Windows Live Office

As I tried to determine what to write about for my very first article – pouring over a list of ideas that I’ve maintained over the last several months, staring at the screen, trying to narrow it down – I realized that the answer was right in front of me.  It wasn’t on the list, but it was right there on the screen.  Office Web Apps!

More specifically, I’ll be talking about “Windows Live Office” (WLO), which is the consumer version of Office Web Apps.  A version of Office Web Apps is also available that integrates with SharePoint 2010, for businesses that have Software Assurance.

WLO was released to the public in early June and is available to consumers as part of the free Windows Live suite of web-based services (http://www.live.com) and is partnered with Windows Live SkyDrive – Microsoft’s web-based document storage system.  The service allows you to create, view, and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files without having the programs installed on your computer.  Best of all, it’s a free service.  You don’t even have to own a copy of Microsoft Office.  All you need is a Windows Live ID.  If you have a Hotmail, MSN or Windows Live Messenger, or XBox Live account, then you already have a Windows Live ID.  If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for free at http://office.live.com.

If you’re like me and use a couple of computers (ok, if you’re really like me and use several computers and multiple operating systems), there are some features that make WLO extremely convenient, even if you already have Microsoft Office on your computers:

  1. Currently, you can store up to 25GB of files on SkyDrive with a free Windows Live ID.
  2. The documents that you store in WLO/SkyDrive are available from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection.  For instance, you can start writing your document on your home computer and then go to work or school and have access to finish it from there – all without having to remember to save the document to a thumb drive and then not lose it.
  3. You can either edit the documents via the Office Web Apps interface or, if you are on a computer with Microsoft Office, you can choose to open the document in the appropriate Office program just as if the file were saved locally on your computer.
  4. You can share documents in SkyDrive with anyone else that has a Windows Live ID.  To do this, you create a folder and assign permissions to it for those that you want to share the files with.  Users can be given read-only or read-write access to the folder and its contents.

For me, the absolutely biggest benefit of WLO is that it has a web-based version of the OneNote program.  I have been a huge fan of OneNote for organizing all of my random notes and research for a few years now.  However, I use a Mac on a regular basis as one of my work computers and Microsoft has yet to come out with a version of OneNote for the Mac.  In comes WLO – since it is web-based and works with most web browsers, including Firefox and Safari.  All I had to do was upload my OneNote files to SkyDrive and now I can edit them on my Mac via WLO.

Of course I have to throw in a word of caution.  Remember that with SkyDrive, you’re storing your files on a Microsoft server out on the web.  Granted, these have locked down permissions and their terms of service state that the files are your property, but I would warn against putting anything like financial or other sensitive data up there.  Just in case.  Call me paranoid, but that attitude has kept my information safe for all these years.

If you’ve used WLO and want to share your thoughts, throw them into the comments section below.

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