Google Docs has been around since 2006, offering a powerful and free alternative to Microsoft’s dominant productivity suite. But for many people, it remains something of a novelty – it’s there, but they don’t use it regularly. This is in part because of the inherent security issues with Cloud-based services, which make businesses hesitant to upload their confidential files. But the biggest reason? Google Docs and Microsoft Office simply don’t play nice.
OffiSync, a new plugin for Microsoft Office, is looking to change that. The application, which supports Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents, is launching in a private beta (you can request an invite from its homepage), with support for Office 2003 and 2007 on Windows. Mac users are out of luck for the time being.
There are already a few options for syncing files from Microsoft Office with Google Docs, but these typically involving syncing your ‘My Documents’ folder rather than the individual files, and aren’t as deeply tied into Office. Alongside basic file syncing, OffiSync also integrates a number of features from Google Docs to actually improve Office. One of these is integrated Google search, which allows you to search through all of your Google Docs files directly from your Office toolbar.
The service also has support for Google Docs collaboration, though it isn’t as complete as I’d like. Using OffiSync, multiple people can edit the same file without having to worry about overwriting each other’s changes. But if you want to see real-time edits (which is one of the more powerful features of Google Docs), you’ll have to use the browser-based interface. Founder Oudi Antebi says that real time edits are in the works, and will be included in an update over the summer.
Even Google, while not directly involved with building OffiSync, is optimistic about the service. Google Docs product manager Jonathan Rochelle says that his team thinks the app is “great”, and that it will appeal to a large audience, though he notes that the app is “still pretty early”.
But even if it works, it might not be so easy to make money – a company called DocSyncer with a similar premise entered the Deadpool last summer. OffiSync will be free for individuals, with plans to release an enterprise version in the next 6-9 months, which will help large businesses work in a mixed environment. Of course, OffiSync is going to be racing against the clock to some extent, as Microsoft has made its intention to tie Office to its own cloud services clear. Still, Antebi is optimistic about OffiSync’s chances, explaining that Microsoft’s offerings will likely only work for the newest versions of Office, while OffiSync will work with older editions that the vast majority of computer users already have.