Google is set to roll out the next version of its popular Google Docs, with increased collaboration meaning that 50 people can work on the same doc at once, but a lack of Gears support meaning that offline editing is disabled.

Google Docs have always been built for collaboration, but the new version will not only allow more people to edit at the same time, but will also offer faster and more responsive editing.

"We've extended Google Docs' collaboration capabilities too, with support for up to 50 people working together at once, and in documents, you can now see other people's edits as they happen character-by-character," said Google on its official blog.

"And now you can also collaborate on flow charts, diagrams and other schematics in real time with a new editor for drawings on Google Docs."

Uploading

Uploading files to the cloud will also be easier – and take advantage of the 'upload any file' functionality brought in last year.

"We've responded to many of your requests for features you're used to in desktop software," added Google.

"In documents, we've added a margin ruler, better numbering and bullets and easier image placement options.

"And in spreadsheets, you'll now find a formula editing bar, cell auto-complete, drag-and-drop columns and other features not possible with older browser technologies."

Gearing up for HTML5

However, some functionality has been changed or removed; Auto-translation and the lack of offline editing for now will be a major blow for some.

"Please note, these new editors are not compatible with Gears (the technology that powers offline access), so they do not have offline support today," confirmed the Google Docs blog.

"However, we plan to bring back offline support in the future, taking advantage of new technologies like HTML5 and advancements in modern browsers."

Preview

Because of the changes Google will offer a preview option for a few months and keep the old version in place.

"The drawings editor will be available later today, and preview versions of spreadsheets and documents will roll out to all individual users over the next few days," concludes Google.

"To try them out, click 'New version' at the top of any spreadsheet or go to the 'Document Settings' page and select 'New version of Google documents."

Office 2010

Of course, Microsoft's next version of Office – Office 2010, arrives soon and will bring extensive online functionality.

The software giant is aware that the cloud represents the first major threat to its domination of the Office application market, and is keen to ensure that it does not fall behind Google's offering.