Microsoft Rolling Out Office 365 Collaboration Improvements

Microsoft on Wednesday announced it has begun to roll out new document collaboration capabilities to some Office 365 subscribers, with full availability expected by next month.

The improvements will particularly affect users of Microsoft's Outlook Web App and OneDrive for Business solutions. They include the ability to share OneDrive for Business document links, side-by-side editing of documents in "real time" from the Outlook Web App, and easier-to-access document permission controls.

The improvements will support iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones running the Outlook Web App. In a future release, Microsoft intends to enable these collaboration capabilities for the desktop version of Outlook, too.

Outlook Web App e-mail users who want to collaborate with others have the option to either attach a file to an e-mail or they can insert a link to a file stored in OneDrive for Business. The benefit of sending the link is that it doesn't create multiple copies of the file that people are collaborating on, and people can edit the file concurrently.

When Outlook Web App users receive an e-mail attachment of a file that's been stored in OneDrive for Business, they can tell that it's stored there because the attachment will now show a new cloud icon within the traditional Excel, PowerPoint or Word file icon. If a different e-mail client is used instead of the Outlook Web App client to receive an attachment, then the users will see a "tile" image link within the body of the e-mail, instead of the traditional attached file (see image below).

Cloud icons as they appear in Outlook Web App file attachments (top) and in other e-mail clients (bottom), indicating that the files were saved in OneDrive for Business. (Source: Microsoft)

Collaborators receiving a file or link to a file can quickly edit it using the new "side-by-side view" in the Outlook Web App. The side-by-side view shows the e-mail on the right side of the Outlook viewing pane with the document attached being open for editing on the left side of the viewing pane. Such collaborative edits can take place in "real time," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also smoothed over some of the steps associated with collaborating on documents. Outlook Web App users who are sending file attachments to others can now automatically upload the file to OneDrive for Business and either attach the file or send a link to it.

In addition, collaborators using the Outlook Web App client will automatically transfer document viewing and editing privileges to other users when they use the "To:" and "Cc:" address fields. They can also change those permissions within the e-mail message as they add the attachment.

Forwarding e-mails with attached files will automatically transfer the viewing and editing privileges associated with the attachment to other recipients, if they are within an organization. However, if the recipient is outside of the sender's organization, then they get two e-mails: the original e-mail and a share invitation. Entering Microsoft account log-in information in response to the invitation will then enable access the e-mail attachment.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.