Google Docs Gets a Real-Time Upgrade

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In a bid to make Google Docs more appealing to workers and consumers, Google is rolling out a new feature that lets users of its productivity service discuss shared documents in real-time. The upgrade is aimed at helping users resolve issues faster.

The new discussion feature is also part of Google’s ongoing effort to dethrone Microsoft Office as the leader in productivity apps. By enabling more real-time discussions, Google is building off the strength of its cloud-based approach to apps and recognizes the way users increasingly are accustomed to communicating online.

Here’s how it works: Users can hold ongoing threaded conversations within a document using time stamps and profile pictures and @mentions, similar to Facebook. They can easily add people to the conversation and ultimately remove the conversation from view on the document by resolving the issue.

Google will also notify users of new messages via e-mail when they are mentioned in a discussion. A user can reply through e-mail or jump into the document. The promise of discussions is really to get people to collaborate quickly inside the document. Often, people are working on a document, but their discussion is transferred to e-mail. With the new discussion feature, there’s a better chance of getting a group to move quickly.

The upgraded discussion feature builds off the overhaul of Docs last April, which introduced real-time collaboration editing features and moved comments to the sidebar. And it continues the string of improvements for Google Docs, which got a new updated interface in January and earlier enabled mobile document editing.

The new discussion feature be available over the next few days to Google users and as well as Google Apps customers on the Rapid Release track. The update will only apply to new documents so the old commenting system will remain for existing docs.

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