I don’t like Windows Live!

15 06 2010

I take a lot of pictures and like to share them with my friends and family. I usually like Picasa Web of Google. It’s easy to upload and share and also I can download photos from it in large size unlike some of the other sites, which wouldn’t allow that. I’ve been using Picasa for quite a long time now and am very much satisfied by what it offers. 

Very recently, I decided to try Windows Live, prompted mainly by the fact that I ran out of my free 1 GB space in Picasa and I was bit a reluctant to create a new account in Google. So, I thought why not try Windows Live as I already have an account in it and very actively use its Office Live service. 

But that turned out to be not a very good idea. For starters, it forces the user to install Microsoft Silverlight in order to view the slideshow. While it might not be such an awful thing, I doubt all my friends wouldn’t be exactly delighted to comply unless they have intense desire to view the slideshow, which I can’t count on. Despite the rise in the number of Silverlight applications out there, I don’t think its presence on a computer can be taken for granted. 

But this is not all. More is to come. And this time from the sender’s side. I tell you that it’s a nightmare and very frustrating to work on it with the cookies turned off. It asks the user to login a number of times in the process of sharing an album:

  • Initially when going to photos.live.com URL
  • Again when you click on an Album
  • Once Again when you click on Share – Send a link

It asks me to login when I try to open my Hotmail (with the same credentials), by clicking the link from the Live header. Strange! It’s as if, I have to login every time I click something in it. And guess what happened, when I tried to log into my Hotmail at that point? I got a message saying that – “You are already logged in with the same credentials.”. What the hell? Is it some kind of a joke??? 

And there is something called ‘Get a Link’ in Share menu. I tried to share the link with my friends, but apparently it’s asking the users to login to their Windows account. Then, following a message that I need to give permissions in order for my friends to actually access the album, I clicked the “permission” link and added email addresses. 

Still the link didn’t work. 

I started again, and shared using ‘Send a Link’ feature, which I did successfully before, but this time it didn’t work too. 

Also, I didn’t really understand what the ‘Get a Link’ is meant for or how it works. Nothing is intuitive and I don’t believe I have to spend so much time (trying) to figure out things. 

You guess right that I got greatly pissed off by all this. But my woes aren’t complete. In Windows Live, there is no feature of automatically adding email ids to your contact list (Yahoo and Google have been doing this for like ages!) Unless you manually add them to the contact list (in Hotmail or somewhere else), the emails ids are not auto-completed, despite using those ids over and over again. 

Looks like the list of troubles with Live is endless. Check these out:

  • The email id from your contact list appears below the To field as you type in the first characters but you can’t select the id from the list either by clicking Tab or Enter. I don’t know how else to do that. Hmm… (This is while I was trying to Get the Link and giving permissions to people or something like that.)
  • Login to home.live.com, Click photos from the header. You would be pretty amazed by what you’ll find – “Yourname did not share any albums with you”. WT*!
  • There is this confusing thing called Skydrive on your Photos homepage.(Skydrive is basically a file storage and sharing service under the umbrella of Windows Live.) It says – Albums on your Skydrive. I’m not sure why it saves albums on my Skydrive. Do Photos and Skydrive share same space? This is all very confusing. 

It all seemed pathetic to me and the fact that it’s from Microsoft made me feel embittered.

Looks like Microsoft doesn’t care about its online offerings – Email, Photo Sharing etc. much. If that’s the case, why bother providing such lame services, which are far less comparable than the industry leaders. 

It might be true that I’m over reacting a bit or too impatient and really need to allow some time to get used to working on the Live platform. But in my opinion, the transition from one provider to the other should be smooth and the features and the user interface should be intuitive, making it effortless for the user. 

I faced the similar problem, when a long time back, Yahoo closed its Photos feature and offered Flickr as a replacement. It was a nightmare for me to maintain and share stuff through Flickr and I could never able to figure it out. 

Just an interesting incident: 

Just a few weeks ago, one of my friends, who is a Hotmail user had been a victim of email spoofing and not knowing what to do, complained to Microsoft. And guess what it did? The company suspended his account with no promise of giving it back. In the end, it gave back his account but only after 4 weeks or so. Well, I’m not sure whether this is the usual protocol but I thought the whole situation could have been dealt in a better way and definitely without much distress to my friend. 

Well, can anyone help me gain more tolerance towards Windows Live? Or is this the better question – Is it worthy to continue to use it? 

PS: I wrote this post yesterday in a moment of distress and today I found this (actually, a friend directed my attention towards it): New Hotmail rolls out along with new Office Is this the cause of my inconveniences? May be I’ll have to test it again!

But I must confess that I’m really excited about Office Web. I’ve been hoping for something like this for so long. It’s like dream come true (excuse me for being dramatic!). I can’t wait to check it out.

No more Google Notebook for new users

4 06 2009

Google has stopped development on its Notebook product and is not going to offer this feature for new users. What a pity! Nevertheless, it’s very comforting to know that Google is allowing the current users to continue using it. I’m safe. I just hope it doesn’t back out on that in at least near future.

For quite a while, I was not able to find Notebook listed on the ‘More Google Products’ page (that’s the usual way I access it) but I didn’t give it a serious thought until a few days ago. When I googled, I immediately came upon this announcement on Notebook’s official blog, dated Jan 14th 2009.

(Note: The existing users can now access Notebook only through http:www.google.com/notebook/)

I wonder what made Google think that Notebook isn’t useful to the users in the long run! Google suggests a few other products for users to look at, which offer Notebook-like functionality , but frankly I’m not very impressed by them:

  • SearchWiki
  • Google Docs
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Tasks in Gmail

While each of the above products cater to one particular need – creating task lists or bookmarking web pages or saving information etc, none of them provide a wholesome environment in which you can organize all the information by projects or topics and share them with others. Notebook does it.

I find Notebook very useful and handy. Though I actually favor Microsoft’s OneNote for its better features and better look, the fact that Notebook is online makes it more desirable to me.

I can’t resist the urge to say a few words about OneNote now that I mentioned it. It has actually blown we away when I first took a look at it. I was so impressed.  It has a very pleasant appearance with good color scheme. It comes with the default templates for Work and Personal Notebooks. It also includes a notebook for OneNote Help. One distinguished feature is the absence of the Save option. There is no need for it as the content gets saved simultaneously as you type or paste. Of course there is a Save As option which enables you to save the page or notebook in various formats. And what’s more,  every piece of the content you paste is accompanied by the source url (unless the source is WordPad or Notepad or an unsaved Office document). This feature is really really cool and extremely helpful. And of course, OneNote offers the other common Office features and has integration with Outlook. You can send a page to friends via email (it is sent as an attachment) with just a click.

However, the single disadvantage that it’s not a web product seems to outweigh all these awesome features, at least in my opinion. How I wish OneNote is online!

I’m a kind of person who handles many projects at a time (both work-related and personal), does lot of research and collects information. And OneNote (or Notebook) provides a perfect place for organizing all that stuff. I was just hoping that Google would improve Notebook to match or exceed OneNote and this move by Google came out as a surprise. Obviously, Google didn’t take users like me into consideration.( I’m sure there are lot more like me out there.)

Amazing online services from Microsoft

4 06 2009

I’ve been using Yahoo Briefcase for so long that when I received the closure announcement, I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t provide the option to transfer the existing files to any other service providers, like it did for Yahoo! Photos. 

As I searched for alternatives, I came to know about the following MS products:

Sky Drive offers free storage upto 25 GB. One can store all kinds of files and share the folders with others. It’s the best alternative to my Yahoo Briefcase and in fact much much better. I haven’t explored this service much myself, but you can find all about the new developments in its blog: Windows Live SkyDrive team blog

Another similar product is Live office Workspaces, where you can create workspaces for your various needs like Work, Class, Home, Shopping etc and save relevant files (not just docs) in them. It also provides  workspace templates for some common purposes like Class, Event, Project, Job Search, Study, Travel etc. 

In addition to uploading various files to the workspaces, you can also create items such as a list, note, word document, excel spreadsheet, ppt etc. Isn’t it cool? 

I feel it’s much better than Google Docs for the following reasons:

  • You can upload a great variety of files (as opposing to only .doc, .xls, .ppt, .pdf in Google Docs)
  • Create lists and notes in addition to standard office documents
  • Provides templates for the common needs
  • Can upload multiple files at a time

And the storage limit is 5GB per subscription, which is not bad at all. 

And there is Live Mesh. It’s actually different from the other two.  It is a data synchronization system, which enables you to access and share folders and files across multiple devices.  You need to have the Live Mesh application installed on all the machines you want to connect to the mesh. Once you add a machine to your mesh, you can connect to it (from another machine connected to the mesh) and work on it as if you are sitting before that system. Also there is a Live Desktop, which allows you to place files and folders on it from different devices in the mesh.  This enables you share files across devices. 

I’ve been intrigued by Live Mesh ever since I’ve heard about it and it works great for me.  But I could work on it only in IE. 

Live Office Workspaces and Live Mesh are still in Beta stage and hence are far from perfect. Live Mesh has many known issues right now, which you can refer to here

Aren’t these amazing? And you just need to have a Windows Live id to avail these services from Microsoft. 

I was so impressed by these services that I wondered why I didn’t hear about them earlier. Is Microsoft underplaying? I would expect more aggressive marketing from the software giant.