Microsoft's Office Live Web service was designed for small businesses that needed an easy, low-cost solution for creating and hosting Web sites and business-branded e-mails. When it was first introduced in November 2006, there were three versions: Basics (free), Essentials (US$19.95 per month) and Premium (US$39.95 per month). The latest, reconfigured version -- now called Microsoft Office Live Small Business (MOLSB) -- simplifies things by offering a single service with a number of for-pay add-ons.
Stories by Richard Ericson
Simplify, simplify, simplify. The challenge for Microsoft in revamping Office was to better organize all the options available without negatively impacting productivity. For new users that's a particularly important goal, since the menus and toolbars in current versions may appear to be a mishmash.
Looking for a free word processor and spreadsheet? Google's newly released Docs & Spreadsheets suite that offers just that, but in this case you get what you pay for. While the number-crunching power of Spreadsheets is adequate for simple workbooks, the Docs program (formerly Writely, acquired by Google earlier this year) is so underpowered we wouldn't recommend it for even casual use.
Google Spreadsheets is a free, Web-based spreadsheet tool from Google that does a surprisingly good job as a basic number cruncher, and the price is right. Google began accepting sign-ups to participate in a limited public beta test earlier this week, so you can sign up and try it yourself.