Can You Collaborate in Microsoft Word? Yes, with Caveats

Ann All

When I interviewed Google Apps product manager Rishi Chandra, Burton Group analyst Guy Creese and several happy users of Google Apps for a story I did last January, they all touted Apps' collaboration capabilities. Said one of the happy users, Doug Cone, director of business development for Nullvariable Web Consulting:

I spent this morning in a coffee shop using Google Docs to work on a document with someone on two different laptops. You just can't do that with (Microsoft) Word.

This statement prompted howls of outrage from Ken-Hardin, IT Business Edge's VP of subscriber products, when he read a draft of my piece. Ken, the office Word savant, pointed out you could do that very thing in Word. The experience wasn't nearly as seamless as with Google Apps, of course, but it was possible.


Being a Word dummy, I had no idea whether this was true. But Burton Group's Creese confirmed it, mentioning that several versions of Word include a shared workspace function. While Google markets this kind of sharing/concurrent editing capability as a primary feature of Apps, Microsoft has never done so for Office, so most Word users are unaware of it, Creese told me. Because Google Apps contains fewer features, it's relatively easy to discover everything it does, which certainly isn't the case with Word. Said Creese:

Clicking around in Google Apps, you can pretty much figure out what it does in five minutes. Clicking around in Office to explore every feature would take hours.

Of course, lots of people have no real need for this kind of a shared workspace function. For many folks, savvy use of Word's Track Changes feature offers enough after-the-fact collaboration capability. As a writer, you'd think I'd be a whiz at using Track Changes and Word's other editing features. Sadly, that's not so. So I was quite taken with this piece on PC Helps Online, which offers tips on using Track Changes in various versions of Word and some bonus tips on painlessly inserting existing files into Word documents.


Creese also told me that Microsoft has put more multimedia/sharing functionality in OneNote, which it has historically pitched for students. He said OneNote isn't typically seen as part of Office, even though it is an Office product. That could change, however, with a forthcoming Web version of OneNote.


Last week's PC Pro review of Office 2010 Web Apps indicated Microsoft's OneNote Web App was disabled. According to Microsoft, its features will include simultaneous editing, AutoCorrect, spellchecking and the option to insert pictures and tables. The article called the online version of Excel "the most accomplished of the Web Apps so far" and said PowerPoint "could be one of the better Web Apps" if Microsoft tweaks the presentation and editing functionality. Oddly, according to the article, "Microsoft has no plans to implement simultaneous editing on Word documents, a feature that's one of the major attractions of Google Docs."

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 4, 2010 4:14 AM Pankaj Pankaj  says:

One can collaborate on Word documents with HyperOffice. A web folder rests on your desktop where you can access shared documents. Work on the file, save it, and the updated document is available to all people with access to shared documents. If someone else, somewhere else wants to work in it,  they can. A versioning system keeps track of who made changes, what changes were made etc.

Mar 4, 2010 5:54 AM Doug Cone Doug Cone  says:

I'm just not seeing it. What I found on the document workspace feature appears to require MS Sharepoint ( Which appears to require a third party vendor and quite a bit of cash to make happen.

Track changes works well in Word but I think it works even better in Google Docs. Then there's the whole cost factor. Word costs way more than Google Docs. (or Open Office which I also use and love)

Sep 15, 2010 7:58 AM Ben Taylor Ben Taylor  says:

You don't need to wait for Microsoft to implement simultaneous editing on Word documents. You can do this now by using Codoxword. Codoxword allows multiple users to edit the same simultaneously with MS Word 2010, 2007, or 2003.

More information can be found on their website

Oct 3, 2010 10:57 AM MS Word User MS Word User  says:

It is my ambition to develop my self as an expert of Microsoft Word and it is more than a year that I am surfing the web specially to discover features of Microsoft Office Sofware. But I really admit that even after 12 months there is alot to learn yet. Thanks for writing suc an informative blog post.


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