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Microsoft offers Server collaboration tools

The software titan releases Windows SharePoint Services, a set of tools for building online collaboration sites based on Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft on Wednesday released Windows SharePoint Services, a free add-on for the company's latest server software that allows companies to set up collaboration sites online.

SharePoint Services works with Windows Server 2003 to allow workers to publish documents to a secure Web site, where they can be viewed and manipulated by authorized users. Common uses would include setting up a site where employees could access documents, to-do lists and other items related to a particular project.

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Such tasks now are commonly handled by saving documents in a "public folders" space of a Microsoft Outlook server, an approach that often makes it difficult for workers to find what they need.

"You could use a series of individual public folders in Outlook and get a chunk of the functionality you'd get in SharePoint," said Daniel Queva, a Microsoft product manager. "Any time you'd be tempted to create a subdirectory and dump a folder into it, we'd like you to think about creating a SharePoint site."

Collaboration software has become an increasingly important focus in recent years for content management specialists such as Vignette and .

Microsoft earlier this year announced plans to integrate Windows SharePoint Services functions into Office System, a family of products built around its widespread productivity software. Applications in Office 2003, the upcoming update of the main software package, will include simple tools for publishing documents to SharePoint sites, Queva said.

The SharePoint family also includes SharePoint Portal Server, a more elaborate set of tools for setting up corporate portals.

Windows 2003 Server users can download SharePoint Services from Microsoft's Web site.