Microsoft’s best kept secret since Outlook Anywhere
(wasn’t I good avoiding the obvious tag-line?)
I’ve recently had my Office system upgraded on my notebook, the Beta 2 Technical Refresh was being blamed for some irregularities I actually believe were down to some other stuff I was up to, however I’m now the proud user of the RTM of the 2007 Office System (mmmm).
BTW if you’ve made the jump and are struggling with finding things in the new GUI in Word or Excel 2007 try Eileen’s blog for useful hints my latest discovery is set language (vital for a ctrl+c ctrl+v merchant) review tab > proofing pane > set language.
Groove is frankly brilliant – A Microsoft acquisition two years ago the software is one of the most intuitive and simple collaboration tools for distributed information workers I have come across.
I’ve posted before about the pain that remote working can cause when you actually have to interact with your remote colleagues or collaborators.
Sure there are tools that can be used to ease this pain, Office Communicator, Live Communications Server and Sharepoint are perfect for this however they aren’t cheap, need complex setup to get working and need trained administrators, they just don’t really lend themselves to ad hoc communities of interest.
Spontaneity is where Groove comes in, in a few clicks anyone can create a shared workspace that allows you to seamlessly share documents create a project calendar, sketch, communicate in real time and see when your collaborators are online, the whole system is encrypted and you can use the groove client offline if needs be.
You can integrate Groove into your organisaton by deploying Groove Server 2007 which adds AD integration and audit and observation tools but I’ve been using the public server version and it’s fantastic.
you need to create an account – which is quick and easy and then you are ready to create your new workspace
new Groove Workspace Walkthrough
when groove is installed the Groove launchbar appears on your desktop
(I’ve blanked some of the meaningful Groove Workspace Names)
click File> New > workspace
this is a standard workspace so we get a space with a fileshare and a discussion forum
the discussion forum is a mini blog of sorts the file share is a drag and drop area to place files on which you are collaborating
you can add tools to the space
including Chess :) but also Sharepoint libraries issue tracking a notepad and a sketchpad.
You can then add users, this is where the process gets really clever add anyone from your contacts or anyone from the public groove directory and you are presented with a properly formatted email in outlook to send to them.
When your invited guest receives their email if they have Groove installed they simply click the attachment and they are added to your workspace, if they don’t have groove they are directed to the office system 2007 website where they can download the trial.
This is Microsoft genius as you get
30 days [correction : 60 days] to try the application and this may allow you to discharge your duty for a particular project but I guarantee you will not want to be without Groove after using it – the best kind of Viral Marketing
Once someone I have invited has joined I can instantly see their presence information and send emails and instant messages from my Groove Client, I’ve tested the system behind various firewalls on customers sites and my own network at home and essentially it appears if you can browse you can pretty much Groove
this is our first test workspace
(Dave has more sense than to be online at this time of night)
to work on a document you just double click it, when finished you save the document and Groove prompts you to save it to the workspace – you can chat and the history is saved and you get alerts when changes are made or collaborators move into different tabs in the workspace.
Groove is absolutely fantastic, technophobe friendly setup, seamless, simple and astoundingly cost effective, if you want to be able to work wherever you want to then you absolutely must get this application.
UPDATE: I’ve not seen any security assessment of the application so if you’ve seen one please post a comment.
UPDATE II : I’ve found an MSDN blog on the Groove system a bit sparse on current posts but I’ll add Marc to my Championship list, there are some interesting posts about the supporting infrastructure
UPDATE III: problems with creating a new workspace having just installed the trail version of Groove 2007? see this post for details on how to solve the problem