Google has upgraded the ability to post comments and respond to them in its Docs office productivity applications, making the feature more dynamic and more integrated with email.
The goal is to make it easier, faster and more effective for workgroups to collaboratively comment on documents, said Scott Johnston, Group Product Manager for Google Docs and Google Sites. "Great documents come from great discussions," he said.
Until now, Docs users have been able to post comments in text fields on documents and add footnotes, but the new Discussions feature creates interactive threads that are tightly embedded with the documents but not part of them. Comments made on discussion threads are time-stamped and its authors clearly identified with profile pictures.
In addition, users can be notified about discussions and participate in them via email. Users have the option of "muting" these notifications. The Discussions feature also has a button to declare a thread as resolved and hide it from the view of active discussions.
The new Discussions functionality will become available over the coming days to users of the standalone Docs applications, as well as to people who use it as part of the broader Google Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite and whose domains have been set to receive upgrades as soon as they're ready.
A caveat is that Discussions will not be available for Docs files already created, only new ones.
Docs, which is web hosted, competes against on-premise productivity suites like Microsoft Office and web-hosted suites like Microsoft Office Web Apps.
Docs is free in its standalone version, as well as in all Google Apps versions, except Apps for Business, which costs per user per year and also includes several other components like Gmail, Calendar, Sites and Talk.