Here's a fun problem. Ever try to work on a document with at least one other person at the same time with Google Docs?
This experience has improved over the last year or so, but the point is, there are many different text editors out there that are good for some things, but not so great at others. Yes it would be nice to find a one size fits all approach, but at least for real time collaborative writing, one Google Documents alternative might be writeLaTeX.
No Downloads or Sign In
Google Docs looks like many other text editors out there, especially the toolbar. If that toolbar is like your text editing crutch, writeLaTeX will look a little off to you. It lives in the browser, and it displays text with the markup language showing through. The commands are simple, however, and there is no coding involved.
writeLaTeX can be shared with a link, and all parties can edit the text simultaneously. When a document is complete, it can be exported as a .pdf file for printing or uploading. Google Docs can also create .pdfs, but all parties working on the document need to have a Google account.
With writeLaTeX, there is no signing in to any account, and there is nothing to download. For security purposes, this could come in handy when writing at the library or on a friend or relative's machine.
Edit text on the left and the changes appear on the right. Share with a link.
Formatting Made Easy
This is where writeLaTeX pulls ahead. The LaTeX format is often used in writing academic papers where formatting is more important. But even at work, simple formatting solutions are often appreciated, and writeLaTeX takes care of the formatting for you. That way, it's easier to focus on the content.
WriteLaTeX was built on top of the LaTeX format specifically to fulfill the collaborative writing function. It's in beta, so it's not a fully baked solution just yet, but it is free and open to anyone.