Google releases Cloud Connect for Office sync

The new plug-in allows users to edit documents in Microsoft Office that will be synced with its cloud-based Google Docs service
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Google has launched a tool to allow Microsoft Office users to sync Word and other documents with Google Docs.

Google Cloud Connect

Google has launched Google Cloud Connect, which allows Microsoft Office users to sync Word and other documents with Google Docs. Photo credit: ZDNet.com

The plug-in, Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, also lets people collaborate on Word, Excel and PowerPoint items in real time without having to reformat the documents or leave the Office interface to make changes, the company said as the software moved out of beta on Thursday.

"For example, you can edit a Word document's table of contents from Dublin while co-workers adjust formatting and make revisions from Denver. Instead of bombarding each other with attachments and hassling to reconcile people's edits," said Google Apps product manager Shan Sinha in a blog post.

The Office files automatically show up in a Cloud Connect user's Google Docs list once the tool has been downloaded. The plug-in, developed via the acquisition of DocVerse in May, works for users running Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on a Windows PC. It is not available for Mac users, though the company does not rule this out in the future.

"Unfortunately, due to the lack of support for open APIs on Microsoft Office for Mac, we are unable to make Google Cloud Connect available on Macs at this time. We look forward to when that time comes so we can provide this feature to our Mac customers as well," Sinha said.

The service is free to everyone, not just those with a Google Enterprise Apps subscription. Its release means that companies do not have to upgrade their existing Office deployment or add Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to allow multi-user collaboration, Google said.

The company has said in the past that it is keen to provide tools that work alongside Microsoft Office, so that people can use the legacy productivity applications they are familiar with but also tap into the benefits of cloud-based working. However, those tools could also give Google a foothold in Microsoft's Office base and help nudge businesses into shifting to its Docs.

That will not happen any time soon, though, according to Guy Creese, a Gartner analyst. "Google Cloud Connect with Office is an admission by Google that many users continue to live in Microsoft Office, and will not switch to the Google Apps interface," he said in a statement.

"Google's add-on makes it easy to share Office documents, but that can also be done with current Microsoft products, such as Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Live SkyDrive," Creese added.

Microsoft recently unveiled its own real-time collaborative Office suite, Office 365. In addition to productivity applications, the web-based suite includes Microsoft Lync, the instant messaging, VoIP and videoconferencing software previously known as Microsoft Office Communicator.

Alongside the launch of Cloud Connect, Google introduced Appsperience, a 90-day trial package of its enterprise collaboration tools. Available for a "nominal" fee, the package is aimed at businesses that want to test the tools without signing up to a minimum contract, the company said.

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