Distributed Authoring and Desktop Applications

Ron Fein and Jonathan Katzman, Microsoft Corporation


Networks enable distributed authoring scenarios that were impossible a few years ago. However, the current realities of Web standards (as used on the public Internet and on private Intranets) do not enable all of the functionality that already exists in desktop applications, and in some cases has been shipping for years. This presentation, in three parts, will present the distributed/collaborative authoring capabilities of some currently shipping desktop applications, where they are able to succeed under current Web standards, and where certain functionality cannot be expressed or achieved under current standards. Although the talks are focused on Microsoft applications, the problems encountered may apply to all applications in those categories. The talk is divided into three parts:

Distributed authoring in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word (and other word-processing applications) has shipped certain document collaboration features for years, and Microsoft Word 97 adds even more collaboration features. These features were originally designed to operate on Word file formats over a file system, but they can be ported to HTML and HTTP with varying degrees of ease. In some cases (e.g., revision marking) it may be almost impossible to make these features work in HTML.

This talk will review document collaboration features in previously-shipped word processors, present some of the new features in Word 97, demonstrate them in operation, discuss issues in adapting these features to current Web standards, and propose directions for future work. It will also discuss Office 97's current features for file operations over Web protocols.

Distributed authoring in Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel also has a rich spreadsheet collaboration feature set. This talk will present Microsoft Excel 97's collaborative authoring features, demonstrate them in operation, and discuss issues in adapting these features to current Web standards.

Distributed authoring and Web site administration in Microsoft FrontPage

Microsoft FrontPage allows distributed groups to author HTML pages and other documents over HTTP. Beyond authoring, Microsoft FrontPage also allows for remote administration of a Web site. This talk will demonstrate how FrontPage works within the existing HTTP standard, describe the differences between the FrontPage RPC API and a standard file system API, and conclude with a discussion on possible future HTTP protocols.