Just about everyone is agreed that the current update of Microsoft Office is a huge leap forward for office suites. Office 2007 is clear and aesthetically pleasing where previous versions were cumbersome and unattractive. Its revolutionary new user interface groups commands in a far more logical fashion whilst expanded memory and increased functionality makes for smoother, more efficient operation.

But one of the truly fresh developments in Office 2007 is the inclusion of Groove, a collaboration suite ideal for small businesses and companies with no single physical base. It has been used by emergency relief agencies and top consultants and is a valuable tool for anyone who needs to work offline or within a disparate community.

At its core Groove is a brilliantly simple idea: to create a shared workspace allowing users to distribute files and folders across a team. The cache of files that is built up means that members of the team do not have to be online to examine and amend crucial information, thus making the process convenient and hassle free.

Another advantage of Groove is that it bypasses constrictive security clearance issues. Not all consultants working for a particular company will have the same levels of security clearance, which can make communication and interaction difficult. As Groove is a peer-to-peer platform it works without a server, users simply invite others to join the group and when they accept they become part of the workspace.

Once in the virtual workspace all active team members can edit and amend documents in synchronicity. Multiple versions of the initial document appear with the alterations that each team member is making at that particular time. Various tools can be deployed in line with the workspace being utilised, such as a calendar, web browser and sketchpad and there is also access to Microsoft SharePoint's document library.

With team members potentially scattered across the globe and the greater freedom afforded by the peer-to-peer model you could be forgiven for thinking that Groove was lacking in cohesion and structure. However, there is a Microsoft Groove server available to team leaders and those organising workgroups. This server enables centralised control of virtual workspaces within Groove allowing for a focused approach to file sharing and amendment.

In an age of ever increasing globalisation where colleagues are not all sat at office desks during the working day Microsoft Groove is an invaluable program that brings people together quickly and conveniently to achieve a shared business goal. Collaboration software is now all around us with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter operating on similar principles. Groove harnesses this hugely popular mass community interaction and utilises it for a business purpose.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that just because you can create a group on Facebook you can master Groove just like that. While far from inaccessible Groove is nonetheless a strikingly different addition to Microsoft Office and a high-quality training course is advised in order to get the most out of its many functions.