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Jewish World Review
April 4, 2008
/ 28 Adar II 5768
Microsoft's Online Web Tool Shows Promise
You say you're confused: you want a web site for your small business,
but you don't want to fool around with HTML coding, cascading style
sheets, and heaven-knows-what-else in order to get things running.
This doesn't have to be a beat-the-world kind of Internet site, but it
would be nice if it covered all the bases.
Oh, and could this be done at no major cost, please?
The answer is, yes, and the source is a tad unlikely: Microsoft Corp.
So, why is the firm giving users a free Web design tool, especially
when it's selling Expression Web, the successor software to Microsoft
FrontPage, for $299? The official answer would suggest that these
products are for two different users: Expression Web, which I've not
yet reviewed, is aimed at Web designers and will compete with Adobe
Systems' Dreamweaver. The free Web design tool, part of
Microsoft Office Live Small Business, is designed for those who aren't
The nice thing is that Office Live Small Business is a good way for
the small business user to get on the Web. Within a few minutes, you
can be on the way to having your own Web domain (apart from one
Microsoft gives you free), having free Web hosting, and designing a
serviceable Web site. For a lot of small- to medium-sized service
businesses, such as pet sitters, professional organizers, accountants,
cleaning services and the like, the Office Live Small Business system
may be all that you need.
Microsoft wants you to have a "Windows Live" ID, which means signing
up for a free Microsoft Hotmail e-mail account. Once done, your
e-mail address becomes your ID, and a way to sign into Office Live.
If you like, you can use the domain name Microsoft will "give" you,
such as "MyCompany.Web.officelive.com," but that's a bit of a
mouthful. Instead, you can link the Office Live site to your present
Web address, or sign up for one via Microsoft for $14.95 a year.
That's more, by the way, than registrars such as GoDaddy.com will
charge you, but the price includes keeping your contact information
confidential when it comes to a "WHOIS" search of your domain
name. That cuts down on spam and calls from telemarketers.
I registered a domain and within 90 minutes, it was up and active.
Promoting it to the "primary" domain for my Web site had things in
order in about 60 seconds after clicking the appropriate button.
The Office Live site will integrate your Hotmail account in a browser
window that resembles a Microsoft Outlook screen. You get a bunch of
templates from which to choose a main style, and online editing tools
to create hyperlinks and embellish text that you enter. You can upload
photos and other items to incorporate into your Web pages. The
finished product can look rather good. Again, this isn't going to give
you a totally "custom" design, but for many businesses, it'll more
I'm not certain whether I like the concept more for what it delivers,
which is a quite a bit, or for what it can portend. In delivery,
Office Live keeps its promise of making a Web presence available for
many small business folks; there are additional tools and services to
help you communicate with customers, sell products online and do other
things, so the service can become relatively comprehensive.
I also like its promise: Microsoft may well offer other higher-end
applications in a "free" Web version - Office Live will be ad
supported - while saving the full package for software buyers.
Meanwhile, check it out at www.officelive.com, especially if you've
got a business to grow. Note, though, it works only with Internet
Explorer and Firefox; Safari users need not apply.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com