Office goes Live

Microsoft has started pushing out links between Microsoft Office and Microsoft Office Live Workspace, despite it still being tagged as beta software. The newly available Microsoft Office Live Add-In (you can download it direct from the Documents Workspace) puts “Open From Office Live” and “Save To Office Live” commands onto the app (formerly known as File) menu in Office 2007 and Office 2003, which enable you to save and open documents across the internet, to and from Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace servers. Like Google Docs, Zoho Office and a bunch of other providers, Microsoft Office Live Workspace lets you store your documents in the Cloud and access them from wherever you are, provided you have an internet connection.

Office goes Live

Unlike those rivals, though, Office Live Workspace expects the PC you’re accessing the documents from to have Microsoft Office running in which to edit them, giving you a much richer editing experience than can be provided using any web-based editor (although it may prove limiting in some circumstances). You could use other apps such as OpenOffice to edit your files, but then you’d have to copy the documents manually between your Office Live Workspace and your local PC, as there wouldn’t be any integration to help you. You’re not restricted to just storing Office documents in Office Live either, as virtually any file type can be stored provided you stay within the limits of 25MB per file and 500MB overall.

I’m not particularly keen on storing my company’s or my confidential documents overseas on someone else’s hardware, nor of transmitting said documents over an unencrypted internet connection to some internet café PC over which I have no control. While you can decide what documents to store and where you can use Office Live Workspace, it would have been much better if Microsoft had decided to use the secure HTTPS protocol for this service.

Office Live Workspace will use Silverlight, if it’s installed on your PC, to blur the distinction between what’s local and what’s web-based, so that the transition is almost seamless: the “Open From Office Live” and “Save To Office Live” commands bring up File Open and File Save As dialogs that have the Office Live Workspace embedded right into them. Uploading a file to Live Workspace brings up a standard File Open dialog that allows you to select multiple files. The selected files are then uploaded one by one, complete with progress bars to keep you informed. The smaller size of OOXML format files (Office 2007) compared to the older binary file formats (Office 97-2003) is noticeable in the speed of such transfers – OOXML files are on average half the size of the older binary format files. If Silverlight isn’t available on your PC or in your internet browser, Live Workspace will work but it won’t feel quite so slick.

Live Workspace allows you to divide up your documents into separate “workspaces”, to which you can add notes and lists of tasks, contacts, events, and so on. Lists are like miniature database tables to which you can add rows or columns, and the columns can contain a single line of text, multiple lines of text, numbers, dates or yes/no values. You can name the columns and shift them left or right, which all gives you quite a lot of flexibility in how you arrange your lists. You can then export your lists to Excel or Outlook with added comments, and you can share any list, document or a whole workspace with other people. By default you get a single workspace called “Documents”, but you can create any number of new ones.

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