Edit with multiple authors in Office Web Apps Word

Office Web Apps allows you to create, store, view, and edit Microsoft Office documents in the cloud, either connecting up with your Office installation on your computer, or by using the free web interface, tied to SkyDrive.  Up until now, although you could collaborate on OneNote documents, co-authoring Office Web Apps documents hasn’t been possible.

That changed today, according to a new blog post on the Office Web Apps blog, and in the spirit of co-authoring, in a complementary post on Inside Windows Live.  The some 50 million users of Office Web Apps on SkyDrive and Hotmail can now co-author Word Web Apps, and the new feature is available just by signing in to SkyDrive.

Omar Shahine and our own LiveSide emeritus Harrison Hoffman walk us through the new features in this video:

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The way co-authoring works is a bit unique, and comes as a result of a lot of testing and feedback.  Basically, when you begin an edit in a paragraph, that paragraph is locked to editing from other authors (they’re notified that the paragraph is locked, and can view refreshed results at any time by hitting Save).  You’re also notified that an author is editing a document, or you can check the authors of a particular document by dropping down a list:

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You don’t actually see the edits happening in real time, but for brainstorming type sessions where you want this functionality, there’s OneNote.  The Office Web Apps designers found that seeing editing happen in real time could be disconcerting:

We also learned that most people don’t want others to see their thoughts and edits in a polished document until they’re ready. At the same time, other contributors to the document want to review and digest changes being made before they react and respond instead of seeing others typing in the document where they’re working.

And so although you’ll get an indication that a paragraph is being edited (a dotted line around the left side of the paragraph), and can update any edited paragraph at any time by saving (so you don’t actually have to wait until the other author finishes their edits), you don’t see real time edits in action.

Co-authoring for Word on Office Web Apps is available on SkyDrive, Word 2010, or Word for Mac 2011, so whether you’re on your PC, your Mac, or logged in to SkyDrive, you can begin co-authoring documents today.

(via Paul Thurrott)