Google and Microsoft Oct. 26 made key moves to their messaging and collaboration applications in the name of data portability, the increasingly popular trend of letting users move content created in specific applications outside those apps.
Following its pledge to let users shuttle their Google data from one repository to another, Google has begun allowing users to export multiple Google Docs at the same time. Microsoft meanwhile released documentation for the .pst file format for its Microsoft Office Outlook e-mail application.
Power users of Google Docs may want to take dozens, hundreds or even thousands of files from Google Docs from Google Apps and move them to another repository. But these users don’t have the time to move each document piecemeal. The “Convert, Zip and Download” Docs batch export utility lets Google Docs users select multiple files and then click on “Export” from the “More Actions” menu in Docs.
Users then pick the format they desire — Microsoft Word, PDF, etc. — for the files they want to export. To complete the task and receive a zip file with all of their Docs, users simply click “Continue.”
Because it can take several minutes to export large amounts of files, the Google Docs team added an “E-mail when ready” option that sends users a link when the zip file is ready. Currently, Google said users can export up to 500 megabytes of content in a single zip file. That covers some 20,000 typical files, give or take.
The Docs team, which launched a major refresh earlier this month, including multi-file upload, also added indicators on whether they’ve “viewed” an item or not.
“Unviewed” files are in bold, while “viewed” files are not. A “New!” indicator is displayed when items are initially shared to users. When an item is first shared, it will be bold and marked as “New!”. Once that item has been viewed it will be listed normally, said Google Docs Product Manager Vijay Bangaru.
Google is billing its “Convert, Zip and Download” utility as the “first major offensive on the Data Liberation Front,” a group of Google engineers that teach consumers how they can move data into and out of Google applications.
Microsoft Does Data Portability, Too
But the Front has been busy building data portability bridges for Google Apps for months, including Blogger’s full blog downloads to e-mail export from Gmail using IMAP and POP3.
Brian Fitzpatrick, engineering manager for the Data Liberation Front, has told eWEEK such features are geared to let users control their data, whether they choose to house it in Google’s cloud computing environment, or move it elsewhere.
This is just one of the ways Google is looking to separate itself from the traditional, proprietary nature of messaging and collaboration applications, such as IBM Lotus and Microsoft Office and SharePoint.
Google’s moves must be getting under the skin of Microsoft, which pulled back the covers on its Outlook documentation by letting developers read and work with the data in .pst files using whatever programming language and platform they desire.
On desktops running Microsoft Windows, e-mail, calendar, contacts, and other data generated by Microsoft Outlook are stored in Outlook Personal Folders in a format called a .pst file.
Developers can access the data stored in the .pst file, using Messaging API (MAPI) and the Outlook Object Model, but only if Outlook is installed on the desktop.
Paul Lorimer, group manager for Microsoft Office Interoperability, said Microsoft wants to make .pst files actionable for programmers using messaging applications other than Outlook, including Gmail or Yahoo Mail.
The technical documentation, which Lorimer characterized as in early stages and ongoing, will tell developers how the data is stored and provide guidance for accessing that data from other software applications. When it is complete, it will be released under Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise, which will allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns of infringing Microsoft’s patents.
“Data portability has become an increasing need for our customers and partners as more information is stored and shared in digital formats,” Lorimer said.
Om Malik find this curious, wondering whether Microsoft is bowing to “pressure from the European Union that wants to push Microsoft on the road to interoperability.”
EWeek believes Microsoft may also be bowing to industry pressures from rivals such as Google, whose data liberation efforts are being warmly received by data portability evangelists.