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How KFG uses PubPub as an Alternative to Google Docs

Presented during the Open Publishing Fest, this document walks through how the KFG team uses PubPub internally in the event that the tool might solve content creation, organization, and dissemination problems for others teams or individuals.
Published onMay 16, 2020
How KFG uses PubPub as an Alternative to Google Docs
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PubPub ➡ Start Here
PubPub ➡ Start Here

General info about PubPub for new users + Connections to additional help resources.

Version shared during Open Publishing Fest

Collaborative Content Creation

The daily activities of the Knowledge Futures Group team involve numerous collaborative authoring projects which result in many documents for both internal and external use. We use the open source tool PubPub for nearly all of our content creation needs, including blog posts, documentation, meeting agendas, proposal drafts, and events. We wanted to share how we personally use PubPub daily in the event that the tool might solve content creation, organization, and dissemination needs for other organizations and teams.

The team can populate and edit Pubs together in realtime without concern over version confusion. Pubs save automatically, and every keystroke is saved in the event that you need to revert to a prior version. The annotation capability of PubPub enables team members, a wider circle of collaborators, or even the public to provide precise feedback in discussion threads. These discussions offer opportunities for peer review, expert commentary, private collaboration groups such as classroom sections.

Content creators can begin from scratch with a blank Pub or import from a variety of formats. It’s also possible to export to a number of formats to download a snapshot of a Pub. To increase engagement, images and rich media can be imbedded within Pubs. Robust metadata and DOI tools are available to improve discovery and dissemination of more scholarly content.

I’d like to emphasize that many of the functionalities described in this Pub were developed in response to our evolving needs for organizing and, in some cases, publishing our own information. We continue to utilize feedback from many stakeholder segments to improve the experience.

Public Landing Page

Landing page for the KFG Notes Community.

Notes is a community initially created by KFG for internal purposes. However, we soon discovered that we wanted to share some types of content more broadly. The Notes landing page enables external readers to see the content that we have designated as “public.” Here, similar content types can be grouped together through the use of Collection tags (Announcements, Newsletters, Resources, Writings, Events).

Below these Collections, recent Pubs appear in reverse chronological order.

Another way to view recent Pubs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg!

Team Only Spaces

In addition to the public materials, our team can navigate to Team Only spaces.

Drop down menu from Navigation Bar showing Collections of Team Only documents.

Team members can find existing Pubs by selecting the “Search” button at the upper right.

Search box

Or we can click on the Pub collections in the dropdown menu behind “internal notes” for a list of Pubs.

List of Pubs.

Setting Up Your Community

This Pub is really about how our team uses PubPub, but if you need help jumpstarting your own Community. Please see Getting Started on PubPub.

Creating a Pub

To Create a new Pub, click the “Create Pub” button in the upper right. You can then start typing or import from a variety of formats.

A brand new Pub

Anyone with access will be able to collaboratively create and edit the document in realtime. We use this to create and populate agendas and take collaborative notes during calls or meetings.

Headers automatically populate the “Contents” for the Pub.

Contents for the Pub

The right side of the header gives shortcut access to edit the theme or change pub settings. You can also manage collaborative authoring access by clicking the pencil icon next to the author name. (If you ultimately decide to publish the pub, you can attribute a variety of roles to each author in accordance with the CRediT Contributor Roles Taxonomy or add your own new role.)

Adding Contributor roles.

Sharing options works much like Google Docs. You can add an individual, manage community members, or share a url enabling the recipient to view or edit the Pub.

Sharing options

Downloading options include a variety of formats.

Download options

Buttons underneath the author attribution space enable publication or access to the version history.

When you select Publish, you have the option of adding notes with details about the particular release.

Adding Release notes.

The Pub History presents version information. The slider at the top enables you to slide back to previous versions. Any version can be shared using the permalink option.

Version history details.


This is an exciting new addition to PubPub that enables Communities and Teams to get insight into their content. We developed it in response to our own needs to find and manage Pubs in a more user-friendly way.

To get to the Dashboard, click “Dashboard” in the upper right.

Then click on your Community name. This takes you to the Community Dashboard.

Community Overview

Community Dashboard View

By default, you’ll see the Community Overview. Here you can get a quick snapshot view of your Collections, Pubs, Discussions, and Reviews. Use the Filter bar to search for a Pub by name or scroll through a list. Click on a Collection or a Pub to move to a Dashboard view for that level. (You can create a Collection or a Pub from any dashboard view, just click on the button in the upper right.)

The Pages View

Here you see all the Pages in a Community in alphabetical order.

Pages View on Dashboard

You can visit any page, edit a page, and see its visibility status (public or private). You can create a page by using the Create Page button at upper right.


Our reviews functionality gives a team the ability to manage an editorial flow by providing for an option between draft and publish. A team member can submit content for review to another member who can then publish it. (This can be used in a peer review workflow as well.) On the Reviews view, you’ll see items for review, if any.

Reviews view

We’ll soon be creating a guide with more information on Reviews. Stay tuned!


The Members view enables a Community or Team to manage permissions for their members. Here you can add a member by typing their name. (If they don’t already have a PubPub account, they’ll need to create one.)

Member view

You can also manage permissions. An administrator has the most complete access, but members can be assigned the right to view, edit, or manage a Community. (There are also permissions at a Pub or Page level.)

Permissions options for managing member rights.


This is where you manage the appearance of the page, its navigation options, and social media.

Settings view

For more details on setting up your Community, please see: Getting Started on PubPub.

Pub Dashboard

A Pub also has a Dashboard. Select Dashboard in the upper right.

Then select the name of the Pub to go to its Dashboard.

Pub Overview

In this Overview option, you can see details about the title, citation, attribution, publication history, and reviews.

You can also select the Reviews option to see any pending reviews for this Pub.

Pub Reviews view

In the Members view, you can add a member and manage the permissions of individual members.

Pub Members view

Here, you can also see “inherited members” who automatically have access to this Pub as a result of their access at the Community level.

Showing details for inherited members.

Settings takes you to the settings for the Pub, including details, attribution, license, citation style.

Pub settings view

Organizing Pubs into Collections

Pubs can be organized into Collections by theme (also the way to “bind” content together into an issue, a book, or a conference.

From the Community Dashboard, select “Create Collection.”

Creating a Collection

This will open a pane where you indicate the type of collection you want to create.

Collection options

Think of a Tag as a Topic. Type in your Tag.

Creating your Tag

Then hit Create. This will take you to the Collection view on the Dashboard.

Collection Overview

This new Collection doesn’t have any Pubs yet. From this view, you can hit the “Add Pubs” button in the upper right for a list of Pubs to add to the Collection.

In Conclusion

We hope that you have found this overview of how our team uses PubPub as an alternative to Google Docs. We’d love your feedback on anything in this Pub that is not clear or other “how to” questions that you have.

Remember that, like Google Docs, PubPub can be used to create documents for internal use, but, should you choose, these can be published for anyone to read (and annotate).

Photo by Zak Sakata on Unsplash

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Another Supplement to PubPub ➡ Start Here
Another Supplement to PubPub ➡ Start Here
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