Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brief Review of Office Live's Web Site Tool

I've recently investigated Microsoft's Office Live service for Small Business as a possible resource for some of our lower-end customers. Office Live is more or less Microsoft's answer to Google Apps, providing a basic web site (a la Google Sites), online document sharing and collaboration (a la Google Docs), and email (using Hotmail instead of Gmail).

Here's a site I setup in about 20 minutes (it's a template, no design work):
http://meruscasesupport.web.officelive.com

Pros

  • The tools are simple, straightforward and intuitive. The user interface is obviously based on Microsoft's desktop applications, and it shows. Remember that the definition of "intuitive" is actually "familiar", so despite the lack of "new and different", this thing works very well for what it is designed to do. 
  • Dare I say it? It's easier to understand what is going on than in Google Sites.
  • The apps get a helping hand from the desktop versions of Microsoft Office. The experience, again, is better as a result.

Cons

  • It's not completely free. (Google lets you remove the branding; MS doesn't unless you pay.)
  • You'll never give up Windows and Office this way.
Other notes
  • You can't write html. I don't think you can with Google Sites either, but it's worth noting. No mootools, no custom JavaScript.
  • The WYSIWIG editor for web pages rocks. It's among the best I've seen -- think Frontpage without all the confusing tools that real engineers throw away anyway (If I'm writing JavaScript, give me a text editor, not a markup creator). And it's all on the web, although of course it works best in IE8.

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