This week I'm pleased to announce the first beta release of Liferay Social Office, Liferay's new social collaboration software. While Liferay Portal has had social networking, web 2.0, and collaboration functionality for some time, Social Office is our first effort at putting it all together in a intuitive and integrated way.
Social Office is designed to make it easier to do the work you do every day. For most of us, there is a constant interaction between what we do on our own and our interactions with co-workers. For example, if I'm writing a press release about our latest software offering, I need to speak with my engineers to get an overview of what features are included. Then I'll synthesize their ideas in a way that makes sense to a business audience, and check back with them to make sure what I wrote squares with reality. I'll also run it by legal to make sure I'm not breaking any rules.
Today, many of us do this using some kind of Office suite (Microsoft or OpenOffice) in conjunction with email, IM, and conference calls. That means a lot of documents (with names like Press Release Final Final FINAL version.doc) on our hard drives and flooding our inboxes, with a lot of separate, uncaptured conversations around them. It also leads to the immortal CC: list: once you're copied on a thread, there's no way to gracefully exit from it, even if you're only tangentially involved in the conversation.
Liferay wants to change that dynamic with Social Office. So while there are many "features" or "tools" used in Social Office, the goal of the product really goes beyond specifics like wiki, Office integration, or activity tracking. More importantly, Social Office is doing it's job when it connects your team to the work you're doing, and vice versa, in an effortless way. It's working when you stop relying on your inbox as an all-in-one document repository, collaboration platform, and instant messaging system. Ultimately, Social Office should make it easy for everyone on your team to be aware of each other's work and to be only as involved as they need to, without a lot of effort.
Now I'll be the first to admit that this first beta release is not yet there. There's a lot that needs to be improved before Social Office will have fulfilled its vision. But I think it's a huge step toward getting there and it's only going to get better. We'll be looking forward to hearing what works and what doesn't so we can arrive at a product that will make life easier for all of us.
Where Can I Get Social Office?
Liferay Social Office is available now as a beta release. You can download a Windows Installer or zip for other operating systems. We've also created a Wiki article with basic installation instructions.
Over the next few weeks, we'll look at some of the features in depth and talk about the overall vision as well as some of our future plans for the product. In the meantime, do let us know what you think.
Also, there are a number of identified issues, and please feel free to report others you come across.