Microsoft has been refining and upgrading their ‘Live’ series of offerings the last few months. This article will focus on recently revamped ‘Microsoft Office Live – Small Business’. Just visit the Office Live site and you’ll be introduced to a cornucopia of options. You can set up a website, set up an e-commerce store, purchase a domain name and then set up various e-mail accounts using the new domain name. There is a contact manager, an e-mail marketing feature and newsletter creation and mailing (paid subscription for these).
We will focus on a free and very useful function I found while exploring this site—the ‘Share Documents’ feature. Looks like Microsoft is competing with Google here as they are offering a place to store, share and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents. From the above menu of items, click on the ‘Share Documents’ and you’ll be taken to your Workspace site where you can upload documents for sharing, collaboration or storage. Check this out for full details on everything you can do with your workspace.
I liked the fact that I can upload multiple documents at once by clicking one file, holding the shift and selecting consecutive files. It does not upload folders, however. Once I’ve gotten my documents uploaded, I can create different workspaces to share with different groups (or just a single person). It’s easy to move my documents to new workspaces and flag documents for sharing. As you’re setting up to share, you decide if the recipient will be an owner, editor or viewer. I really like the choice I have to send my invitation to someone and they don’t have to sign in or create an account to view the documents. Don’t you just hate getting something from someone and in order to see it, you have to get your own account!
I like this interface much better than Google Docs. It seems to be more intuitive and just makes more sense, at least to me. Over on the right side of the document screen, you can check out the activity in your space. You can see who has made changes or uploaded any more documents – very handy. Click on the ‘Comment’ box and leave a note for a co-worker.
Microsoft has a collaboration feature they call ‘Shared View’. You can read more about this application, which you can download and use without using the Live Small Business site. Click on the ‘Share’ button and select the option to share your screen with someone. You’ll have to have the app installed on your computer—you’ll be prompted for what to do. After it’s installed, you can initiate a sharing session with anyone right from Word, Excel or PowerPoint – nice.
I’m saving the best for last! The coolest feature and a huge timesaver is that you can save a document directly to your on-line live workspace right from your local Microsoft Office application. This means when you’re working on a document in Word, Excel or PowerPoint, click the save button and you’ll have the option to save either to your local drive or your small business live workspace in the clouds. You do have to install this add-in to be able to do this. It works with Office 2003 & 2007. It’s really great – can’t do that with Google Docs!
I first set up a Windows Live Account before I set up the Small Business portion and I was pleased to discover that I can access either of these areas by going to http://home.live.com/ and signing in. I did notice once I get into the Small Business section and I’m in the documents section, I don’t find a way to navigate myself back to my top level, or home page. This is annoying. I wish they would have some menu items at the top to get me where I want to be!
Next week, we’ll look at the ‘Outlook Connector’ and what that can do.