Free online networking service helps Canadian businesses get more out of Office


We know that change affects different people differently. And we understand that working together in the face of constant change is better than in working separately.

Small business owners in particular can benefit from connecting to other owners and operators. By sharing their experiences, insights and tips, their knowledge base can be increased.

So, too, efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Online social and professional networks, and Internet-based tools like the recently-launched Microsoft Office Live Small Business service, are great ways to do so.

Office Live Small Business has well over a million customers, so small businesses in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere are sharing and learning from each other.

No Argument with Costs

The first benefit – sign up is free!

Then, small businesses get a great set of online tools and services, including Web hosting and custom domain name registration with 100 business e-mail accounts (custom domains are free for the first year).

Website building tools and design assets are offered and business productivity apps like contact management software for performing basic customer relationship management are available.

And, there’s 500 MB storage space free of charge with every workspace account!

More to the point, there is great information that boosts productivity – built into the tools themselves, and provided by the users.

As Jason Brommet, the Product Manager for Microsoft Office in Canada, points out, “Office Live and the Office Live Workspace are one answer to the question our customers often ask, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Office did ‘X’?’ Well, there it is – features and functions built into the new and enhanced Office suite can be found much more easily now, directly through the streamlined Microsoft Office Fluent user interface, and online, where lots of resources are available to make small business more productive.”

Since its launch last year, thousands of home-based and small office business owners have signed up for the service in Canada (Brommet adds that individual consumers also sign up to take advantage of the service, business owners or no).

Documents and files can be stored securely online and shared easily with anyone having Internet access. Accounts are password-protected, and administrative permissions for document access, viewing and editing can be easily set-up by the account owner.

What’s more, as multiple workspaces can be established within each account, security and confidentiality between projects or among employees can be maintained.

Brommet describes a handy Office Live tip in which, using the integrated Activity Pane, business owners can see who is interacting with their documents and related services, and when.

E-mail notifications can be set up, he adds, so business owners on the road are immediately informed, say, when a new request for proposal is posted, or when a contractor/supplier has accessed an account document, or any other authorized business activity takes place.

With such online tools, there’s no longer a need to be tied to a PC to be productive – Microsoft Office Live integrates with important mobile tools to help maintain business connectivity.

No Translation Necessary

Many of the best tips and tricks for Office productivity are local, integrated into the redesigned user interface. There’s a reason Microsoft calls it ‘Fluent’ – the idea is it should be easier for the user to speak to the software, to understand it and connect with it in a way that builds productivity.

For example, the original Microsoft Word program had about 100 commands – with a bit of time, you could actually read the menus and see everything it could do. But today, Office Word has over 1,500 commands, and it’s inevitable some will be missed.

So the new Fluent UI (developed after much user consultation, product testing, focus group feedback and consultation with small business owners) groups together common activities and commands in a more logical way. The old toolbar has been replaced with the Ribbon, and its visually engaging and informative design.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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