More great Office 2010 features for business

Many of the best new features in Office 2010 were designed with mobile users and far-flung work groups in mind

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Word 2010 provides the best functional example for how co-authoring works. When you open a document for co-authoring, you receive a notification about who else is editing the document in the program's status bar. Each of the users in question has a credentials pane; you can click it to obtain contact information, email addresses, IM handles, and so on. (There's no direct user-to-user chat function, which would have been handy, but maybe that's only because Microsoft assumes you already have some way of talking to the people you're collaborating with.)

One important thing about collaborative editing with Office 2010 is that changes don't register in real time. They register whenever you save a document, which allows the version you've created to be reconciled with the version currently stored on the server. When the save is finished, every section of the document that's been changed is marked to show who made the edits and what they consisted of. Word also tries to prevent people from stepping on each other's work too much; if a user is typing a paragraph and hits Save, the paragraph is locked for editing until that user is done. Likewise, you can protect or allow editing on whole regions of the document manually, and indicate that the section in question can be edited only by certain people or in certain ways (for example, only adding comments).

Office Web Apps, available through Live.com, also support simultaneous editing. For example, upload an Excel document to SkyDrive, open it for editing from multiple Live.com accounts, and you'll see a notification in the bottom-right corner of the window that tells you who's working on the document. Unlike with the desktop versions, changes show up almost instantaneously in the Web Apps, and regions of the document can't be protected through the Web interface. 

office-2010-coauthoring.gif
A document edited in Word 2010 by multiple authors. Clicking on the "2" to the right of the word count shows the total list of authors. The section in green with the author callout is currently being written by someone at another computer.

Record a slideshow as video
For a long time, to make sure that someone else could read your PowerPoint slide deck, you had to convert it into some other format. Not everyone had -- nor did they want -- PowerPoint. Most of the conversions I've seen involved turning a PPT file into HTML or PDF, and while they were readable, they lacked one detail: the presence of the presenter.

The Record Slide Show feature in PowerPoint 2010 goes a long way toward fixing this issue. Just about every aspect of a slideshow presentation -- including your own voice-over -- can be recorded and exported as a video. Even the virtual laser pointer (hold down the left Ctrl key and point the cursor at the slide) can be recorded. The downside is that the only output format for video appears to be WMV -- no saving a video directly in H.264, for instance, which could be streamed directly to a browser that supports it with no other software needed.

Broadcast a slideshow
With offices becoming more decentralized, it makes sense for PowerPoint to have a native way to share a slideshow presentation with people in remote locations. Behold the new Broadcast option, which lets you transmit a PowerPoint presentation to anyone with a Web browser. All they have to do is go to a URL that you provide.

Microsoft also intuited, quite wisely, that most users' ISPs shouldn't be saddled with the burden of distributing the broadcast themselves. To that end, you can transmit the slideshow through Microsoft's own PowerPoint Broadcast Service, which you can freely access as a licensed Office user. You can also use "a broadcast service provided by your organization, hosted on a server that has the Microsoft Office Web Apps installed" (Microsoft's own words). 

The bad news: Not everything carries over faithfully. All slide transitions turn into fades, annotations made on the slide deck will not show up, and audio components to the broadcast (including your own narration) won't be included. You'll still need to get all the participants to dial into whatever voice-conference bridge you've set up. But it's conceivable that those omitted features will eventually be added, perhaps via Silverlight.

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