript engine that is supposed to be faster and more efficient. I don't know much about the code that EtherPad is using, though.

I liked the example where I opened two browsers and typed in one window, and watched the text pretty much instantly appear in the other window. (If you try to do two windows in the same browser, EP recognizes this and freezes one of the windows)