I think I may have been the only person at this week's Office 2.0 conference using - gasp! - a pen and paper. There was no program "book" when I registered - the agenda was online only. And none of the exhibitors handed out press releases on paper - though I did see a couple of media kits on CD and USB drives. The message was clear. In a 2.0 world, there's little need for paper. Here's a roundup of some of the products and services I came across as I chatted with vendors at the show:
EchoSign takes e-signatures into the mainstream with behind-the-scenes technology that makes signing a document as easy as typing your name and email address. Literally. We're talking about documents that range from contracts to loan documents. The demo showed how accommodating the product can be - especially for those who are still leery about the whole digital signature thing. You can add in a password, to ensure that the person signing is the person who should be signing. You can allow people to print, sign and fax in a traditional way - except that the fax goes through EchoSign's digitization process when it's sent back, allowing the recipient to track and monitor it online the same as an e-signed document. And if the document has places where it needs multiple signatures or initials, EchoSign takes that into consideration, as well. I can't imagine doing something like this for the big stacks of paperwork it takes to buy or sell a house, but there are plenty of other scenarios where e-signatures just make sense.
Vyew (pronounced view) had a cool demo of a document being revised through real-time collaboration. There were so many tools in this product that it was hard to keep track - highlighting, sidebar comments, pen markups, calculator and polling plug-ins, flowcharts and more. And it doesn't matter if you are working on a Mac, PC, IE, Safari, Firefox or if your document is a spreadsheet, Word doc or PDF. And feel free to drop in a video clip or even leave your thoughts on the revisions as an mp3 audio file. I could see the document getting very messy, very fast - but no messier than a paper copy with scribbled notes all over it.
And speaking of collaboration, CentralDesktop has a tool that helps keep it all organized - maintaining version control, tracking comments and emails that are related to the projects. There's also calendaring involved to help keep track of the project status but it's not meant to replace the calendar you already have (and who needs another?). Clearspace, a product from Jive Software, also tackles project collaboration, allowing users to create "spaces" and "groups" on-the-fly, without the need for an administrator to set things up. The interface is pretty easy to follow and it's pretty flexible with customization for your company, too.
OK, so now you're convinced that your company needs to make a move into the 2.0 world - but how? Appirio is a double-sided business that was on-hand to answer that very question. The consulting side of the business examines what you're looking to do and shows you how to convert to Google Apps or jump into Salesforce.com and so on. And if you think of something that really doesn't exist, Appirio will put the developers into gear and build an application that does it for you. Here's the catch: that application goes into the portfolio of applications that Appirio is selling. The most recent offering: contact and calendar synchronization between Google and Salesforce.
Finally, my favorite demo - and one I even signed up for. SlideRocket is like Powerpoint on steroids. If you're a presentation builder, be sure to check this out. It went into public beta this week and will head into a full-scale launch later this month. Yes, there are slides, just like Powerpoint - but there's so much more than that. Need an image? It only takes a click to search Flickr or a stock photo library for a free image or one you can buy. Want to throw in an animated overlay? No problem. Need to use a slide built by a co-worker? Just access the library. If that co-worker updates the slide later - maybe with current sales or inventory data - your slide will automatically update, too. And be sure to tag your slides so others can search for them later. And what if you have idea for a tool or plug-in that could do even more. SlideRocket says it will open the API soon. Finally, sharing - for a collaboration meeting on the presentation, a final sign-off or just putting it in the public domain - is just a few clicks. And don't worry if the recipient on the other end has the necessary software (Powerpoint) installed for viewing. This is Web-based so that means anyone can take a look.
The Office 2.0 conference concludes today.