Microsoft Office is a tool found in most offices, so a tool that makes it easy to not only share documents through the cloud but to collaborate on them would be a logical choice for many businesses. Central Desktop for Office is such a tool.
Microsoft Office and a Little More
On the surface, Central Desktop for Office doesn’t seem to change your average Microsoft Office installation very much. It adds a new toolbar, but otherwise, the software looks the same. However, when you install Central Desktop for Office, you’re actually making some big changes. That new toolbar allows you to collaborate with your team and interact with files stored in the cloud without needing to open a web browser.
The underlying software, based on the OffiSync technology that Simon’s written about before, does the heavy lifting. It integrates online collaboration with the normal functions of Microsoft Office. Central Desktop for Office is compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office, including the 2010 version. Once you install it, you simply use Office as usual and take advantage of a few additional tools. In addition to co-authoring (being able to work on files simultaneously with a collaborator), you can add comments to your files that your teammates can see and respond to. You can also track the versions of your documents so you can return to older versions if need be.
An Alternative to SharePoint?
Central Desktop for Office has positioned itself as an alternative to SharePoint for small- and medium-sized businesses. The full, premium edition costs $30 per year per user. A limited version (which doesn’t include the co-authoring or commenting features) is free for all Central Desktop users.
The pricing is in line with many collaboration tools, but may actually be more cost-effective when you look at how integrated Microsoft Office has become for many offices. When a team is working in different locations, it may rely on hacks or cutting and pasting to make sure that files remain in sync on some collaboration platforms; Microsoft Office usually doesn’t take kindly to two people editing the same file at the same time. Because Central Desktop for Office is integrated into one of the most widely used pieces of software, you can save time on both coordination and training. After all, you won’t have to move your team from Microsoft Office to another platform.
When you add in the fact that Central Desktop’s technology platform offers a variety of tools for collaboration and management — on top of the new software for Microsoft Office — it seems to be a particularly easy-to-adopt collaboration tool.
Have you tried Central Desktop for Office? Let us know what you think if it in the comments.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise