Microsoft (s msft) has rolled out a co-authoring update to Word Web App, part of the Office Web Apps suite. This means multiple users can now edit a document simultaneously via Windows Live SkyDrive in Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 and Word Web App.
This update brings Word into line with the Excel and OneNote Web Apps, which have had co-authoring features since launch, and also with its main web app competitor, Google Docs (s goog).
When Word Web App was released, I was told by Microsoft that co-authoring wasn’t available as it was “too distracting” for users to have others come in and edit a document they were working on. Clearly, Microsoft has changed its mind on this point, but it has also put a great deal of work into making sure the Word Web App co-authoring experience doesn’t confuse. As shown in the image below, there are notifications to alert users when a collaborator is editing the document, and there are also notifications to alert users when a specific section is being edited. To prevent conflicts, only a single user can edit a paragraph at a time; when a user starts editing a paragraph, a lock is placed on it until the document is saved. If a collaborator saves the document, a notification pops up, letting the user know that they need to save the document to see updates. It’s certainly a less fluid collaboration experience that Google Docs’, but presumably one Microsoft believes is less distracting for users.
Let us know what you think of Word Web App co-authoring in the comments.