Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Live Collaboration With Central Desktop For Microsoft Office

Organizations that want to have co-authors on Microsoft Office documents don't have to wait until Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. They can do it now, according to Central Desktop. The Pasadena, Calif., SaaS vendor has announced Central Desktop for Office, a document-collaboration tool that lets users co-author Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in real time, as well as open and save files into the cloud. In addition, organizations can share documents on existing versions of Office, rather than having to upgrade to Office 2010, says CEO and co-founder Isaac Garcia. Moreover, Excel co-authoring will not be supported in Office 2010, while it is via Central Desktop for Office.

"I think it's phenomenal," says Eric Golden, president and CEO of Equipois Inc., a LosAngeles manufacturer of industrial tools that has been using Central Desktop products for three years. "I could think of 15 different ways we could use this today that would deal with version control problems or eliminate the need to wait for someone to finish out of a document." The company has 20 employees and often collaborates not only with different departments within the same company, but also with its customers as well. "A feature like this, that lets us do it in real time, is immensely valuable," Golden says.

When multiple people are making changes to a document simultaneously, they can preview changes made by the other people and decide whether to merge them, Garcia says. A user's changes get pushed forward to the other simultaneous users whenever the user clicks on the "save" field. "The last person who hits 'save' wins," Golden says.  In addition, the software maintains a version history so the users can back out of multiple changes to an earlier version. The company also notes that allowing simultaneous edits to documents, in near real-time, also helps save time by eliminating or reducing the need for review cycles.

"It's real indicative of the evolution of documents moving from personal ownership to group ownership," says Larry Cannell, senior analyst for The Burton Group, now part of Gartner Inc. "Office used to be a personal productivity suite. Now it's moving to group productivity, and the tools need to change."

Central Desktop for Office works with Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010. It installs a toolbar in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint that lets users open, save, edit and co-author files stored in the cloud from within Office. The tool also brings additional collaboration capabilities into Office, including the ability to comment on files, manage subscribers and track version history. It does not require the use of SharePoint. Central Desktop for Office will be available in June for around $25 to $30 a year. Microsoft Office 2010 is also expected to ship in June but is typically considerably more expensive on a per-user basis.