Microsoft has offered its basic Office Web Apps free to Outlook.com and Office 365 customers for over three years now, but one of the big drawbacks for students and businesses has been the lack of true real-time co-authoring. Google Docs has long supported real-time editing with multiple users, but the Office Web Apps have been fairly basic when it comes to editing documents alongside other users. Microsoft is planning to change this over the next few months, and the company is demonstrating the changes this week.

In an early preview video it's clear the co-author editing function is almost identical to Google Docs', with improvements that keep the full fidelity of a particular document while allowing others to edit text and other elements. New features in the Word Web App including find and replacement, header and footer support, and the ability to add comments in an edit view. Like Google Docs, co-authors will be shown in the document with a different colored cursor. Excel users will be pleased to learn that autofill and data validation are making their way to Office Web Apps, alongside the freeze pane feature.

Launching in the coming months

The Office Web Apps demonstration starts at five minutes and 34 seconds in the video below, and according to the spokesperson the features should all launch within "the next several months," bringing Microsoft's Office web offerings even closer to Google's rival service.