First Impressions of Windows Live Office

I had high hopes for these tools. Online versions of Microsoft’s Office applications could save me from the file conversion hell that is often the result of using Google Docs. Well here they are and I’m sad to say (actually quite gleeful since I do so love to complain) that my first impressions aren’t great.

The interface is clean and bright, and everything is stored on your SkyDrive. There are nice looking links to edit things directly in desktop applications. All seems lovely. Then I tried writing with it.

  1. No word count: I like to be able to see how much work I’ve got done in a given session. I can’t.
  2. The editing window fills the entire width of the browser: This is not a comfortable way to work. Google Docs provides a fixed page width interface, which is actually much more like working in the desktop version of Word. It’s a shame that Live Office didn’t duplicate this.
  3. Indent != tab: If I press tab and then type until the end of the line, I don’t expect the wrapped line to also be indented. Hell, if I press enter, I don’t expect the next line to be indented either. I’m not going to download my files to the desktop and manually put all my tabs back in.
  4. No custom dictionary: As a writer of fantasy I tend use a lot of weird/made up words that spell checkers really don’t like. No option to “add to dictionary” makes me sad.

Why does this matter? Microsoft is trying to take a chunk out of the Google Docs user base, but first impressions matter. They have a short window of opportunity in which to ride the wave of hype and convince people to migrate. I use Google Docs every day. I’m not going to keep checking back to see if Microsoft have caught up yet.

Live Office tools were meant to duplicate desktop Office functionality online. If they don’t do that then where’s the point?