Docs isn't the online Office suite. It's more of an experiment, combining Microsoft's tools with Facebook's social media empire, and one that needs serious work. Its editing tools pale before Google Docs, and it's a buggy tool to play with.

Docs is happy to forget your edits and break down entirely, and its simplicity doesn't so much streamline its lack of features as draw attention to them. What's interesting about Docs is its very existence. For starters, www.docs.com is a prime URL for this kind of service, despite it coming across as primarily a test project.

Next, it's a Microsoft tool that you don't log into with a Live ID like all of its others, but with your Facebook account. Many other sites use Facebook logins as an authentication system, but for Microsoft to even consider letting someone else take the wheel is a very unusual situation.

This is the company that wanted to build a log-in system like this a few years ago, with services like Hailstorm and Passport. The main difference is that those platforms were built on the idea that people would be forced into using them because they were from Microsoft and would therefore inevitably conquer the world, while the majority of sites using Facebook are doing so because they want to.

Docs handles text, spreadsheets and presentations, automatically sharing them with your Facebook friends. You can make them available to all your friends, individually named ones or just yourself, but for some reason not an existing group.

It's a system for online sharing rather than outright word processing, so it doesn't care about pagination, margins or other niceties. For simple transfers that's fine, but you won't be using this as a Google Docs replacement, never mind Office proper (although you can open your online documents in that).

Without these basic features, Docs is just a novelty. As a sign of how Microsoft has changed over the last few years, however, it's a very interesting one.

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