Microsoft previews real-time co-authoring in Office Web Apps

Microsoft previews real-time co-authoring in Office Web Apps

Summary: Microsoft's webified Office will catch up to some of Google's Docs collaboration features.


Over the next few months, Microsoft will roll out improved collaboration features in Office Web Apps that will enable real-time co-authoring on desktop browsers and improved editing in Android and iOS devices.

Microsoft has lifted the covers on a pre-release version of its Office Web Apps that will deliver presence to co-authored documents and real-time edits that are updated on the go without the need to refresh the page.

Real-time co-authoring has been possible on the desktop-installed versions of Office since 2010, but richer collaboration capabilities have been missing from its stripped down web version.

The updates, expected "over the coming months", will enable cell-level real-time co-authoring in Excel, and real-time editing in Word and PowerPoint.

In a new demonstration of the pre-release web apps on a notebook, Microsoft showed off that the updates will offer more than just real-time text-co-authoring and include document formatting and design elements.

For example, while including co-authored tables to a document is possible today, the new version will allow collaborators to make live formatting changes, such as fonts. Presence features allow contributors to see where they are in a document.

In Excel, collaborators will be able view which cells are being updated as they occur, as well as changes these cause in cell-dependent charts.

The future updates will also extend document editing capabilities currently supported on Windows 8 tablets and iPads to Android devices, thanks to Chrome for mobile support; though it's not clear whether real-time co-authoring is on the list for mobile.

Microsoft announced in May that Office Web Apps will get a number of new collaboration features "over the next year", but it is not been more specific than that.

According to ZDNet's Windows blogger Mary Jo Foley, the first wave of updates to Office Web Apps are expected to come by around October 2013 and timed to coincide with the release of Windows Blue. 

Topics: Microsoft, Android, Browser, iOS, Tablets

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • You are promoting a scam

    This is directed to the above comment that should be removed by the admin when they see it.

    It is pitiful when people abuse their privilege to promote scams.
  • Simple question

    If I'm using Google Drive for this sort of thing... why would I switch to Office Web for the same thing? Is there some big benefit?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • I think the main point is that it's supposed to compete with google drive.

      Personally I prefer the office web apps myself because I think they look nicer and are compatible with all the office documents I already have. With this most recent update it won't really matter which you use (they're both pretty good for a free online service). It will really comes down to personal preference, and if your collaborating, what everyone else wants to use too.

      My guess if you're a google drive use you'll likely continue with google docs. If you're a skydrive user, this will be a great update to add additional capabilities to the free web apps.
      Sam Wagner
      • So

        Would I be correct in assuming that this update has more of a focus on keeping existing customers than making sure people migrate to their services?

        As for me, I use Google Drive right now primarily because of a few things. It allows collaboration, it allows me to work on it offline and then it updates when I connect to the internet, and it's free.

        I do like the fact that I have more SkyDrive space than Google Drive space, though, that's always nice.

        I have no problems moving to a service if it has something that entices me (UI being one of them, not a big fan of the Google Docs UI... and it's missing one of my fav fonts. D:)
        Michael Alan Goff
        • I'd tend to agree with you.

          I've used both google docs and the office web apps. The biggest thing they were missing was the live collaboration that google docs was known for. This update will likely keep a lot of users from switching to google docs for that reason.

          At this point I would say google drive/docs and skydrive/office web apps are pretty comparable, so the UI could likely matter a lot when choosing which service to use. I'd say just give the office web apps a try and see if you like it.

          The only real limitation I've had since moving to skydrive is that they don't have a Linux application. If they'd make a native Linux app then they would be supporting pretty much every OS out there ( I do think there's a decent amount of part time Linux users at least, but I could be wrong). I was able to get around this limitation by setting up bit torrent sync on my media center pc, but I shouldn't have to do such things.
          Sam Wagner

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