Microsoft SkyDrive: How to Collaborate on Documents in Real-Time

Last Updated Jul 18, 2011 2:51 PM EDT

One of the things I've always appreciated about Google Docs is the way two or more people can co-author the same document at the same time. Fellow Biz Hacks blogger Rick and I have been known to simultaneously co-write a document, and it's empowering to be able to do so whether your partner is in the same room or a half-continent away. I've always wished you could do that with Word. Thanks to a recent update from Microsoft, now you can.

You'll need to use the Word Web App -- if you've never tried it before, you can use it for free by logging into SkyDrive, Microsoft's 25GB cloud storage solution. You can edit an existing Word doc (stored in a SkyDrive folder) or create a new Word file using the Word icon at the top of the SkyDrive browser screen.

Co-authoring in Word is more or less the same as editing in Google Docs, but there are some key distinctions. Getting started is just as simple: Open the doc and start working. Word keeps you informed about who is also working on the document, and you can also check the Other Authors button in the ribbon's View tab to see who else is in the metaphorical editing room with you. Whatever paragraph you're actively working in is locked, so others can't accidentally create conflicts with what you're doing.

One way that Word is different than Google Docs is seeing your co-author's edits. Rather than having their changes appear instantly (which I do find a bit disorienting), our co-author's changes are only incorporated into your document when he saves his work and then you save yours. When your co-author saves, you get a message telling you that you can save to see the latest updates, so you're never left wondering if there are new updates available.

This is a great update to Microsoft's rapidly evolving cloud version of Office. You can read more about this in the official announcement on the Office blog.

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Dave Johnson was employed by Microsoft Corporation at the time this article was written.

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