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Microsoft Live Groups Integrates with new Office Live Web Apps

Groovy Windows Live Office Articles

While it may not be quite as functional as Sharepoint, the Microsoft Live Groups service is looking better and better especially with the recent launch of the Office 2010 Web Apps on Tuesday.  Granted, I still think it’s a long way off before I’d call it a Google Docs/Apps killer; however, I believe the platform is well on it’s way to becoming more than just a party planning tool.

Before we talk about what the Windows Live Groups is lacking, let’s first take a look at what it already has going for it.

groups in live office

 

Office Online Groups Are Simple To Create And Use

All you need to use Live groups is a Windows Live account.  Once you have that, you can visit http://groups.live.com/create/ and create one.  If you take a look at the screenshot below, you’ll see the one and only creation screen for a group.  Pick a name, choose a URL, invite people, Click the Create button; done.

All the good names are going fast so act now to reserve your GROUP now.

create a windows live group

 

If you’d rather join someone else’s group, you can do so by requesting an invite.  However by default the privacy settings of groups prevents people from requesting invites, so you’ll have to know the group owner or co-owner and personally ask them for an invite.

Once you have an invitation, you’ll see a notification and a link to view it.

join a group in windows live via invitation

 

All you have to do to join the group from this point is Click Join on the invitation page.

join an office live group

 

Current Live Group Features

 

1.  Privacy

On groovyPost, we’ve always talked a lot about being an informed consumer, and privacy is a hot topic with all of the Facebook talk floating around the Internet.  As far as privacy goes, Microsoft has always had a top-notch privacy policy, and they are upping it further by making a Privacy Set Up window appear when you join groups.  Here you can change your Live Account to anything between a public personal advertisement or a near-anonymous private account.

set up privacy for office online groups

 

2.  Group Chat

Using Live Messenger group members can chat with each other on a large scale.  Up to 40 members can all instant message in one shared window.  The only downside to this is, you have to install Live Messenger. Yeah, group chat should be included as a built-in web app. Hopefully, Microsoft will get the ball rolling on this in the future, but until then you’ll have to live with the high-school reminiscent messenger window.

40 members can chat in live messenger groups

instant message groups of people

 

3.  Collaborative Group Calendar

Probably the grooviest part of Live Groups is the group calendar.  If used in combination with Outlook and the Outlook Hotmail Connector you can use it as a make-shift exchange server for your organization.

Again they’ve kept it simple, all you have to do to make a calendar is Click the Add calendar button.

collaborate as a group using a calendar

 

The Calendar group calendar has all of the same features of the traditional Live calendar.  The difference is that it is getting shared among everyone in the group.  Because the calendar has so many features we won’t talk about all of them in this article but I’ll highlight the groovy ones.

  • Easily Add Events – An add overlay appears over each date that lets you add items within an in-window pop-up.
  • To Do List and Agenda List – The agenda view is a list of all events and what times they are going down from any range of dates.  The To Do list is a separate feature that lets you assign tasks and due dates.
  • Combine Calendars Without SharingOn the Windows Live site you can display your personal events on the group calendar so that they are only visible to you.  This scenario lets you easily see schedule conflicts.
  • Simulate an exchange server with the Outlook Hotmail connector tool.  Works with personal and group calendars.

how to add items to live calendar in group

 

4.  Instant Document Sharing And Creation

Depending on the group permissions, everyone in the group will be able to view and edit group documents collaboratively.  Or in other words, any documents created from the group document panel are instantly community property.

create documents or add them to live office groups

 

Additionally, you can add documents to the group pool from your own Skydrive, or you can even add from your computer using an easy Drag and drop interface.  Note that individual files are limited to the standard SkyDrive limitation of 50 MB per file, and from what we can tell the file is stored using the space from the uploader’s 25GB SkyDrive limit.

drag and drop office documents to your group folder

 

That just about covers groups for now.  Though from what I can tell groups are still under mass construction and Microsoft is going to be adding new and useful features over time.  For the moment, however, they are really missing the mark on a few key features.

 

What Live Groups Needs To Beat Google Apps

 

1. Office Online needs Real-Time Collaboration

When working in a shared Google Docs file with other users, you can see real-time what/where they are working.  Google Docs does something groovy where it highlights boxes, and you can do real-time chats within a document that you are editing.  As it is Office Online requires you to do a page refresh to see changes.  If Microsoft wants to keep up with Google, they need to get this implemented, now!

google docs has real time collaboration, office online needs it

 

2.  Where are discussions?

According to the Windows Live Groups page, there is supposed to be a Discussions feature.  The feature is meant to work as a message board or forum and make it easy for people to post useful information on the group home page.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but for some reason, this feature just doesn’t exist?  I was ready to switch completely out of Google Docs the second I saw this feature advertised, yet it’s nowhere to be found.

office online groups need discussions

 

3. No mobile access to Live Groups?

Whether you’re using an iPhone or Blackberry, mobile.live.com has no access to Live Groups.  The option isn’t even there!

needs mobile support for live office groups

 

4.  Better Performance

Comparing this to Google Docs, Windows Live Groups – well this little piggy is VERY slow. Each screen requires a reload followed by a 3-10 second wait.  Ouch, that hurts.

 

Conclusion

Windows for live groups is a pretty good start for Microsoft and although a bit light on features, I expect it will only get better.  With its current iteration, I would have to say it’s not ready for the “Small Business” but it should be everything you need for a small club or family collaboration site.  Perhaps what we will see is Windows Live Groups will be for consumers and Microsoft Office Live Workspace will be for small business and BPOS for the large corporations???  We will have just to wait and see.

Since this is the first release with integrated Live Groups and Office Web Apps 2010, I expect things to get better over time.  If Microsoft expects this to compete with Google Docs in the online market, they need to fix at least the few items listed above.  Until then, I’m afraid it’s just 1 or 2 notches above being a fun party planning tool.

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8 Responses to Microsoft Live Groups Integrates with new Office Live Web Apps

  1. Izzmo June 11, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Very good and thorough article. Groups has been around for a while and I have gotten a chance to use it quite a bit. It integrates well with Messenger, which is probably a key in part of it’s success (limited success anyways). It is definitely a good start, as you said, but it does need some more features.

  2. animis June 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Interesting workspace.office.live.com doesn’t work in Google Chrome. Microsoft must have a bone to pick…

    • animis June 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

      Hmmm.. after taking a look at office live workspace I am very unimpressed. They should just integrate it with groups and get some of the features you’ve mentioned in the article above.

      • Izzmo June 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

        They probably will eventually. But, there is no substitute for Windows Office products right now.

        • MrGroove June 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

          Agreed.

          Office 2010 is pretty nice….. So far, heads and shoulder above anything other “Business Productivity Suite” out there.

    • MrGroove June 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

      Not only that but Workspace also does not yet support the Office Web Apps. If you click “New Word Document” it will create kick off a new Word document on your local client.

      I’m going to guess they are a few months out??? from the full release of Office Web Apps where everything is integrated.

      • JohnNorman June 11, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

        Yeah, this product/service is easy to get excited about but ya have to remember that it’s coming from Microsoft… They like to take their sweet time with everything and usually lag behind so much products never comes out in time to compete with everyone else.

        • Izzmo June 11, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

          True, but they are definitely getting better and there release schedule gets better/faster/more frequent every year with increasing competition. You have to remember that Microsoft has had almost not competition (for the most part) up until 4-5 years ago on the web (not including browsers of course cause they really don’t count).

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