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When IBM announced it would launch a new, cloud-based productivity and collaboration suite, an initial question emerged.
After all, Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office 365 have already been operating massive efforts in this space, which has now become strategic.
The same question -- why? -- could have been asked, though, five years ago when IBM launched its Symphony suite of productivity applications based on the OpenOffice.org open-source software. And while Symphony has been nice but not exactly a powerhouse in the market, there may in fact be reasons to believe IBM Docs could travel a much more successful path.
If IBM Docs works. (We found a really aggravating bug while testing it out. More on that in a bit.)
While IBM Docs allows for creation of .ODT-based word documents, as well as presentations and spreadsheets, it shouldn’t be looked at in a vacuum. IBM Docs is latest in a string of launches in the IBM-Lotus portfolio of cloud-based communication and productivity applications. They are all new generations of releases from the same people who gave us the IBM Mashup Center at the beginning of the Web 2.0 era.
We took a look at IBM Docs. It’s straightforward; it’s intuitive like Google Docs. But it is, in fact, pre-release software and we did find a bug. One feature says that it allows documents to be downloaded in Microsoft Word format or PDF format. We tried downloading a document in each format -- both on a Mac and on a PC -- and all we got out of it were practically empty files with no text. Even for beta, this is not good. (On the plus side, everything else we tested did work.)
The trio of hosted applications in IBM Docs -- word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software -- is just as easy to navigate, use and accomplish work with -- as Google Docs. But the fact that sharing and collaboration are baked in, and integrate well with IBM Lotus’ other online collaboration offerings, ups the ante with Google.
Documents can be edited by multiple people, all at the same time, across a team. IBM Docs saves, and makes accessible, individual versions of documents throughout a work process. Inside documents, tasks, content editing or approvals may be assigned to different people in a workgroup. Collaborators can add test-based comments in real time during the work process similar to instant messaging.
On your IBM Docs dashboard, you may “pin” a specific document to an active documents list if you need to access the file frequently. You can share a document publicly with everyone in a community, share it with just a few individuals or make it private. In IBM Docs, files can be tagged for organization by topic.