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Common Knowledge

Common Knowledge is basically a highly coordinated group editor. It allows users to interact on the creation and revision of a document. Documents are hierarchically organized in levels of folders. The built-in word processor provides basic powerful sets of a graphical editor that required to create documents. Collaborative authoring features include simultaneous separate editing, change reconciliation, document locking, and document distribution. Common Knowledge allows more than one user to work on the same document at the same time or different times. Two simultanous users can see changes made by the other when the document is updated. Team reports, proposals, meeting agenda and policies are good examples of the applications of Commmon Knowledge. It can also be used as a tool for brainstroming tool and a discussion forum.


OpenMind is a groupware product that provides collaborative computing through the used of shared forums, or sections. Main features include forum-style conferencing, document management, and document publishing. It is built around a database organized as folders and messages stored on an OpenMind server. Each section can contain folders and items, including messages, comments, and files. Items can be indexed to allow fast search. Email can be used to retrieve documents in the database. pending on security levels, users can access only forums, through OpendMind clients, that they have access right and users can participate in threaded discussions. Team document development can get benefits of shared folders, version control, feedback forums and document links features. Documents can be tracked through their links to the originators and related messages. Database management facilities allow data to be replicated among multiple servers, and an OpenMind server provides users remote access capability. OpenMind does not provide programming capability but limited task automation can be performed by using OLE (Object Link Embedded) command scripting. OpenMind allows work group to have Internet access to retrieve web documents. However, it does not offer a built-in email system, though the optional Mail add-on module provides complete integration with major email systems..

Collabra Share

Collabra Share is a conferencing system, using a forum-oriented approach, that organizes shared information into forums. Forums provides a way for users to share document and this enhances existing group support such as email. Share does not have a built-in email system, but it can well operate in conjunction with other major email systems. Forums can be both message and file repositories that are made available to group members in network environment. Files can also be distributed to members via personal email. Each forum contains one of more message threads and users can start their own threads by composing a new message. Once forum messages have been created, they turn to be organizational knowledge shared by team members. Shares provides facilities to organize, index, search, and summarize messages. Related messages in different forums can be linked together. Forums can be moderated or protected with a security level. Outside email can be automatically filed into Share's forums. Share allows limited rules to be specified for managing and filtering messages. Share provides a number of software agents that provide additional functionalities such as integration to mainframe email systems, Lotus Notes connectivity, and message replication among distributed Share systems.


GroupSystems is an electronic meeting support system which allows multiple users to participate in the meeting activities. It provides a number of standard tools to facilitate different activities including brainstorming, list building, idea organizing and prioritizing, topic commenting, and voting. Information related to a meeting or a project are stored in folders. Each folder can have a security level and only the members of the folder can have access to information in the folder. Agenda is the control panel for managing the meeting activities, and the tools are listed in the Agenda. The team leader can use the People Resource interface to determine which team members to participate in a folder, or a project. The interface of each tool is designed to increase more productivity than traditional meeting. For example, the electronic brainstorming tool helps the group members rapidly generate a free flow of ideas while any comment can be submitted anonymously. All participating members can see the ideas and comments synchronously. GroupSystems can be enhanced by additional add-in tools such as Survey and Activity Modeler tools. It also has the Whiteboard tool that provides a synchronous shared drawing area.


GroupWorks centers on project management and scheduling and its users are assigned as project term members. Its database is built around a project focusing on calendars and timelines. Publicly declared documents, project tasks, meetings, discussion and contacts can be shared by all team members. GroupWorks allows two networked PCs running GroupWorks to access information located on the other machine. A dedicated GroupWorks server stores information shared by all the users in a network environment. A central server also provides data replication among GroupWorks clients. Information in database can be displayed in multiple views, such as card, contact, calendar, outline, or timeline views. The contact database can keep telephone logs, and work logs let you track the progress of a project. GroupWorks Reviewer is one key feature that allows users to review and annotate files created by other applications in GroupWorks environment. It also provides functions to distribute comments to co-authors, merge comments and view comments in different views. GroupWorks does not provide email services but it can integrate with third-party systems.

Netscape Navigator

Netscape Navigator is a sophisticated Internet brower. Besides displaying web pages (HTML documents), it handles voice/sound and video as well. According to Jim Barksdale, President of Netscape Communication Corporation, the browser is just the beginning. It will also able to provide rich communication and collaboration. The two new products of Netscape are Netscape Communicator and Netscape SuiteSpot 3.0.

Netscape Communicator provides complete set of tools to communicate, share, and access information on the Internet and intranet. It is an integration of open mail, groupware, editing, and browsing tools. Netscape SuiteSpot 3.0 gives an integrated client-server software solution. It has the capability of publishing and management and has the functionality of open email and groupware as well.

These products are designed to work transparently in Microsoft operating system environment, products, and technologies.

Microsoft Word, Excel and Frontpage 97

Distributed authoring and versioning become the major needs in collaboration support for groupware applications. Many commercial software are incorporating collaboration features. Collaboration features in Microsoft Word were originally designed to work on Word file format over a file system, such as annotation, document comparison, and HTML exporting (Internet Assistant) capability. These features are ported, in Word 97, to transparently operate on the HTML formats and the HTTP (a network architecture). New external (file-level) features include operations on files and directories. Files can be opened and saved over FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Thus this operates on a network architecture, in contrast to the traditional (local) file system. Files can also be retrieved over HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), but no save is allowed, with the current HTTP 1.0 capability. Other operations include file locking, deleting, searching, etc. Microsoft Word also has many internal (document-level) features that support collaborative authoring. These features include change tracking, annotations, merge documents, compare documents, access control and versioning. Created document can be saved as standard web documents to allow document sharing. Unfortunately, some collaborative features are not currently representable in the current HTML standard. The concern is to have a HTML format that reserves all in formation generated in a Microsoft Word document. A solution would be designing new markups that allow an HTML document to incorporate annotation information. However, this would become unworkable for versioning information and an new markup language may be required, e.g. Versioned Text Markup Language (VTML).

Based on the similar collaboration requirements, Microsoft Excel has a collaboration feature set for spreadsheet application including FTP and HTTP protocol supports, change tracking, annotations, and WWW (or HTML) supports. In addition Excel 97 provides concurrent access to workbooks. This allows multiple users to work on the same workbook simultaneously. Microsoft FrontPage is a special kind of editors that used for authoring HTML documents. Microsoft FrontPage employs client-server architecture that allows distributed groups to author documents over HTTP. There is a number of Remote Procedure Call (RPC) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provided. It also offers remote web site management, configuration, and authorization capabilities.

next up previous contents
Next: Integrated Systems and Up: Selected Groupware Tools Previous: Tools

Michael Spring
Fri Jan 31 13:59:00 EST 1997