Product Reviews

Groove 2.5

Peer-to-peer collaboration tool gets better.

I've been giving Groove 2.5 a spin since its release. For the most part, the updates are incremental, but there are also some significant new capabilties here. If you're already a Groove user, you've more than likely upgraded by now. If not, this might be the version that you've been waiting for.

If you're not familiar with Groove, it's easiest to think of it as a peer-to-peer environment for business collaboration. For example, I recently used a Groove workspace to coordinate with another developer in advance of a meeting in Redmond that we were both attending. We used the Groove files tool to share drafts of some stuff we were presenting, the discussion tool to keep track of work in progress, and the instant messaging tool to chat. Everything was automagically copied to both of our computers. Through the use of a central relay server, Groove gives you P2P flexibility without requiring that both parties be online at the same time, and without needing to poke extra holes in your firewall.

The incremental improvements in 2.5 include:

  • The ability to quickly push Outlook messages, contacts, or calendar items directly into an existing Groove workspace.
  • Publication of Groove data back to Outlook.
  • Enhanced printing for individual items within Groove.
  • Control of bandwidth through limiting the size of files that are automatically downloaded, as well as better network diagnostics.
  • A few rich text enhancements.
  • Better control of upgrading scenarios.

The significant new capabilities fall into two areas: SharePoint integration and Web Services connectivity.

For SharePoint integration, you can now create a Groove workspace based on a SharePoint site. This gives you an easy way to take content that's freely available on your intranet and share it with external business partners. The Groove workspace content tracks the SharePoint content, and you can select the schedule on which the two are synchronized by the machine that connects them.

The Web Services interface adds a local SOAP server to your Groove installation. This lets other client applications use SOAP to get to Groove information like spaces and contacts and files. This provides another open API (in addition to the ones that currently exist in the product) for connecting to Groove, and one that offers a lot of cross-platform promise. To get some sample code and the details, you can download the Groove Web Services Development Kit from http://www.groove.net/devzone/, where you'll also find a bunch of other API information.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this upgrade. The tighter integration with Outlook is already coming in handy for me, and I can see some promising ideas for Groove Web Services. Plus using Groove as a way to transfer some SharePoint content to an extranet looks to be immensely useful.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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