Good Avocado

This isn’t a sponsored review, Microsoft isn’t paying me to say these nice things, I’m just spreading the news about a useful tool I think you’ll enjoy. That said, if Microsoft wants to send some money or work my way, I wouldn’t turn it away.

If you listen to any talk radio program you’ll be hit every hour with advertisements for pay programs that offer easy collaboration tools for office workers. These programs seem to be the “hot item” of the moment and are promising everything from increased productivity to monetary savings when you use their programs instead of driving to a meeting. Some of the programs are strictly online options, some you download, and others you purchase outright. Either way, you have to do a lot of research to find a program that fits your specific needs and pocketbook.

Before you spend the big bucks (pay attention, some of these programs charge “monthly maintenance fees”), why don’t you try out a program that you probably never knew you owned? Microsoft Groove, a little gem of a program, hasn’t benefited from media hype and it hasn’t generated a lot of office talk either. I’m often the first person to suggest using it with my clients and friends. I fell into using it when my curious mind questioned, “What in the heck are these other programs in my suite?” Like many, we rush to get Word out of the box, and maybe even Publisher, PowerPoint, Excel, and Access, but I bet a good portion of users have yet to get their Groove on… the Microsoft Office Groove. Unless you play with every tool in your Microsoft Office software toolbox, you might have missed the little gem. I am a recent convert of the program. Note: Microsoft Office Groove is included in the Ultimate version of 2007 Office.

Freelance writers need collaboration tools. We have drafts and edits, and clients have ideas, feedback, and questions. This can lead to a junk drawer full of emails and notes until neither party remembers which revision is the final copy, and you’re left with a mishmash of information that you could spend a great deal of time attempting to categorize or file for future reference.

In addition to the paperwork, there are meetings to be had. Freelance writers keep the phone companies in business. For some, there are weekly meetings required for brainstorming, turning in completed work, and receiving notes from multiple departments and staff. These meetings can now be held online, with everyone’s work visible for all to extract, use, and comment on. No forwarding emails, no leaving anyone out of the loop, and no hunting for an email you know you received but can’t seem to locate. For anyone with clients overseas, this program will not only erase any costly phone charges, it will certainly lessen miscommunication and time zone issues.

Good Avocado

The online chat and messaging features give you a platform to communicate– securely, and in real time– with all members of your team/workspace. You can chat while you discuss the latest version of the work you’ve completed. You and your client are accessing the same version of the material, thereby eliminating any confusion over the work. You see exactly what the client has before them, and know that when they say “Go” with this version of the work, you are safe to do so.

Your information is safe. “By default, all information shared in Groove workspaces is encrypted on users’ desktops and as it crosses a corporate network on the internet. The network doesn’t have to be encrypted because the software itself does the encrypting and decrypting.” Whether you are sharing passwords, confidential financial records, or just a list of your favorite music, the information is safe from prying eyes.

You have complete control over who can access the materials, let alone alter them. You create workspaces within Groove where you decide who can access and alter the materials. These collaborative workspaces keep all the information in one place, are automatically updated, and can be worked on from any location. How does it work? All of the tools, data, and workspaces are stored on each person’s computer. Office Groove keeps all members’ copy of a workspace synchronized while online, but you can access the local copy of your workspace whether you are online or not.

Don’t worry about tracking changes to documents; you’ll be notified that you have new content or unread materials. You can customize these alerts based on your preference.

What tools are available? In Office Groove 2007: Files, Discussion, Groove SharePoint Files, Calendar, Meetings, Issue Tracking, Forms, Groove InfoPath Forms, Notepad, Pictures, and Sketchpad. So, just in case your words aren’t getting the message across, you can draw a picture or share your doodles. Careful, everyone in your workspace can see them!

So, open up your Microsoft Office suite and click on “Microsoft Office Groove 2007” and let the learning begin. If you aren’t running the Ultimate version of the 2007 Office suite then you won’t find the program. That doesn’t mean you can’t try it out.

The Groove software isn’t cheap; you’ll be handing over a good $230 for it (or purchase it as a subscription-based online service for $80/year), so try it out with a free 60-day download.

Really push the limits of the system and find out what the program can do for you. Get your friends/clients to sign up (because unless you plan on using the program to retrieve your own materials, everyone will need their own copy of the program to participate) and see how it works first hand. Let me know what you think about it. I’d love to hear how you are putting this, or any other collaboration program, to use in your work.

Keep in the know with the Groove Advisor: The Groove Blog

Find out more in the Groove Virtual Office

Do you have a favorite program that you use to collaborate with your clients? Have something to say either way about Microsoft Groove? Share it!

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Groove It Out Baby by J.M. Striegel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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