Microsoft Office 2016 to feature co-editing

Two or more people will be able to work on a single Word document at the same time

Soon, multiple people will be able to work on the same Word document simultaneously, and even see each others' changes as they are typed out in real-time.

At the Ignite conference, held this week in Chicago, Microsoft demonstrated the new co-editing capability which lets two or more people edit a Word document at the same time. It can be tested in a a preview edition of the software suite released this week.

Today, joint editing of the same Word document can be complicated, as people make changes to the file on their local devices and email it to their colleagues for further modifications, often resulting in the existence of multiple drafts. Co-editing eliminates the need to email the same document back and forth among different participants.

Real-time co-editing has been available in Microsoft's Office Web apps since 2013, and is also offered by rival products such as Google Docs.

"People have been interested in moving that same capability down to the rich app on the device," said Jared Spataro, a Microsoft general manager for the Office marketing group.

When in collaborative mode, Word will show how someone else is editing the document "character by character," Spataro said. The person making the edits is identified by a small set of initials hovering by the cursor making the change.

Key to making the file available to all parties is storing it in the cloud, either in OneDrive or OneDrive for Business. At present, there is no limit to the number of people who can work on a single document at the same time.

The technology still needs to be finalized, Spataro said. For instance, the development team is still working out how to handle collisions, when two people are working on the exact same part of the text. This could be handled by locking the paragraph or the sentence that one person is editing, so others can't access it.

Eventually co-creation will also be offered in PowerPoint and Excel as well, Spataro said.

Microsoft Office 2016 is due to be released by the end of the year.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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