Microsoft released Service Pack 2 to Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac earlier this week. Once you have installed Service Pack 2 you may notice the new Open from Document Connection File menu item for office applications, or you may notice the new application called Microsoft Document Connection located in your /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008 folder. These are all part of Microsoft’s overall Software+Services strategy: provide a cloud type of environment that is able to sustain the software that you purchase from them. In this case it could be a private document storage “cloud” running on a SharePoint server or it could be a more public environment running in the Office Live environment.
We’ll cover SharePoint integration some other time, but for now, let’s look at the Live environment. Before you setup your computer, first login to your Microsoft Live account at home.live.com. Once you are signed in, click on the More menu and click on Office Live. If you see a button for Get Started for Free, click it; otherwise you should be looking at a screen with an icon in the left column for New Workspace. Click it and then type something that indicates a project or a group of documents you might upload. For example, I’ll just type Mac OS X Security 2nd Edition.
Now that you have a workspace, open up the Microsoft Document Connection application in your Office directory. From here, click on Add Location… and then click on Sign In to an Office Live Workspace… At the dialog box, enter the name and password you use to log into Microsoft Live, clicking Save when you’re done. Now you should see the name of your live account in the Document Connection screen, along with any workspaces you’ve created. You can drag documents into this screen, double-click them to open or control-click them to edit (and you can edit from non-Microsoft applications). At this point you have something similar to Jungle Disk or another application you use to access a cloud service from a Mac.
But Document Connection isn’t just about one user accessing documents. It supports sharing documents between users, commenting on documents and even document check-in and check-out. The portal is where you setup most of the Sharing: use the share button, type the address of who you want to share to, they can then access via the portal or using Document Connection with their own account. Commenting is also available in the portal, much as with a solution like Final Cut Server. Document check-in and check-out seems to require SharePoint and not be a feature of Office Live, but I’ll let you know if I can find a way to do it.
Overall, this is a great addition. Some other products are more mature, but as usual, Microsoft has taken the best from a number of competitors and made an extremely simple to use and intuitive sandbox. The uploads and downloads fail at times. The portal relies on constant communication from Silverlight so sometimes it throws an error. But those are minor issues. This is a great new product that I look forward to integrating into a number of environments. I’ll get to the SharePoint side in the next few days and do a write-up on it as well!