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Microsoft adds collaboration feature to Office Web Apps

Microsoft has given a sneak preview of an upcoming feature to Office Web Apps: real-time co-authoring, which should greatly enhance the collaboration tools for users.

Amanda Lefebvre, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, gave a first look at the new feature at the OfficeGarage show in New Orleans, with the help of Dan Zarzar, one of the engineers working on Office Web Apps.

The basic jist of the feature is that users will now be able to edit documents on the web and they will be automatically saved and updated for everyone with access to them. This will let a team see changes that are being made in real time, which makes it easier to run and manage web projects.

“Our goal is really to continue to retain the user experience, we don’t think it should be any different just because you are on the web,” said Lefebvre.

The co-authoring applies to more than just text. Formatting and design elements across the whole Office experience, including Excel spreadsheets and charts, are part of the process.

Changes can also be made offline and these will be incorporated into the web versions once the user is back online.

Lefebvre revealed that Microsoft plans to invest more in cross-platform development, including new editing tools on Android devices, thanks to advancements in the Chrome mobile browser.

She added that those wanting to try out the new feature for themselves can do so with PowerPoint if they have either SkyDrive or SharePoint Online.