Move over, Google Docs and Office Web Apps. Apple has added collaboration tools to its free iWork for iCloud productivity apps.
The new tools, which had been announced at the end of October when the company launched its new iPad Air and iPad Mini tablet with a Retina display, allow users to simultaneously edit documents, spreadsheets or presentations in the Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps.
At that presentation of iWork for iCloud, the company said that collaboration functionality was users’ most requested new capability.
List of Collaborators
In addition to working simultaneously on files, the supporting features include the ability to list all collaborators engaged in a project, see the cursors and selections of other collaborators, and jump to a collaborator’s cursor by clicking on their name in the collaborator list. Images and shapes animate when collaborators move them around.
Other new features include printing, although it requires that the document in question be turned into a PDF first, which then downloads to the computer for printing. Users, who require an Apple ID, can also now create folders. In Keynote, users can now right-click to skip slides and, in Numbers, the order of sheets in a spreadsheet can be changed in the browser and links can be added.
Last week, Microsoft announced that it was adding real-time authoring to Office Web Apps, which matches the collaboration capabilities that Google Docs first offered about three years ago.
The new Office Web Apps capability allows authors to edit documents simultaneously in the cloud in the suite’s Word Web App, PowerPoint Web App or Excel Web App. A real-time presence feature enables users to see where co-authors are working at the same time, so as to not create conflicts during editing, and changes to text and formatting by a user and by colleagues are shown immediately.
Office Web Apps are free, online alternatives to the on-premises Office suite, providing the core functionality of the key apps.
Office remains king of the productivity apps, although Google Docs have gained some popularity in the online realm. But Docs’ main appeal appears to be as a complement to Office, not as a substitute, at least according to a recent Forrester study of 155 IT professionals. A key requirement of productivity applications is still compatibility with Microsoft Office so files can be opened, viewed and exchanged with the reigning Microsoft suite.
In this environment, iWork for iCloud has remained primarily for Mac users, as the iWork local applications suite has. But, with the new collaborative capabilities, its importance could increase beyond the addition of just those features, since the value of cloud-based tools is increasingly being driven by the overall value of the surrounding services, like iCloud /backup or, someday, perhaps by control via Siri voice commands.