Office 2016 gets ‘real time’ document co-authoring … again

The latest Office 2016 preview has upgraded the existing collaboration features to include ‘real time’ co-authoring.

If you’re having a touch of ‘déjà vu’ right now … it not your imagination.  Microsoft has announced document collaboration so, so many times over the years.  But each time the press falls for it and parrot the Microsoft hype.  Sigh …

Document collaboration isn’t new in Office.  For some years, two or more people have been able to open the same document and edit it at the same time.

What’s changed is the level of detail in displaying changes to the other users online.  In Office 2013 if you edited a paragraph, that paragraph was locked out for other editors until you’d finished.  Then the paragraph changes were pushed out to the other editors.

In Office 2016, it’s more detailed with edits appearing to other users in what Microsoft calls ‘real time’.   Co-authors can see text edits and even the cursor position of other editors as they all work on a document.

Source: Microsoft – cropped and highlighted by Office Watch.

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Source: Microsoft – cropped by Office Watch.

Nitpickers will know that ‘real time’ really means ‘as fast as possible’ which is fast enough.  The speed that updates show to other editors depends on the speed of the various Internet connections and the hosting server.  Our informal tests, with side-by-side computers, suggest that ‘real time’ really means about ’10-20 seconds’.  That’s more than adequate for document collaboration.

When you first try co-authoring there’s a notification pop-up to make sure you’re aware that the document can be edited by others:

Source: Microsoft – cropped by Office Watch.

Obviously, the shared document has to be saved somewhere that’s accessible to all the editors.  In addition, the server holding the document has to support the Office collaboration features.  That means a plain network share isn’t enough.

At this stage, Microsoft is saying that the new Office 2016 document collaboration is available for documents saved on ‘OneDrive’ and ‘SharePoint Online’.   That’s great because OneDrive is available to anyone, and certainly anyone with Microsoft Office.

All this is available in Office 2016 Preview version 16.0.4229.1017 which was pushed out to Preview users on 13 August 2015.