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Free Software Integrates Outlook And Google Docs

Mainsoft has announced a free Outlook plug-in called Harmony that links a user's Outlook UI with his or her Google Docs account. The plug-in creates a window sidebar in the Outlook user interface that shows documents stored in the Google service. Users can grab documents from the sidebar and drag them into an e-mail message to share with coworkers and colleagues. The document can be shared as a link rather than an attachment. This lets business workers collaborate on a single version of a document from a central location and reduces the size of the e-mail being sent.

Users can also drag attachments from Outlook, or documents from their hard drive, into the sidebar, and the file is saved to Google Docs. When files are saved to Google, they are transformed from their native format to the Google Docs format (other than PDFs, which remain in the PDF format). Google has announced that it will allow files such as Word and Excel to be uploaded and stored in their native formats, but Mainsoft says the search giant hasn't released the Web services API for this capability. The company says it will upgrade the plug-in when the API becomes available.

When a user prepares to e-mail a link to a Google Docs file, Harmony prompts the user to assign read-only or edit privileges to the recipients. Note that the Harmony plug-in stores the user's Google Docs credentials as a cookie. The company says the plug-in encrypts the password when saving the credentials on the end user's computer and uses HTTPS when sending the password when the user logs in.

The company says the plug-in is designed to facilitate collaboration. "E-mail is becoming the collaboration console," says Mainsoft CEO Yaacov Cohen. "If you make the browser and the Outlook client work together, you have better attention management and don't have to switch to browser window and be opening tabs."

The company has also announced the availability of Harmony for SharePoint. As with the Google Docs version, this Outlook plug-in creates a sidebar window in the Outlook UI that lets users tap into SharePoint libraries. Users can drag and drop attachments from Outlook into a SharePoint site. They can also take documents from SharePoint and send them as links to other users. Users can also search for documents in SharePoint from the Outlook UI. Both the Google Docs and SharePoint plug-ins require Outlook 2007. The Google Docs plug-in is still in beta version but is available for download.