Despite Google Docs, and even Microsoft Office Web Apps, some people still prefer to create and edit their documents the old-fashioned way, using Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. To ease these Luddites into the world of cloud-based sharing, Google has created Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a plug-in for Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010 that syncs desktop-bound Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents to Google Docs.
A preview version of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is available today through Trusted Testing, Google's limited beta testing program. Google reps said the plug-in would be freely downloadable when it becomes generally available next year. I tried it out on a couple of Windows XP systems running Office 2007.
Install the plug-in, and a Google Docs menu appears below the ribbon in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Log into Google Docs, and the document you create will be synced to your Google Docs account. You can set -- on a per-document basis -- whether Cloud Connect will sync the document automatically (whenever it's saved) or manually (when you click the Sync button).
You can also share your document via Google Docs directly from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Just click the Share button, enter the sharee's email address, and set the "Can view" or "Can edit" permission -- simple.
The kicker is that simultaneous editing is supported. That is, multiple people can work on the same document at the same time, and each of their changes will be synced (as they save or sync them) in real time. Whenever changes compete, you can choose which revisions to accept or reject on a case-by-case basis.
In extending simultaneous editing to Office 2003 and Office 2007 users, Google is one-upping Microsoft. Simultaneous editing is a marquee feature in Office 2010, where it's supported in Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010, and the Office Web Apps, but not Excel 2010. Google is not only bringing the feature to older versions of Office (and Excel 2010), but supporting it across versions.
Simultaneous editing also works across Word and Google's Web editor for word processing docs. Google Docs doesn't support editing Excel or PowerPoint docs online.