Gobby: A Collaborative Text Editor

April 4th, 2007 edited by Tincho

Entry submitted by Adam Victor Nazareth Brandizzi, Pedro Vaz de Mello de Medeiros and Pedro Araújo Chaves Júnior. DPOTD needs your help, please contribute !

Gobby is a Free Software collaborative text editor. That means that various users can edit the same text file simultaneously.

Using Gobby is easy: just create a session, then other writers may connect to your host and subscribe to any publicly available documents in the Document List dialog, and/or create a new shared document. Files are opened in tabs in the main window, so that the user can edit them simultaneously. Any user can contribute with his own set of files to the pool of shared files, just like the session owner, and anyone can save a local copy of them.


The user interface is very clear and simple: the main window is divided in two parts: the text being edited on the top and a chat window below with an IRC look and feel (but only one IRC command is supported, though: the good old /me ;)). In the main window, each fragment of text is colour-coded to indicate which user wrote it. The list of currently connected users, along with their corresponding colours, can be checked in the Online node in the User List dialog.

Gobby has support for some common text-editing features such as auto indenting, tab-to-space replacement, smart Home key, font selecting, syntax highlighting by file type, etc. Gobby will try to guess the right file type, but if it doesn’t, syntax highlighting can be changed on the fly from a long drop-down menu list. It is also possible to define a password-protected session; this is useful if you want to control which users are allowed to connect.

The chat functionality provides a separate channel that allows authors to communicate and coordinate their efforts —even if they are not physically close to each other—, which can be particularly useful if they want to discuss, for instance, guidelines or other things that don’t exactly translate to text editing. Or you can just fire up Gobby to have a simple and lightweight chat session with some friends ;).


The Gobby developers also provide the specifications of the Obby protocol used for implementing the collaborative editor, sobby, the Obby dedicated server, and libobby, the library for developers interested in creating their own clients and servers.

Known issues:

There are some reports about crashes on the Gobby site. We have not observed any of them ourselves, though. On functionality, Gobby does not provide any Undo/Redo capabilities —and we have really missed them. Also, there is no way to keep track of deleted text. Another missing feature is a graphic representation of the cursors of all users and means to distinguish them from each other, but this functionality is already expected for Gobby v0.5.0.


Gobby is licensed under the GNU General Public License (v2).


Gobby is available in Debian Etch and Sid, as well as in the Ubuntu Universe since Breezy Badger. You can get more information at the Gobby home page.

Posted in Debian, Ubuntu |

6 Responses

  1. Kvorg Says:

    Very interesting approach. I wander what could be accomplished adding obby protocol to classic heavyweight editors such as Emacs and vim, or adding wiki-like automatic version control and undo features. Thanks for submitting this, very interesting package/project.

  2. Chanio Says:

    This is future!
    This sort of application that is pure creativity is what should be totally encouraged by the Linux community.

    Trying to commercially compare with other powerful platforms is today a bad idea.

    I think that an operating system is not just the technollogy but the way that people uses the system to acomplish all their jobs. To commercially compare, all the Linux users should do the same things… So, creativity should point to such uses instead of to other operating systems ways of doing the jobs.

  3. Carlos Licea Says:

    I installed it on Kubuntu Feisty but I can’t make it host! it just says that is not supported. Any thoughs?

  4. Pedro de Medeiros Says:

    I guess it may have something to do with avahi. Check if you have a package called libavahi-compat-howl0 installed.

  5. Philipp Kern Says:

    It’s fascinating to see Gobby featured here. I didn’t see this article earlier, though. (o:

  6. Dennis Kruzmack Says:

    Nice! Although it’s a Linux version of SubEthaEdit… c’mon Linux guys, *invent* something new for a change. All this duplication of software and features of other operating systems is getting old. Fast.