I think Spaces is great, except that performance seems sluggish (though it’s getting better), and Live Writer is my blogging tool of choice. So there’s stuff here I like, but what is of most interest to me is Sky Drive. I’m a big fan of web storage, because it means you can work from several machines and everything stays up-to-date. It is also an effective off-site backup. Currently I use a subversion repository on my own site for this. I also use Amazon S3. Both are excellent, but saving and loading documents is not quite a seamless process. To see what I mean, consider the steps you would have to explain to a non-expert user. Then compare this to what most of us do every day: open a document, work on it, then hit save.
The puzzle is why Microsoft has not built this feature into Office. This is meant to be an advantage of the Microsoft platform: a single vendor stack in which everything plays nicely together (Apple does this better, of course).
One of the first things I did with SkyDrive was to copy an Excel file into it. That works fine, either through browser upload, or by drag-and-drop if you install the upload ActiveX control. Just for fun, I then went back to SkyDrive and “opened” the Excel document from it. What this really does is to download the file to a temporary location, and opens it from there. Everything seems fine until you hit save. Then you get:
Your changes could not be saved to ‘somesheet.xls’ because of a sharing violation. Try saving to a different file.
Click OK, and then I get a weird message about a file with a meaningless name having the wrong extension – because apparently Excel automatically saved to another temporary file without an extension. Bizarre behaviour.
Ok, I admit, I knew this would not work. But isn’t this how it ought to work? I think this would be a killer feature for Office and Windows Live: foolproof open and save from/to web storage.
I also think Office should cope better with what is, from the user’s perspective, a rather obvious sequence of steps.
Zoho has a plug-in that nearly works right, though it has two major flaws. One, it did not work properly for me at all, but just threw errors on saving. Two, it converts Office into Zoho’s online format. I understand why this is the correct thing for a Zoho plug-in to do, but I’d rather keep documents in their native format and forego true online editing.