Microsoft Groove is one of the collaboration tools that come with Office 2007. That is not news but how many of you have taken the time to take it for a test drive or as a minimum looked under the covers. I have been meaning to find out more about Groove for some time and recently John Bristowe, Microsoft Developer Evangelist based in Calgary gave me a good reason to make the time. John suggested that the .NET UG Leaders in Western Canada consider using it as a way of keeping in touch with him and with each other. So I thought I might as well invest a little time in investigating Groove. A little time became more time and yet more time. The more I looked the more I liked what I saw. For those of you who are not familiar with the pedigree of Groove, the company, founded by Ray Ozzie (of Lotus Notes fame) that developed it was acquired by MSFT. Ray Ozzie became one of three CTO’s now at MSFT and is the heir apparent to you know who!

There are many new MSFT products in the wings right now but I think that Groove has the potential to be one of the biggest hits of all and yet it appears to have had relatively little publicity! Something which I assume will be addressed when the official launch of Office 2007 gets nearer. For those of you who are not familiar with the product, Groove is basically a secure peer-to-peer collaboration tool that works over the internet right from your desktop. It can be used in conjunction with Sharepoint but doesn’t have to be. That simple description doesn’t remotely do justice to the exciting possibilities. Our work revolves around data and data is encapsulated in files. One of the biggest challenges with collaborative working is versioning of files. Such things can be taken care of via Sharepoint but that requires connection to a server. Groove ensures automatic secure updates across the internet from desktop to desktop without the need for anything like a VPN connection for example.

When you install Groove on a PC a unique encryption key is generated for each user. Although file sharing (right out of Windows Explorer) using Groove is a boon it is only the tip of the iceberg. It contains features specific to managing projects such as, carry on conversations about your project; status, deliverables, actions, etc., conduct live virtual meetings, assign and track action items, tasks and milestones and access and work with the latest project information, whether online or offline. Because everything is carried seamlessly and securely across the internet there are no issues regarding inviting your clients/outsiders into specific workspaces for working together.

Groove is also extendable. So in time expect to see application type packages specific to certain types of projects or businesses both commercially and freely available. I have to be honest and say that I have never been a huge Sharepoint fan. Getting alerts telling you that there is material that might interest you is OK but having to go and pick it up never really thrilled me. However, I can definitely see myself using Groove because it all happens right from the desktop and you don’t have to concern yourself about sending or receiving updates. It all just happens! Here I have just scratched the surface, partly because it is new to me and partly because there is much more to tell. I am sure that others better qualified than I can tell it much better. I hope that I have whetted your appetite sufficiently for you to take a closer look. If you want more information, I suggest that as a minimum you visit http://www.groove.net. I also suggest that you install it just to see what it looks like and dig through the help system. Groove has certainly caught my attention and I am looking forward to learning more by using it for real.

Cheers

Graham J.