Google Releases Office Plugin for Document Collaboration

Google has released a free software plug-in for Microsoft Office that lets users share and collaborate on Office documents.

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office allows simultaneous editing of documents created in Microsoft Office versions 2003 through 2010. The plug-in integrates DocVerse technology into Google Apps. Google announced its acquisition of DocVerse in March 2010.

Users of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office must set up an account with Google because the documents are actually stored in Google's cloud and syncs Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files. Users can work offline; files will be automatically update documents when the user reconnects to the Web, according to a video accompanying Google's announcement. Users can roll back to earlier versions of the documents as well.

Users working with Microsoft Office for Mac cannot use the tool because the Mac version of Microsoft Office does not provide open APIs to work with the plug-in, Google explained in its announcement. Microsoft, which has a team devoted to interoperability and documenting its APIs, confirmed the point.

"Office for Mac doesn't have APIs for developers on the Mac platform to access or extend the data detectors to integrate with their apps," a Microsoft spokesperson explained via e-mail. "However, for users to collaborate on documents with colleagues/friends across platforms they can access and store documents online with Microsoft Office Web Apps."

Microsoft previously announced that Office Web Apps would be available for Office for Mac 2011. Microsoft released that Mac-based productivity suite in October.

Google currently offers its Google Apps collection of services to users at no cost; Google Apps for Business is priced at $50 per user per year. The company used to refer to those offerings as "Google Apps Standard Edition" and "Google Apps Premier Edition" but it changed the nomenclature back in November. Google also has government and education service offerings.

According to a Google features comparison table, Google Apps for Business allows document collaboration both on premises and online for Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. The table shows collaboration gaps when using a combination of Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, specifically for PowerPoint (online) and Excel (on premises).

Microsoft has linked the use of SharePoint 2010 or the free SharePoint Foundation 2010 with Microsoft Office 2010 in order for organizations to use collaboration features available with Office Web Apps. The availability of collaboration and coauthoring features in Office Web Apps is a complex matter. Microsoft explains the nuances in footnotes at this Web page. Consumer users, on the other hand, have the option to collaborate using Office Live apps for free.

Google also rolled out a new 90-day trial offering of its hosted applications for organizations called "Appsperience." A Google spokesperson described Appsperience as a way to test the Google Apps for Business suite of offerings, although it lacks Gmail. Appsperience includes Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations, Google Forms, Google Sites (for creating Web sites and collaboration portals), and Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. It also has a dashboard for IT pros that shows document use statistics.

The cost for a 90-day Appsperience trial starts at $7,000 (50 to 500 users) or $15,000 (more than 500 users). The price includes "direct consulting" with a member of Google's authorized resellers, according to the Google spokesperson.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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