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December 31, 2008

Be More Productive With Microsoft Office Live Workspace


Office Live Workspace may not be the online version of the Office applications that you and your clients might be looking for, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t substantial value there.

As a small business owner, writer and consultant, I spend a lot of time inside Microsoft Word. Depending upon the client, I may never set foot on site, may spend a great deal of time on-site, or may switch on and off between working at the client location and working at home, and recently, work both on-site at multiple locations. Either way, I need to be able to access my documents anywhere, anytime, and so do most of my clients.

While there are several ways to accomplish such accessibility, one method that has been gaining traction lately is storing those documents out on the Internet somewhere. This is often referred to as “the cloud.” Windows Live Workspace is one of the cloud based solutions. Unlike other cloud based solutions, however, this one ties right into the applications you already use.

At first glance, it appears that Office Live Workspace is nothing more than yet another way to store and share your documents online. That is true, unless you download and install the Office Live add-in. Then, things change dramatically. The Office Live add-in is a free extension for your Microsoft Office suite that you have installed on your computer. What it does, is integrate the Office Live Workspace into your MS Office software. For example, on my desktop computer, I have Office 2007 Professional installed.

How To Use Office Live Workspaces

The workspaces themselves start out as nothing more than a list of files that you have stored on the servers at Microsoft. From there, you can share documents on your workspace, or access documents that others have shared to you on their workspaces. To add documents, you just click the Add Documents button. Sharing documents is done by, of course, clicking the Share button. Nothing revolutionary here.

What makes this so much more useful than other similar services you may have seen is that it is seamless to your Office apps. To create a new document that you want to have on your Live Workspace, you have two choices. First, you can click on New inside the workspace that you have open in your browser.

Live Workspace Integration

If you choose Word Document, Excel Spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation, it will automatically launch your installed copy of that program. For example, choosing New → Word Document opens Microsoft Word.

The second way to create a new document for your Office Live Workspace is to just open Microsoft Word on your computer like you always do. Start typing. Don’t worry, you won’t have to manually upload the document when you are done. Instead, you can just go to the Office Button (or File in pre-2007 Office) in your Word application just like if you were planning to save it to your C drive. Notice the new option to Save to Live Workspace. That is pretty nice.

Save to Live Workspace

Even better, you don’t have to keep doing “Save As” to get changes on the workspace document. It works just like any other drive, so whenever you hit the disk icon or choose Save, it saves to the workspace.

The great thing is that there is no lagging or slowness of any kind, because the program you are running is the one on your hard drive, so there is no bandwidth concern no matter how crazy you go with fonts and formats and graphics and so on.

It integrates pretty much the same with Excel and PowerPoint, as well.

Why Use Live Workspace Instead of Synchronizing

Eventually, you or one of your clients will wonder how this is any better than synchronizing your files between multiple computers. Depending on the circumstances, synchronizing might be the way to go, but there are many instances where the workspace concept will come in very handy. The most common one is when given access to a temporary or shared computer.

For example, many companies will not allow you to attach your laptop to their internal network. Instead, you’ll get a workstation to use while you are on-site. Installing your synchronization software on that workstation probably isn’t good business practice, even if you could get around any permission issues or firewall blocks in place. But, that computer probably already has Microsoft Word installed, and it is much more likely that the company will be amenable to installing a Microsoft supplied add-in than other software. Even if not, you can always do a manual upload from the Live Workspace, and then take advantage of the integration on your other computers.

Sharing Documents with Office Live Workspace

Sharing documents is one way that Live Workspace really shines. For starters, sharing a document is done explicitly. That is, you must choose both to share a document and define with whom to share it. This prevents any “accidental” sharing that comes from the myriad of services that make you change things to private instead of the other way around. Also, sharing comes in the form of an explicit user as defined by their account information. So, there is no need to worry about someone passing on a password or “hidden” folder name and your documents being compromised.

Once a document is shared, it can be reviewed online without the aid of any installed Office applications, which is great for those times when you are using a computer at a library, coffee shop, or hotel business center.

Of course, the real use for sharing documents is the ability to edit them with your own changes. Editing shared documents is done the same way as with your own documents, just in the Shared folder instead of the Documents folder. The useful part for professionals is that not only are changes tracked, but versions can be as well. Selecting “Add new version” allows one to make all the changes they want to a document while preserving the original. Additionally, the sidebar of the workspace tracks and lists all the “Activity” so you can see at a glance who has and has not accessed or changed the documents that are shared.

Be More Productive!

Eventually, the release of the Office Web applications may make the need for installed applications disappear. But, even if that day comes, the Live Workspace will be how those documents are stored, and shared.

Using it now, is a great productivity booster, and will also put you out in front of the curve when the next wave of online Office applications comes calling.

About the Author

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.

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