A Copenhagen and Berlin-based startup is updating the process students and researchers use for academic writing, which is currently a painful process of tweaking layouts on Microsoft Word and sending drafts between collaborators. Fiduswriter is building a semantic editor (currently in private beta) that focuses on the content, rather than the layout, so that through the same editor you can publish your work in whatever formats you like.
So instead of changing the formatting of individual parts of text directly, you specify that a certain line is a subheading, for example. When you would like to export your paper as a PDF, ebook, or HTML version of the document, Fiduswriter automatically applies to the appropriate styling to the line depending on how you want to use it.
Collaboration is important in many academic papers, so the product is built for people working together online as well. Correct citations are a pain to get right, but programs like MS Word have recently started coming with bibliography managers. The company points out, however, that problems arise when one shares a document that includes a created bibliography with someone that doesn’t have the program.
To monetize the product, they’re going with the Freemium strategy by offering a version with limited functionality and advertisements, as well as a paid pro version. Later on, the team has plans of open sourcing from version 1.0 onwards to create a developer environment around their software, as well as create personalized versions for individual institutions with custom designs.
“If anything works out as planned we will go open beta probably at the end of february. We want to present a stable product with export to html, latex, epub, and complete support for several citation styles,” says Daniel Frebel of Fiduswriter.
From October onward, the company will also participate in Startup Chile.
I used to use Etherpad for group projects at University (before it was bought by Google) so I clearly see the value in a product like Fiduswriter that’s more tailored to academic writing. That being said, there are a lot of things that they will need to get right before people switch away from Word. The demo video below provides a first look at the product.