I use two editors in my day-to-day work: vim and SubEthaEdit (in fact I’m writing this blog post in SubEthaEdit, at the moment) – and I can say pretty definitively that EtherPad is just like SubEthaEdit.
I had the opportunity to use it last week with four people all simultaneously editing a document. It has the characteristic SubEthaEdit feature: All changes, by any user, occur in near-real-time and are highlighted with that user’s chosen color.
Some may wonder how this is different from Google Docs. Let me just say that SubEthaEdit and EtherPad are in a completely different league from Google Docs: I’ve used all three pieces of software for multiple-editing a document and the responsiveness that you get from SubEthaEdit/EtherPad makes for an unparalleled experience. It’s really common to see users start chat discussions within a document simply because it’s so easy to see their response and get a discussion going.
EtherPad does have one major distinction from SubEthaEdit, though: The ability to save and restore page revisions. At any point you can hit a large ‘Save Now’ button on the page to tag a revision – and then go back and restore from it at any point. In many ways this makes the software more like a real-time, multi-user editable, Wiki.