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Microsoft Office Web Apps get Google Docs-like real-time collaboration

Microsoft has finally offered up feature parity with Google Docs in its latest Office Web Apps update.

Users of the company’s free online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are finally being given the ability to collaborate on documents in real-time – something that Google Docs has offered for years.

Previously its was possible to edit and share Microsoft Office Web Apps, but not simultaneously with another person online.

Following the lead of its pioneering rival, Microsoft’s Office Web Apps will represent collaborating users with different coloured cursors, so you don’t end up treading on one another’s toes. You’ll also be able to see changes to text as they happen. Documents will list all of the users currently in the document at the top of the page.

All changes will be automatically saved, and regular Office users can join the collaboration, with any changes to the document at their end updated whenever they hit the save button.

Microsoft has also improved its Office Web Apps by introducing more of the features from its traditional offline equivalents. For example, the Word Web App now has the ability to find and replace phrases, apply styles and formatting to tables, and insert headers and footers.

The Excel Web App, meanwhile, now lets you drag and drop cells and reorder sheets. PowerPoint gives you new image cropping abilities.

Next up, according to the Office blog post, is to enable editing on Android tablets, so you’ll be able to collaborate from your spangly new Google Nexus 7.

Next, read our roundup of the best Windows 8 laptops, tablets, convertibles and PCs

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