Leave it to Microsoft to stick all kinds of new stuff in its Office suite and not tell anyone what it's good for. Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 is a great example. InfoPath has been around since Microsoft Office 2003, but few people know why they should use it. With Office 2007, Microsoft Office Groove 2007 is the hidden tool that you might have but probably aren't taking advantage of. You can find out more about Groove and see some interesting demos on the Groove home page at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/groove/fx100487641033.aspx. With a little knowledge, you can change Groove from an unused menu option to a powerful collaboration tool. These 10 tips will get you started.
1. Create a Groove account—Your first step is to create a Groove account. The Groove account is a file that defines your identity to Groove, defines the devices on which you'll run Groove, references the workspaces that you're a part of, and stores cryptographic information that secures your Groove data.
2. Create a workspace—The workspace is a shared area where people can actively participate on a project. You can create three types of Groove workspace: file sharing, where you share the contents of a folder across systems; standard, which contains a Files tool and a Discussion tool; and custom, where you select the tools to include. You can have multiple Groove workspaces, and each workspace can host different users and have different tools. You manage Groove workspaces by using the Workspace Explorer.
3. Invite users to the workspace—You add users to your workspace by using either the Groove Launchbar or the Workspace Explorer. In the Groove Launchbar, right-click the workspace you want to add a user to, then select the Invite to Workspace option from the pop-up menu. You can invite users to your workspace via email or IM.
4. Add tools to the workspace—Groove supplies 11 different tools that you can add to your Groove workspaces, including Calendar, Forms, Issue Tracking, Meetings, and SharePoint Files tools. There's even a chess game and drawing tools.
5. Share files—After you've set up your Groove workspace, you're ready to begin using it. Collaboration on shared documents is one of the most common Groove tasks. You set up document collaboration by using the Files tool. Click the Add Files button and browse to the files you want to add to the workspace. You can open any file listed in the workspace provided you have the application associated with it.
6. Use chat—Groove also supports an IM function (aka chat) that enables multiple users in a workspace to chat with each other. In addition to using chat for IM-style communications, you can also use chat to invite other Groove users to a workspace.
7. Use alerts—Groove alerts inform workspace members about changes to items in the workspace. Alerts are customizable, and they can take the form of text boxes or sounds. You customize Groove alerts in the Workspace Explorer by clicking the Workspaces drop-down list, then selecting the appropriate workspace and choosing the Set Alerts option.
8. Work offline—One of the most powerful features of Groove is that it allows you to work while connected or disconnected. If you've already created a Groove account on one system, such as your desktop, you can copy that account to another system, such as your laptop. You can make changes to the items in the workspace, then when you reconnect, Groove automatically synchronizes the changes between the two systems.
9. Participate in discussions and meetings— Groove also facilitates conducting group discussions and meetings. The Discussion tool enables group members to create topics and have threaded conversations. The Groove Meetings tool supports the creation of agendas as well as recording meeting minutes.
10. Collaborate via SharePoint—Groove features full integration with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 through its SharePoint Files tool, which lets users collaborate on document libraries. SharePoint provides an effective central storage back end for when users are geographically distributed and must connect across the Internet.