Windows Live vs. Google Apps: Part 1 – Windows Live

Chris Czarnecki’s article, Microsoft and Google Compete in the Cloud, inspired me to write this blog as I have been researching Google Apps and Windows Live for a while now and using bits and pieces of each.

I’m going to write this article in two parts.  In the first, I’ll review the features of Microsoft Windows Live and in the second I’ll describe the features of Google Apps.  As a test, I’ll use the Microsoft Word Web App using the Safari browser on my Mac to write the first part.  I’ll write the second, using Google Docs from my PC using Internet Explorer 9.

Windows Live

The Windows Live home screen appears as shown below.  You can create an account for free, or use your existing Hotmail or MSN account.

Windows Live Home Page
Windows Live Home Page

SkyDrive for Cloud Storage

From the Windows Live menu, you can select SkyDrive.  This will open a view of all the files you have in the Windows Live cloud.  You can synchronize local computers with the SkyDrive.  This uses a program called Windows Live Mesh that can be installed on your PC or Mac.  Files can be kept private, but also shared with friends or colleagues.  With SkyDrive you get 25Gb of storage for free.  The UI is shown below.

SkyDrive Screen
SkyDrive Screen

Office Live

If you click on the Office menu, you get  a screen as shown below.  Notice, it allows you to browse the files in your SkyDrive and also create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes using the online versions of the Office programs.  The big question is, do these programs work well?  I did a bit of testing to help answer that.

Office Live Screen
Office Live Screen

Word Web App

Writing this document in Word, was pretty painless.  I know the document is not complex, still creating and saving it was smooth, adding the images was simple, and all the features I used (spell checker, hyperlinks, styles, fonts, etc.) worked fine.  I could have easily downloaded and edited the document using my full version of Word.  There were a couple quirks, like Shift+Enter didn’t work for inserting a line break.  There is also no zoom-in feature.

One important note, save your work often!  I had a glitch that caused me to lose some edits.  This would not have happened with auto-save on using the desktop versions of Word.

A screen shot is show below.

Word For Web App
Word For Web App

Excel Web App

To test Excel I uploaded a spreadsheet that I use to submit invoices to Learning Tree.  Initially, I got an error message complaining about unsupported features (apparently, there are a lot of those) and I was forced to re-save the spreadsheet before I could edit it.  Afterward, it seemed to work fine though.  The missing feature this time was zoom-out, as I couldn’t view the entire spreadsheet at once.  I could use this version of Excel without much trouble.

PowerPoint Web App

To test PowerPoint I uploaded one of my Learning Tree courses.  Other than it being a little slower switching between slides, both editing and viewing the presentation was just like the full version of PowerPoint.  I’ll definitely upload all my courses to SkyDrive.  Imagine how efficient it would be to find a typo in a slide during a class and fix it immediately from any computer.  A screen shot is below.

PowerPoint Web App
PowerPoint Web App

Summary

If you are using Office already and want to take advantage of the cloud for storage, backups, file sharing and online document creation, definitely explore Windows Live.  It’s free and there are quite a few other features beyond to scope of this article.

If you want to learn more about cloud computing, come to one of Learning Tree’s cloud computing courses.

Doug Rehnstrom

As cloud computing continues to make information technology headlines, vendors are aggressively promoting the many benefits it can provide organizations.  Our White Paper, Cloud Computing Promises: Fact of Fiction, addresses the claims and questions that are often raised in relation to cloud computing and provides a clear view of what the cloud can—and can’t—deliver in reality.

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