By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-06-05 Print this article Print

Beta 2 represents microsofts formal introduction of Groove 2007 into the Office fold. The changes in Groove are not dramatic for the most part, but, for some users, they will be quite useful. We found the most significant change to be direct support for Office SharePoint Server—users can now create a document repository on SharePoint and use Groove as a way to bring files offline in a more managed way than just saving them to a folder on the users PC.

The peer-to-peer Groove also provides a way for companies that use SharePoint Server to manage documents internally. And organizations that have a policy against granting outside access to SharePoint may be OK with sharing info and collaborating over the more tightly managed Groove.

Read more here about Microsofts acquisition of Groove Networks.
Groove installed on an internal users system can act as a proxy for the Groove user outside the firewall. The internal user needs only to share a document work space, and the public Groove network will handle synchronizing data between the two users. Microsoft will also be providing Groove Enterprise Management Server and Enterprise Relay Server for companies that want to run and manage internal Groove networks.

Microsoft has added an InfoPath forms tool to Groove so developers can share an InfoPath form with Groove users. In our testing, we werent able to get any sample forms to load into a Groove work space. However, InfoPaths macro capability should give teams a way to build more complex workflows in form-based applications in Groove.

Groove will be bundled only in the Enterprise Edition of the Office suite, which means that Microsoft is missing out on an opportunity to help small and midsize businesses quickly build collaborative work spaces without help from IT organizations.

There is plenty of overlap between Groove and other components of Office, including the presence capabilities inherent in the Office Communicator application and the document management and workflow capabilities of Office SharePoint Server. How Groove will fit as an enterprisewide solution isnt entirely clear based on this beta. Even so, Groove should prove quite useful for workgroups with specific collaboration needs.

With Office 2003, Microsoft introduced online document collaboration through Windows SharePoint Services, a set of technologies running on Windows Server 2003 that allowed users to work on documents together in real time.

With the beta release of Office 2007, Microsoft has improved on the platform by tightly integrating Office SharePoint Server 2007 in such a way that it functions as the back end for more structured document and content management. By default, Office SharePoint Services users can share documents from an Office application by saving the document to their personal SharePoint sites.

Users will get additional workflow tools as part of these sites; the tools can be used to manage simple approval and revision processes, as well as to define workflow to shepherd documents through a given process.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.


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