Microsoft has just updated Office 2016, including some essential collaborative editing related features:
- Files history: this one is tied to a One Drive Entreprise account and let you see who saved what version and when and revert to it. It works pretty much like Google App For Work version of the feature.
- Who's editing what and when: you now see who's in the document with you and what bit they're editing with colored selection (similar to how it works in Word 2016 or Google Doc) just by seing their colored selection or by clicking their avatar.
While History was probably not critical (considering how Office is packed with powerful revision management related features), it certainly can come in handy. But the User Interface collaborative workflow bit seems like the real important step for desktop versions of Powerpoint or Excel as those still doesn't have real time collaboration. When collaboration relies on manual rather than continuous synchronisation, concurrent editing is nothing short of dangerous as the risk of conflicting actions and productivity loss becomes very substantial. At leas having some indication that one zone is currently busy will help to avoid stepping on anyone's toe.
Microsoft has already made clear we should expect those desktop versions of Excel or Powerpoint to become as fully real time collaborative as Word 2016, all things Office 2016 Online or Google App for Works. Indeed an essential need for Excel or Powerpoint that easily need the code effectiveness provided by the desktop version to handle large datas.
The update also includes some team related improvements such as deep integration with calendar and Skype communication - again, provided you have the right Office license in your company.