Microsoft Office Live Workspaces misses mark

As product launches go, Microsoft Office Live Workspaces has to be one of the most anti-climactic releases of the past decade

Life in Live Workspaces

I tested Microsoft Office Live Workspaces on a Windows Vista system with Office 2007 installed. Registering for OLW requires that you have a Microsoft Live ID account. OLW also requires Internet Explorer for full functionality. Once authenticated, I was presented with an easy-to-navigate Web dashboard where I could create and manage workspaces, create or upload documents or files, schedule events or tasks, and add comments to existing workspace items.

Inviting users to share a particular workspace object -- for example, a document or calendar/list -- is as simple as selecting the item and clicking the share button. You're then presented with an e-mail header-like set of fields for specifying which "Live" users can edit the document (as opposed to just viewing it) and also allowing you to provide a description of the document being shared. OLW then sends out the invite as an e-mail message with a link that the invitee can click to access the shared document. If they have an existing OLW account they log into that directly. Otherwise, a temporary Workspace is provided for them. A document preview window, which requires Internet Explorer, allows you to view a document without downloading it for editing.

Overall, the OLW interface is quite intuitive. I had no trouble finding my way around the site and most of the major features and functions were self-explanatory. In fact, I'm hard pressed to find fault with OLW from an end-user-experience standpoint. Rather, it's the lack of real innovation -- either "under the hood" on the Windows desktop or within the browser itself -- that causes OLW to miss the mark.

Perhaps I've been spoiled. There are so many great Web services solutions out there -- most of them free like OLW -- that my expectations keep getting nudged higher and higher. And with Live Documents just around the corner, it's hard to get excited about a technically inferior solution that's late to the party.

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Randall C. Kennedy

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