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Play Nicely with Others

Windows Live Sky Drive is about to get better!Sailor2 picture

Talk about coincidence. A few days ago I needed to set up an Excel workbook to collect some basic information from several people scattered around the globe. We are working on a project involving the transfer and update of several hundred small documents from one World Wide Web site to a related but different site.  Because we need to make small changes to the documents in the process, they need us to work on them one at a time. The problem some of us saw, of course, was how to keep each other informed about which documents we were individually working on at the moment, which were completed, and which remained to be worked on and moved.

The tracking method had to be simple and accessible to all of us regardless of where we live in the world. Our timing is just a little off it seems because Office 2010 is in the wings, about to be released and it seems to me that and Access 2010 Web Application would be an excellent solution.

Two things prevented me from trying that approach, however. First, we needed to start the project sooner rather than later. Second, I am not up to speed with Access Web Applications yet. Fortunately, an alternate solution that we can apply in the meantime does exist: an Excel workbook hosted in Office Live Workspace.

Quote of the Day

Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don’t.

-Pete Seeger

Office Live has been available for several years. This service allows you to  store and share documents online. So once I had set up a workbook with the document lists for our team all I had to do was save the file to my Office Live account in a folder for the project. Then I used the sharing feature to add each of the team members as an editor for the project folder.

We have been using the workbook for several days now. To each of us, it appears that it ‘lives’ on our local system and that’s because we are doing the actual editing in our respective local Excel installations. Here’s how it works. John decides to work on document A. He goes into Excel and opens the Office Live workbook. If he isn’t logged into the Office Live account, he will have to enter his user name and password. Then except for a brief pause while the file downloads, the workbook opens in John’s copy of Excel.

He then finds the title of the document he intends to work with, marks an X in the In Progress column and closes the workbook. Of course he answers yes to the Save dialogue to save the document.

A few minutes later, as luck would have it, Mary decides to work on the same document that John is now working on. When Mary opens the Office Live workbook and finds the document title, she will see John’s X in the In Progress column. Knowing that someone else is working on the document, she can choose a different one and record that she is now working on that one.

Now, the coincidence that I mentioned at the beginning of this article isn’t about John and Mary deciding to work on the same piece at the same time. That’s a coincidence all right but an even more significant one happened for me this morning. I had already decided to write this article. Then in my email this morning I receive an RSS copy of this blog article from the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering team, Accessing your Office files from any computer with Windows Live SkyDrive. This article links to a Excel oriented article, Collaborative Editing Using Excel Web App.

So it seems that the kind of document collaboration using Office Live Workspace that I had set up is about to get even simpler. I should explain that the Web App approach will be using SkyDrive, a Windows Live Service. The system I described uses Office Live Workspace. I have had both Office Live Workspace and SkyDrive accounts for some time but until now, I used the SkyDrive account simply for files that I wanted to make available for others to download. Soon, I will be able to use my SkyDrive for collaborative documents as well.

New at the Access Wiki

Access Wiki moderators are hard at work moving UA Forums FAQ and code archive content to the wiki. This will add many new articles to the Wiki’s growing content. There are some 850 code archive items alone. Since UA started in 2002 there have been more than 1,940,000 view and download of code archive content.

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