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Startup Adds Collaboration Features To Microsoft Office

DocVerse hopes its plug-in software, which helps people write and edit documents at the same time via the Web, beats the Office team at its own game.

With products like Google Docs that let people write and edit documents at the same time via the Web, Microsoft Office's lack of collaboration features has suddenly become glaring. Though Microsoft is working to plug those holes, a startup emerged from stealth mode Wednesday hoping to beat the Office team at its own game.

DocVerse, founded in late 2007 by former Microsoft employees, plans to release software that makes it easier to share and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents via a Web application, a plug-in for Office, and eventually another plug-in for SharePoint.

"Office does a lot of things really well, but to date it's never really done collaboration particularly well," DocVerse CEO Shan Sinha said in an interview. "Our goal is to fix that."

DocVerse has two sets of features: sharing and live editing. With DocVerse, when a user saves a document, DocVerse automatically updates a Web version of the document that can be opened in Office or over the Web with the Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer Web browsers.

"Even Mac users without Office should be able to view an Office document, and without even a plug-in," Sinha said, adding that this sharing mechanism also does away with the popular but sometimes trouble-laden method of sending e-mail attachments back and forth.

Once a document is shared, other users can then leave feedback about the document. A comment box appears next to DocVerse documents, including when they're opened in Office.

The other major feature of DocVerse is live editing, something that's found in several Web-based productivity suites like Google Docs. With DocVerse, multiple people can edit documents simultaneously, which Sinha said should reduce the need for complicated check-in and checkout procedures. DocVerse keeps track of all edits to a document so that if someone makes a mistake, users can roll back the document to earlier edits. Users also can monitor documents to be notified whenever a document gets updated.

It's not just Google Docs that DocVerse has to contend with. Microsoft has an array of collaborative tools like SharePoint, Office Live Workspaces, and Office Groove, and more robust collaboration is on the way when Office 14 hits shelves. According to Sinha, DocVerse comes at Office collaboration from a different angle than any of these products.

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