Archive for October, 2008

Microsoft’s “Office Web” announcement.

October 28th, 2008 by Jason

Well, the announcement happened, and its vaporware.

Microsoft’s anouncement is that you will be able to “create, edit and collaborate” on Office documents using your web browser (IE, Firefox, or Safari), but not until Office 14.

Office 14 is expected late 2009 or 2010. So if you wait for Microsoft to deliver Office 14 – and your IT department to roll it out – before you start collaborating in Word, count on waiting until 2011. They didn’t tell you you can get started now, using Plutext and Word 2007 :-)

That’s the only real surprise.

There were no surprises re:

  • Technology – Office Web uses Silverlight (or AJAX)
  • Delivery model – you need Sharepoint or Office Live Workspace to host the service
  • Pricing – it is available as a hosted subscription service or through existing volume licensing agreements

It is interesting to see that their collaboration stuff seems to work on a synch-every-few-seconds model (like Google Docs) in OneNote, but in Word the user has to explicitly synch.  I’ll blog in another post why this is the correct design decision.

What happens if you go offline? This probably depends on underlying support for offline in Silverlight.

Microsoft’s collaboration stuff any day now?

October 26th, 2008 by Jason

It’s Monday morning on October 27th as I write here in Australia.

Steve Balmer gave hints in 2 separate reports at the beginning of the month that they’ll be announcing their in-Office collaboration stuff this week.

The first report was in

Ballmer:So we are embracing Software + Services, Cloud Computing as hard as anybody. By the time we finish our Professional Developers Conference this month, I think you’ll have to say that there is nobody out there with as wide a range of Cloud Computing services as Microsoft, including, dare I say it, Google …

CIO: Steve, I guess the $64,000 question from a lot of people’s point of view is, is there going to be an Office for the Web, something that really competes head on with Google Docs, Google Apps?

Ballmer: .. I think what people want is something as rich as Microsoft Office, something that you can ‘click and run’, if you are not at your own desk. Something that is compatible, document-wise with Microsoft Office and something that offers the kind of joint editing capabilities that is nice in Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Will Microsoft Office offer that? Yes! Standby for details in the next month.

CIO: So, in the backend of Microsoft R&D, are there people beavering away at versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc, that are purely web based? Or, is it always going to be this hybrid?

Ballmer: What does it mean to be purely Web based? Do we want them to be as only as powerful as ‘runs in a browser’? No. We want software that is more powerful than runs in a browser. Does that mean we will not have some neat stuff that does run in the browser? No.

We think you’ll actually want the full power of Word, Excel and PowerPoint – and you’ll want to be able to get that simply. But, if you just happen to be in an Internet cafe kiosk and you want to do some light editing, perhaps we need to have a way to support you in that as well, inside the browser. ..

In another, in response to a question about Office Live, he said:

“Office Live has a few things left it needs to do. Number one, and probably most important, is to make sure that people using Office have greater ability to collaborate with one another. We have some of that today with [Office Live] Workspaces, as well as that we’ve got SharePoint; we can do more and some of those things will be better than the other alternatives.

Number two, is when we do Office Live, it has to be true to Office; you’ll need to be able to have full Office documents and programs and share them.

Number three, we have to make it so that – most people use Office most of the time from a single machine. But if you’re away from your desk, at a cafe, a kiosk or your school library, and you don’t have Office, you’ll want to be able to do something quickly; we have to make sure you can get it easily, stream it down, put it in a browser, something like that there… details coming in a few weeks.

I’m not going to write here what I think they are likely to announce.  More sensible to wait a little longer.  It will be interesting though to see what is available immediately, and how much is just vaporware.

Plutext walkthrough

October 20th, 2008 by Jason

PlutextWalkthrough (PDF) is a step by step guide to collaborating on a Word document using Plutext.

It contains more or less the same information as my last blog post, but in a format which allows you to avoid the videos.

Collaboration in Word – ready for alpha testing

October 1st, 2008 by Jason

Plutext enables everyone on your team to make changes in Word, at the same time (ie it lets you collaborate just as you can in Google Docs, but in your familiar Word environment, with formatting, change tracking etc).

Here is a short screencast of the gist of it:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

If you are working on legal documents, government reports, or other formal deliverables you’ll probably want to make the process more structured.  Here is an excerpt from an old screencast showing our features for lawyers and others requiring accountability:

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If you want to give it a try, the easiest way to try it out is to download our Word 2007 add-in, then fire up Word and login to the “public0902” group with these “tester” settings (on Word’s review ribbon, click our “File” button, then Settings), using password “tester”:

Click to enlarge

then open an existing document (from the Plutext “File” button on the Review ribbon).

You can get a colleague to work with you on a document. Or you can simulate collaboration simply by opening the document twice on your PC (which is what I’ve done in the screencasts above).

Right now, you need Word 2007.  Next week, we’ll release an updated build of our cross-platform client which you can try.

This video shows you how to add your own document to the public space (or your private space):

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But be careful, anyone else can see the documents if you just use the “public” group.

If you’d like a little privacy, you can setup a space of your own on our test server.

We’d love to know what you think, either in the comments, or our forums, or privately (

Please report problems with the Word add-in here, and server problems here.  Thanks.

Naturally, there are a few limitations in this alpha, including:

  • the Audit function doesn’t like bookmarks
  • adding an image won’t work

Finally, if you want to uninstall the Word add-in, you can do this from Window’s add/remove programs in the usual way.