Offline SharePoint tool promised for Mac users

While Microsoft is not planning to produce a version of Groove for the Mac, the new tool will make SharePoint access much easier for Mac users, company executives say

Microsoft's Mac Business Unit is working on a tool that will allow Mac users to take SharePoint files offline for editing.

It will not be a Mac equivalent of Groove, the Office collaboration desktop client that will become SharePoint Workspace in the upcoming Office 2010, the SharePoint team told ZDNet UK. The promised tool also will not offer Groove's existing peer-to-peer features on the Mac.

But it will allow Mac users to take SharePoint documents offline, work on them and then synchronise them back to the server in a similar way to the new SharePoint Workspace, according to Paul Cannon, the product manager for SharePoint Workspace.

"It's not the same product, but you will be able to find an offline client for the Mac as well,"Cannon said in an interview at the SharePoint 2009 conference on Thursday.

SharePoint Workspace relies on both the Office Document Cache and a protocol in Windows Communication Foundation called File Synchronization via SOAP over HTTP. The protocol, which replaces the WebDAV protocol used in previous versions of SharePoint, enables the co-authoring promised in Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010, as well as in the new service-oriented architecture in SharePoint 2010.

The new WCF protocol is "the fastest document sync Microsoft has written," said Maura FitzGerald, a senior program manager for SharePoint Workspace. It is not clear if the Mac team will recreate this or use another mechanism for synchronising offline files.

In July, Microsoft released Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2, which included the Microsoft Document Connection tool to make it easier for Mac users to download, edit, and upload SharePoint documents.

Cannon could not give a timescale for the introduction of the new Mac SharePoint tool tool or specify which version of Mac Office it will appear in. The beta versions of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 betas are due around the middle of November, with the full versions promised for the first half of 2010.

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