Available for enterprises and server-based setups since 2010, Office Web Apps have enabled real-time co-authoring of Office documents. What that means is that digital collaboration is no longer a huddled contortionistic dance of pointing & rocking. The document being worked on can be opened, accessed, and edited simultaneously by two or more persons on different devices. Each user has a uniquely colored cursor and changes are reflected in real-time. Such functionality enables increased productivity and comfort while collaborating. The implications of additional sets of eyes are clearly positive. Proofreading can be minimized or even eliminated. Necessary redactions can be applied without the redacted issue being elaborated upon later in the document.
Much like military technology, enterprise software can eventually trickle down into mainstream use. Microsoft did just that in November 2013 by releasing this cooperative capability to subscribers of Office 365. This cloud-based solution is nearly identical to the standard client-based software in every way with one exception… it runs inside the web-browser. This benefits users who lack a centralized server to host the editing session (the vast majority). The “Ribbon” user interface is immediately discernible to anyone who has used Microsoft Office 2007 or later. Some advanced functions have been stripped but fret not. For the rare scenario when an advanced function is required, the document can be saved and opened up in the traditional software.
Collaborative sessions are initiated when an invitation to share is sent. The recipient of the invitation can then join in and the process begins. A Skype session can also be opened for communications. At times, the web app can seem unpolished, but it is mostly fine. In comparison to its older and more robust cousin, traditional client software, it has some catching up to do. Features take time to add in, and polishing is a continuing process. Other options do exist such as Google Apps, but they lack the standardization that Microsoft Office has come to represent. There exist several additional options, but for the hundred millions of users who are comfortable in the Microsoft Office UI, Office 365 Web Apps is the ideal option for live collaborative editing.