Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, March 26, 2004

Groove v3 Gets It! Hands-On Review Confirms Cheerful Praises Of New Beta Release

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The time has finally come.

After spending about two weeks on it, I am now ready to share a first hands-on review of the new beta version of Groove, that has been made available to existing customers and other requesting parties since last week.


There is lots to say about this new release, and most of my news are indeed Good ones. It will take more time to get to the bottom of some more specific issues and to see how well this new release stands the many usability and production challenges I will throw at it.

For now Groove v3 passes all my tests with near maximum scores. Sincere kudos to Groove for pulling this off and for remaining the most advanced real-time and asynchronous collaboration tool available today on the market.

The new Groove v3 is a leap ahead from its predecessor both in terms of performance, UI and ease of use. If I were to rate the work done in this round by the passionate team at Groove Networks I would certainly give it an 8 1/2.

What has impressed me the most

What has stricken me the most is the incredible amount of attention that has been devoted to UI details, to quieting down the noise generated by too many features and commands laid simultaneously in front of you.

The effective grouping, simplification and organization of features and commands shows throughout the new Groove interface.

Performance of Groove v3 is from a different planet. And this is immensely good information for everyone. I, for one, hated to see all my modest PC resources eaten up by this system resources' hog, while remaining dismayed at its former load-up time. Now everything loads in what looks like a few seconds and moving from one shared space to another or from one tool to a different one takes only a few instants compared to the long waiting times needed before.

I am impressed.

To further augment Groove new snappier performance and to steer away from those long hard-disk grinding tasks, two new facilities have been introduced in Groove v3 that will greatly facilitate management and optimization of Groove use of your computer resources. Here they are:

1) Communications Manager
One feature that I long hoped to have available was the option of having more direct control over Groove's many processes, background tasks and other running threads which, at times, have excessively impacted the performance of my computer. Groove v3 offers me now this higher degree of control and it allows me to subordinate certain critical Groove tasks and technical (e.g. a big file transfer) procedures from being carried out when I may need to focus all of the available resources to a VoIP session or to other CPu intensive tasks. Any running task can be paused and restarted at will through a simple and well organized control panel aptly called the Communications Manager.

2) Personalized Download Settings for newly uploaded files to Groove workspaces.
As newly uploaded files in Groove workspaces have been one among the most frustrating items for late-joining participants or for anyone not on a speedy Internet connection, Groove v3 has introduced more choices for the end user allowing the selection of the most appropriate download approach for newly uploaded files in a Groove workspace. Each member of a workspace can specifically determine how he wants to receive files in any given folder. Users can choose to: a) receive files automatically once they are added to a space; b) download files manually, which means when files are added to a space, users only receive the reference or metadata for that file; c) or receive files automatically if they are smaller than a particular size designated by the user.

Presence and Feedback
Presence awareness has been nurtured and culled as only the Rolls of online collaboration tools would. The UI and product development people at Groove Networks have really done a great job here!

Users can now control the level of alerts and presence awareness signals to receive from EACH one person or object/area. That is, I can tell my Groove that when Ray Ozzie enters any of my shared spaces I hear a cough, a little presence notifier shows discretely at the bottom right of the screen and more.

Groove informs me about everything that is happening around me and it does so in an elegant and very inobtrusive fashion.

If I send a message to Rick, Groove tracks discretely my message travelling to Rick's Groove space while informing me of the different steps in this voyage: "Message sent to Rick"....."Message delivered to Rick"....."Message opened by Rick"....etc,. Of course if I don't want this ifnormation I can easily turn it off and work without it, but I must admit, that in the very discrete way it has been implemented, it hardly impacts my focus while providing just-in-time critical information about my communications workflow.


Task execution
Everything has been simplified. Finding a tool, a facility or service is always within reach. Either right click the object that you want to interact with or go straight to the Options menu to find most anything you may desire. Adding contacts is a breeze. Inviting people too.


Adding new tools and opening and closing different workspaces is easier than before. Finally, I can focus on my work while Groove takes care of the logistics.

Specific facilities and features I really liked in Groove v3

1. The Launchpad
The Launchpad is a little masterpiece of cleanliness, precision, simplicity and organization. UI designers pay attention please, this is reference work! Now perfectly integrated in a space as large as the one occupied by a typical instant messenger pad, the Groove v3 Launchpad offer access to all critical contacts, workspaces and facilities/features available.


The Launchpad is a jewel of simplicity come true. Two main tabs sub-divide access to Contacts (People) and to Workspaces (rooms, offices) while keeping them within one-click access.

Presence icons differentiate the status and location of other contacts working inside Groove and allow you to see who is where at all times.


Tooltips and smooth text alerts complement the overall effectiveness of this tool by providing detailed information about people, spaces and objects on which you gently stop your mouse over.

2. File Sharing
in Windows Explorer, users will see a new button "Groove." While in a folder, clicking on the button will share all files in that folder with anyone invited to that workspace. Once the workspace is created, users invite other members in the same way they invite users to any workspace. When the invitation is accepted, invited members have the option to create a new folder in their "My Documents" folder, or browse to a different location on their computer. Users work with files in file sharing workspaces in the same way as with any Files tool in a standard workspace.

3. Alerts
Groove v3.0 includes enhancements to alert features (visual and audio) designed to keep users informed of new or modified information in workspaces. Users have now a full set of alert setting options for:
· An entire workspace
· Individual tools (override workspace settings)
· Individual files and folders
· Contact status (going offline, returning from offline or idle state, entering a workspace or tool)

There are three alert levels:
· High - Send an alert when there is unread information.
· Medium - Show unread indicators for unread information.
· Off - Do not display an indication on unread information.


4. Text Chat
Text chat in Groove v3 has finally been granted the official status it should have had since the beginning. Marred by a clunky interface that required acrobatic evolutions to change Arial into Times, the new Groove chat now can be fired up in a separate window offering all of the goodies of a five-star hotel. A good formatting toolbar, a resizable and floating window complemented by the persistent chat abilities of this tool make the new Groove chat something I am again using with satisfaction.


5. Synchronization and use on multiple computers
In order to make it easier to locate and use the Multiple Computer feature, and reduce the number of problems associated with entering activation codes more than once, v3.0 has one simplified, four-step process for account creation, activation and exporting an account for use on another PC. Otherwise, all Account information can be found in Preferences. If users do not select the Multiple Computer option upon Account Creation, they can do so at a later time. Additionally, users who have their account on more than one computer have the option to automatically synchronize My Documents and My Favorites folders between both computers.

Indeed, there is a great deal more to say about Groove v3 as the number of improvements and additions has crept in the most remote corners of this exceptional tool.

For now, I will settle on the items reported above, while providing here below a comprehensive pair of summaries highlighting the key strengths and the areas for serious improvement that I wish Groove will address in the future.

Here they are:

Twelve Great Reasons To Download Groove v3

1) It works right out of the box. No server required. It gets your team to work, communicate and share documents securely in a matter of minutes.

2) It doesn't require a superpowered PC to run. Groove v3 respects individual participants varied PC setups and system abilities by providing lots of personalization options facilitating performance optimization on each computer. New options available in Groove v3, such as the ability to coordinate how to receive new files uploaded to a workspace, direct access to a new communication manager whih prioritizes and tracks Groove background tasks, give the user an unprecedented degree control over getting slow Internet connections and not-so-powerful PCs to fully leverage Groove's immense potential.

3) It's easy to use.

4) It has a great interface that makes using it enjoyable, swift and immediate.

5) It doesn't break. It runs, runs and runs without giving me errors, slowing down my computer and without hanging up.

6) It has great documentation, support, and online open forums where to ask for help on any specific Groove-related topic.

7) It is extensible. Groove has lots of optional modules that provide dedicated facilities and tools to carry out specific tasks. Groove also enjoys the support of a small but growing community of third-party developers who complement Groove base offerings with specialized application modules (e-voting, project management, collaborative GIS, multimedia, etc.). On top of this, Groove v3 now provides an advanced forms facility, which opens up programming and customization of Groove to non-technical users.

8) It is highly secure. It integrates authentication, PKI, encryption and everything you would expect from a robust, rock-solid enterprise-ready solution. Nonetheless, this is a solution that small businesses can adopt today without a sweat. Groove v3 even integrates a complete antivirus check-up solution to protect all of your shared workspaces.

9) You can try it out for 60-days free, without any commitment. The Groove Preview edition is fully working, allowing you to test and try out all of Groove great facilities.

10) It doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Compared to what some other collaboration and conferencing solutions cost Groove is an absolute innovator in pricing while providing more bang for the buck than anyone else.

11) It is cross-platform compatible and you can access it from any Internet access point, even if you don't have your PC with you. Yes, by using PoPG Blended Groove solution Groove is also a Web-based solution that can be accessed by Macs and Linux machines from anywhere.

12) Get it very clear in your head: There is nothing that comes even close to it.

Areas For Improvement From A to N

What Groove v3 still misses, (is to):

a. Add an integrated VoIP tool worth of this name. No, not something that works at best on US broadband networks only. We elsewhere count as well. No more squeaking dogs when you click on the talk button. Can't you have a normal sound? (Groove v3 has added in this new unofficial release a direct hook into the now defunct Microsoft NetMeeting. While this may seem somehow anachronistic it does a provide indeed a minimum level of integration with an audio-video conferencing tool which has set the pace for much of what we see around today. Kudos for the try. Whips for thinking about this a couple of years late. Rather, get a license deal and put a hook into Voxwire or iVocalize right now while saving yourself lots of headaches and false promises.)

b. Add interoperability with other IM networks, not just MSN. (AOL, YM, ICQ, etc.)

c. Let me show my screen easily. Maybe a viewport, or a resizable frame. You say that's not core to collaboration? You say go to the Files area and co-browse the same document? Try navigating a Web page together sometime. Is that too WebEx?

d. Once you make point c. work let me also annotate and mark-up anything live. Including my PowerPoint slides (yes, not with those primitive MS tools).

e. Let me add some emotion, some humanity without getting trivial. A few, high class emoticons. The option of showing my face when I am in a space. A still, a snapshot, something that I can update on the fly from my webcam.

f. Add RSS newsreader/aggregation module - Add RSS output capabilities for selected workspaces and for specific Groove tools (discussion, chat, project management, calendar, etc.)

g. Integrate an RSS/XML/XHTML publishing module allowing Groove to intersect the key major driving forces for technology adoption:
a) information access
b) publishing, syndicating, distribution
c) social and business networking.

h. Build social/business networking tools right inside Groove. Many options available; just look around.

j. Disappear further inside Office and "other" applications. What you did in Windows Explorer is great. We want more of that. Please, open-up to the non-Microsoft world too.

k. Include in whichever way possible the Mac and the Linux platforms. PopG Blended Groove is a fine road to follow. If you still feel you have no business justifications to do this, fine, but at least support who does this for you.

i. Realize that there is no one else out there marketing the product as well as you guys do. Just give your customer support a more friendly and personal hand and you have no competitors that can beat you on this front.

l. Improve further the UI in the many areas where you have left things that are still a tiny bit too complex for the average Joe.

m. Integrate video (NetMeeting is an historical milestone. Not a tool for todays computers. Move on).

n. Do not scare people into thinking they are being downloaded 25 MBs when you have really uploaded only a 7 MB file. I understand that Groove is trying to report the worst possible case, but the story behind this is far from being transparent to the user yet.

Still curious about Groove v3?
Go ahead and sign-up for the Groove v3 beta program and see for yourself.

Got questions to ask?
Place them here, at the bottom of this article, or head straight to the public Groove support forums.

To learn more about groove and what I have written about it in the past, please the Groove Epic, a collection of Groove reviews, essays and special articles, or the recent interview with Ray Ozzie which provides lots of insight and information about Groove past, present and possible future.

Readers' Comments    
2006-01-25 21:01:48


I have not tried to new version of Groove, but I can tell you that the old version is far from the best of these programs on the market. More importantly, NEVER EVER USE POPG. We have constant problems and downtime with slow or no response from support.

2004-08-25 13:37:41


Search is THE #1 MISSING PIECE of Groove, Exponentially more important than every other feature you mention in your wish list. To not be able to search even just filenames is ridiculous, but really a full gmail-style in-document text search (at least in Word, for crying out loud!) is unbelievable.

2004-06-03 19:22:07


Does this version of Groove enable me to hide files within a workspace, such that they are only viewable by certain roles?

2004-04-18 20:45:32


I'm a licensed user of v2.5.
Can I upgrade to the beta version 3.0 now, if so will i lose all my content in my workspace in the version 2.5.

I cant find any help on this topic on their site..they dont spell it out like they should do..It should be a simple marketing / technical support issue.. Are you a v2.5 user who wants to give v3.0 a try, click here to find out how.
But yet I cant find any help.
If anyone else out there can answer my questions...much appreciation.

2004-04-15 20:20:09

Doug Hudiburg

I'm wondering if you or any of your readers have direct experience with PoPG Blended Groove?

You mentioned it in your review, but I couldn't tell if you put it through it's paces.

2004-04-14 20:40:34


What about application sharing? That's one feature that I find missing and still need to use webex or centra to do this... I also agree with your comment about the walkie talkie squeaky voice over IP... besides that.... I can't wait to try this out!

2004-04-02 06:26:23


The current Beta version (build 2056) contains a few new features:

1) A "Find" button in the Discussion tool, allowing you to search an entire discussion.

2) An option to search all of your instant message history.

3) Groove Forms now have an Advanced Search option that lets you chain together multiple queries.

There's definitely plenty of room for improvement--one can imagine a comprehensive search of *all* content in all spaces one belongs to--but this is at least a start.

2004-04-01 19:54:40

Neil Martinez


I found the review very helpful except, even though I am a registered user, I cannot access the preview 3.x version.


2004-04-01 14:45:48

Tim A

I'd like to hear more about the search functionality. In my opinion Groove can add anything to this excellent application but without search it is quickly becoming useless.

I've been a long time and heavy Groove user but I will be dropping it no matter how much I like the app without a proper search function.

I'm amazed at all the reviews I've read so far that do not mention search.

2004-03-28 18:09:22


Another question :)

Can you combine Grooves ability to synchronize with Sharepoint sites with the file system space system?

The scenario I have in mind right now: I share my complete My Documents folder between all my computers via Groove AND also have that automatically synchronized with a Sharepoint site, so that I have access to all of my files, even if I only have access to a web browser.

In theory all the pieces that would be needed for that are in place, right? Does that work?

That would be an AMAZING feature, basically moving My Documents right up to an Exchange 2003 account (where you can have many Outlook instances that all have a local copy of that + access via Outlook Web Access).

2004-03-27 10:50:11


I don't have access to the beta (not a customer). But good to hear that they put in at least something.

2004-03-26 18:44:40


Re: search - check out the latest beta version that was posted last night. Not quite a Google-level search, but a start.

Re: Win98 - I run it on a 5-year old Aptiva running Win98. No it's not recommended, but it's actually usable.

2004-03-26 16:18:46

Joe O'Laughlin

"It doesn't require a superpowered PC to run"

Will the final release run in the austerity of Win98SE ?

2004-03-26 14:25:52


Great review! What about search in v3? That was the one feature that finally made us not use Groove: After a while we had a lot of information stored in the workspaces but could not find them anymore. If there is any feature that is absolutely crucial then it is a global search function: Type in some words and have Groove look for it in all your spaces. Like Google.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, March 26 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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