All the participants in a workspace share all the tools and are kept up-to-date with other people’s changes whenever they’re connected. Groove works both within and between companies, and is great for virtual teams where members may be scattered around the globe. There’s some overlap with document libraries and workspaces in SharePoint and other “presence and chat” tools such as Windows Live Messenger, but Groove really scores with a mobile workforce.
The Groove launchbar looks like an instant messenger, but lists workspaces as well as contacts. Workspaces open in separate windows, where you can see the shared files and the discussion about the workspace. You can add extra tools to a workspace, such as a calendar, issues list, pictures or notes, and design forms to gather data in Groove itself, or use InfoPath forms if you have the latter installed. You can also link your Groove workspace to a SharePoint document library to take advantage of the central store, metadata and workflow capabilities.
This first release of Microsoft Groove sees some small improvements, while many of the pre-Microsoft features have been removed. A light cosmetic overhaul makes it look slightly more like the rest of Office, but it’s still different. The predominant colour is grey rather than the baby blue of the main Office apps.
Groove is an interesting addition, available in Office 2007 Enterprise and Ultimate editions, or as a separate app through volume-licensing plans. A companion product, Groove Server, lets IT departments manage and control thousands of Groove users, integrating it with Active Directory, enforcing policies and monitoring usage. It also gives companies a central relay point so files can be replicated more efficiently and can connect Groove workspaces to centrally held enterprise data, so remote, disconnected workers can be up-to-date with the latest information.
An effective group-working tool, especially for those with the infrastructure to take full advantage of it.