Microsoft has launched its equivalent of Google Docs - but without the ability to edit documents. It’s left the actual editing of documents to Office itself and offers Office Live Workspace as a way for individuals and small businesses to share files on the web.

A nifty Office add-in can be downloaded that enables you to save and open your docs straight to and from the Workspace - a feature Google Docs doesn’t have. There’s also a multiple document upload tool.

We don’t know about you, but all these different web-based apps are slightly confusing. However, aside from the ability to edit (which is a loss), the saving of documents straight to the web is a major leap forward for Microsoft.

Office Live Workspace was among the first of the new wave of online services in Microsoft’s software plus services vision that Bill Gates has been so fond of speaking about.

When sharing a document in Workspace you can invite people just to view it, or let them edit the document. You can also view the activity on your files as well as see a version history - extremely useful for collaborative working. The system can even email you when changes are made.

Indeed, it’s far better than Google Docs for this purpose. You can provide direct links to documents as well (as you can in Google Docs too).

Better format handling

However, Google Docs appears to be better at handling formats other than Office docs - we checked out a PDF in Workspace and it was formatted very poorly. Mind you, Google Docs won’t even take PDFs. Workspace enabled us to upload anything we threw at it, although naturally you won’t be able to view anything out of the ordinary. 

You can also create different Workspaces for different projects within the same login; they’re basically folders. As you’d expect, Workspace uses the Windows Live ID login system.

“Microsoft Office Live Workspace addresses the growing demand among our customers for on-the-go access to projects and the ability to collaborate with others regardless of where they live or work,” explains Tim Kimber, who heads up the Office Live UK division.

“Customers have asked for an easy way to save their documents from Office to the web, so that they can get to their information if they’re away from their PC. 

"People also get frustrated with the confusing free-for-all that can result when multiple versions of documents circulate in e-mail attachments that then have to be manually pulled together by the original author.”

Office Live Workspace is designed as an alternative to Microsoft’s Office Live Small Business and Office SharePoint Server offerings for businesses. Storage on the system is cited at 1,000 documents, though quite how much space this equates to if you upload 10MB PowerPoint files each time remains to be seen.