We recently posted a video that shows you how to best use each feature of CircleDoc in order to get the best real-time collaboration experience.

Topics include – saving slides, saving whole presentations, saving offline copies, adding collaborators… and more!

PowerPoint is a ubiquitous tool in today’s schools: as a free service, the CircleDoc Public Beta is a great tool for educators. It plugs right into your existing PowerPoint 2007, and sign up is quick, easy and secure.

Here are some ways CircleDoc can be used in schools.

1)   Students get together to do a presentation.

They share the presentation via CircleDoc. They can each work on their section, or even team up on a section using the integrated chat. And there is no ‘forgetting to take it to class’ : just share the presentation with the teacher when it is done. The preso is on the cloud so the students can work from anywhere.

2)   Educators prepare class materials together

Take existing materials and share them via CircleDoc. Using chat and annotations, teachers can improve each others work until the final presentation is done. Create a snapshot and share it with students, instantly.

3)   Brainstorming

PowerPoint is commonly used to capture ideas in brainstorming sessions, but no-one wants to end up being the ‘secretary.’ Share the preso via CircleDoc and everyone can edit dynamically as the ideas come thick and fast.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. When you open up PowerPoint to multiple creative minds, the possibilities are limitless.

We built CircleDoc on the idea of “instant collaboration” : like instant messaging, this is collaboration that is fast, timely and contains just the information you need. Unlike IM it isn’t irritating and doesn’t get in the way of you doing your work…

There are several other tools out there that fit in with this same philosophy and I wanted to highlight a few of them here on the blog from time to time.

Today I’d like to give a shout out to two services that I have enjoyed using. Unlike CircleDoc these apps don’t run inside your existing work tools, but they are both lightweight and speedy.

  1. Mindmeister: How often have you moved a meeting to a room that has the best whiteboard? And how much do you miss that whiteboard now you are working with a virtual team. This is a mind mapping tool that doesn’t go for feature overload but which is fast and flexible.

http://blog.mindmeister.com/

  1. Conceptshare: Doing creative reviews over standard web-conferencing ALMOST works. Adobe’s new CS5 suite has robust review tools for creative work, but if you are not on a CS5 workflow, take a look at Conceptshare. Conceptshare is a great example of software that focuses on doing one task well: sitting around a piece of design and ripping it to shreds… 🙂

http://www.thoughtballoons.net/

One of our key priorities for CircleDoc was to make updates so fast that you didn’t think twice about doing them, so that collaboration can stay real-time. By building unique technology that syncs just what is needed whenever you hit “Save Current Slide,” we allow you to send updates quickly even when filesize peaks.

Here’s one example we tested. Changing the text on a slide should take a few seconds, regardless of whether that is a single-slide, text-only presentation or if there are dozens of other slides with images, video etc.

So we tested a text change with a progressively larger presentation and here are our results.

Regardless of how complex and bulky the PowerPoint file, the time taken to send the text changes stayed flat in the range of 2 – 5 seconds, mainly dependent on network speed. Naturally, when you add a video or a very large image for the first time that takes longer to sync. But only that first time! If you move that video around, for example,  you are back to zippy updates.

Test this against other collaboration software that is based on syncing when you save the whole presentation and you will see radically different results.

Online collaboration for Office is hot right now, but PowerPoint is not quite the same as the other apps in the suite: The files get big fast and they very often have multiple stakeholders.

So when designing CircleDoc for PowerPoint we were very clear about how we DIDN’T want it to work. We didn’t want to send a huge blast of data every time you hit Save and then give you the task of deciding whose changes ‘win.’

We took the time to build a collaboration engine that sends just what it needs to, and encourages you to Save Slides, not whole decks. The result is that even in multiple megabyte, graphically heavy PowerPoint presentations changes circulate in a few seconds. Combined with the ‘heads up’ view of who is working on what slide at what time and integrated chat, we wanted to create the feel of people working side by side, not throwing presos over the wall to each other.

We think we have succeeded, and the feel of working with CircleDoc is way more frictionless than other similar tools we have used with PowerPoint, such as DocVerse and OfficeSync or even Office 2010.

Try it out – it’s free.

If you are having problems signing up for CircleDoc – particularly if you are getting an error message within PowerPoint that says “Error Creating Account” – you may need to speak to your IT team about opening up one of the ports into your network.

Here’s the background: every business lets certain kinds of messages go in and out of their network and stops others. CircleDoc sends its update messages through port 5222. This is the port used by Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), an industry standard for messaging. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensible_Messaging_and_Presence_Protocol

We’ve put together a simple tool that can help you figure out if this is your problem. You can run it by clicking on the link below.

http://circledoc.com/files/CDDiagnostics.exe

It will try to send a signal through port 5222. If everything is set up correctly you’ll see three messages.

-Resolved DNS

-Connected to our port 80

-Connected to our port 5222

If you don’t see that last message it means your IT department would have to open up 5222 for you to use CircleDoc. You can point them at this blog post for background.

Any questions? Comment below…

Following open-source software is used to develop CircleDoc