Apple has been granted a patent for “collaborative document editing,” which hints at enhanced features for the iCloud collaboration features available for Pages, Keynotes, and Numbers users.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that multi-user collaboration on documents is often necessary in industry, academics and other endeavors. For example, software developers may need to collaborate while writing a software architecture document. Students may need to collaborate on a presentation or academic paper.
Collaboration on a document is often accomplished by editing the document sequentially (e.g., one collaborator can edit the document at a time). Alternatively, collaboration on a document can be accomplished by having each collaborator edit a different version of the document and then merging the documents together. Apple says that “these methods of collaborating on a document can often be cumbersome, time consuming and inefficient.” Not surprisingly, the company thinks it can change this.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Various features and processes related to document collaboration are disclosed. In some implementations, animations are presented when updating a local document display to reflect changes made to the document at a remote device. In some implementations, a user can selectively highlight changes made by collaborators in a document.
“In some implementations, a user can select an identifier associated with another user to display a portion of a document that includes the other user's cursor location. In some implementations, text in document chat sessions can be automatically converted into hyperlinks which, when selected, cause a document editor to perform an operation.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.