Collaborative editing

Michael; who writes the Shared Spaces blog has recently written about the challenges of collaborative editing of documents/presentations.  The problems not too difficult to solve within an business (Net Meeting etc) but solving the problem between businesses (through two sets of firewalls) in a secure fashion is another problem altogether.  Its even more difficult if like me you want to do it on an ad-hoc basis, during a telephone or IM conversation, rather than using a multi-user conferencing system like Lotus Same-time, Oracle Collaboration Server or MS Live Meeting.

These are the options that Michael came up with, as these all cost loads of money, require a client installation and lots of coordination between collaborators they don’t fulfil my ad-hoc need, any other areas would be welcome:

  • Groove Virtual Office Professional 3.0. Staff put the document to be shared into a Groove Document Review shared space. Internal and external participants are invited. Using the “Co-Edit” function of Groove, one person in turn can have edit rights of the document, and once they save their changes, everyone in the co-edit session gets to see the changes immediately. It’s not true real-time co-editing, but it’s extremely close … and it definitely solves the problem of having to email the changes around again. See
  • GoToMyPC Corporate. The document owner invites the other party to a real-time co-editing session by enabling controlled screen sharing. The document would be opened directly from the document management system, and checked back in immediately upon finishing the edit session. Both participants can share editing of the document. No extraneous copies of the document are left lying around, thus solving the content security problem. See
  • Authentica Secure Office. Authentica Secure Office enables staff to set access rights on documents—such as the right to read, the right to edit, the right to print, the right to copy text to the clipboard—for named individuals, as well as global rights for document expiration regardless of physical location. Secure Office does not deal with the problem of real-time co-editing of a Word document. It does, however, significantly reduce (or perhaps entirely eliminate) the risk of unauthorized disclosure of document contents. Hence, the document could be emailed as normal (or put into a Groove shared space), but no authorized access would be possible, since it was tied to an explicit rights policy. There are other companies that play in this space too. See

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Steve, good raising of additional issues. GoToMyPC also offers a personal offering, that’s about $20 per month. That would you give you secure collaborative co-editing. Yes, I agree that the other two cost $$$, but it was for a business that I was responding. Michael,

  2. Anonymous says:

    Still $20/month seems to much for an individual with ad-hoc collaboration needs. If you do a lot of collaboration and can convince all collaborators to go for a single solution then maybe it’s an option. For an enterprise to enterprise solution I would have tended to go for a hosted solution like Webex, live meeting, Sametime or oracle conferencing. Depending on the product these tend to offer usage based or concurrent user billing models.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Individuals who belong to multiple autonomous communities will still have the problem. They are, of course, few; to the mass market. So, nobody will offer them a ‘cheap’ solution that is also ‘cheerful’.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Steve, perhaps $20/mo is too much, but it would depend on usage in practice. I’m not a particular fan of per minute charging, because it can quickly add up (at $0.30 per minute), and could become a barrier to usage. Perhaps … if we had such a capability always available to us, we’d use it a lot more than we think. Eg, “I need Fred’s input on this document … I’ll email it to him … no wait, he’s online, I’ll invite him to this shared session”.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely agree with the point:

    if we had such a capability always available to us, we’d use it a lot more than we think. Eg, “I need Fred’s input on this document … I’ll email it to him … no wait, he’s online, I’ll invite him to this shared session”.

    and thats at the heart of my problem today. What system can you use for this ad-hoc collaboration. Within an enterprise if I was using MSN Messenger I would always be kicking off ad-hoc Net Meeting sessions in exactly the way you describe. But as I work more and more inter-enterprise its much more difficult. I am about to start an experiment with my companies’ Internet facing Sametime infrastructure which allows near instant establishment of sametime conferences using Net Meeting as the client, it will be interesting to see how that goes. I am not convinced though that these techniques will really be used in the “no wait, he’s online, I’ll invite him to this shared session” mode unless its as easy as one or two clicks. Groove is probably the closest to it technically but as I have mentioned before only works if your collaborative community are all using the same tool, which is very rare inter-enterprise.

    I have had the same experience with video. When I was confident that all my contacts were on the same side of a firewall we routinely used video to complement IM. But now some of us work from home, some and work and we never know where we are, its too unpredictable. Because of that we have tended to stop using it.

    For me IT is exploited when it always works, in a consistent and predictable way. As soon as any of these criteria break, people fall back to a technique that meets these criteria. That’s one of the reasons IMO why email is still so popular.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Steve, it sounds like we are at a similar place … there’s no perfect and widely deployed option yet for inter-enterprise collaboration. So somewhere a compromise has to be made. I agree too that “Groove is probably the closest to it technically” … and the one off price of $69/user shouldn’t be a barrier. It’s better than $20/mo, as we discussed above … but people in your network of collaborators have to be willing to install it.

    Just for the record, I liked Groove v3 so much that I paid for the full Project Edition … that is, I purchased it … Groove didn’t gift it to me.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I liked v2 so much I bought the pro version as well. Initially to offline SharePoint, but it would be great to test it out for ad-hoc collaboration. Maybe if we find other topics of common interest we could discuss via groove.

  8. Anonymous says:


    You might want to check out InstaColl – Rather than introduce a new collaboration tool, InstaColl merely extends existing productivity applications (including the Microsoft Office suite of products – Word, Excel and PowerPoint) from static, standalone apps to rich, interactive platforms. What’s more, it is free for one-to-one usage. InstaColl will formally be launched only next month but please feel free to give it a spin….hope it meets your expectations!

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