Microsoft is bringing the fight to Google Docs by beefing up its free Office Web Apps with real-time co-editing and other features designed to boost productivity in the cloud.
Working in SkyDrive's suite of web-based Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps used to be a lonely affair, but the latest update, which is documented in a company blog post (opens in new tab), means that colleagues, family or friends (any other SkyDrive user, in other words) can sign in to co-edit documents and see changes instantly without waiting for them to be saved.
As with Google Docs, each person gets a colored marker to indicate the area of the document they're working on, and a pair of indicators in the top-right hand corner show which pages two collaborators are editing at that moment in time.
The update has also brought a much-needed auto-save function to SkyDrive's Word App, something that Microsoft's free OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint web apps have had for some time.
Word is also getting a heap of other improvements listed on Microsoft's Word blog (opens in new tab). They include Find and Replace, page breaks, format styling for tablets, and header and footer insertion.
Additionally, the Excel Web App now lets you drag and drop cells and re-order sheets, and more workbook types are supported online. The app now provides analysis of data directly into the status bar, including sum, count, and average of a selected range of cells. To find out more head over to Microsoft's Excel blog (opens in new tab).
Along with the additions to its Office Web Apps, Microsoft has announced in a company blog post (opens in new tab) that Yammer Enterprise, the company's cloud-based social network for businesses, is now included in all Office 365 Enterprise plans for free.
It has also launched the Yammer Partner Enablement Program to support Yammer roll outs. Detailed in a separate blog post, Microsoft says that the invite-only program offers "workshops, online courses and other training opportunities" to help businesses make the most of the platform.
Microsoft bought Yammer in 2013 for $1.2 billion and has increasingly embedded the service into many of its existing offerings including Office, Lync, Outlook and Dynamics.
- Collaboration is here, so now it's time to learn how to use Google Docs in business