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Real-Time Collaboration Added To Google Docs

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Google Docs has been given real-time collaboration capabilities, not unlike those seen in Google Wave

Google Docs presentations capabilities have been upgraded, adding real-time collaboration capabilities and more than 50 other features to make it more competitive with Microsoft Office Web Apps and other tools.

Docs presentations will not be mistaken for Google Wave, the failed collaboration platform that used Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) to run in real time. However, the online presentation tool has been upgraded to let multiple users edit content in real time, character by character, from anywhere, one of the hallmarks of Wave.

Creating compelling content

“Presentations are made to be shared – whether it’s presenting your thesis to your professors or inspiring colleagues at a conference,” said Google software engineer Steven Saviano in a blog post. “And the best presentations are made together, collaborating with others to build a compelling story that captivates your audience.”

Users will be able to see who is working on what presentation via colourful presence markers, access revision history to check out who made changes to what presentations, and start a conversation with the application’s built-in chat capability.

Also in the mix: the ability to easily move between slides with fades and 3D effects; animations; new themes; drawing capabilities to build new designs, layouts and flowcharts within a presentation; and rich tables with merged cells and more style options.

Google said the new Docs presentations are gradually rolling out, though users can click on the gear icon in their document list, select document settings and check the box from the editing tab to create new presentations with the new presentation editor.

Docs presentations also will not be mistaken for the on-premise Microsoft Office PowerPoint application, though it is certainly on par with Microsoft Office Web Apps, the software giant’s Web collaboration suite.

HTML5 browser required

Google noted that most of the new presentation features rely on HTML5, which is supported in modern Web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox 4 and later. Those using an older browser will be able to view, but not edit, the new presentations, explained Saviano.

Google explained in its support notes that users who are working in Safari 4 or Internet Explorer 8 and want to create a Google presentation using the latest version will need to install Google Chrome Frame or use another supported browser.

“If you use Google Apps, you may be unable to upgrade your browser on your own. In this case, please contact your administrator or your IT support for further assistance,” Google added.

The new presentations are long overdue, coming more than a year and half after Google launched new document, spreadsheet and drawing editors. The Docs editor employs a new JavaScript layout engine and leans heavily on HTML5 to boost speed.