Review: InstaColl's Live Documents

While Web based productivity office suites are paving the way for many Web 2.0 technologies, few of these hosted products can compete with the king of off-the-shelf desktop products " Microsoft Office. GoogleDocs, for instance, has one of the best solutions on the market but lacks many features that are readily available in Microsoft Office. Microsoft Live takes advantage of its desktop software, since it was the fastest way for the Redmond-based software giant to respond to Google's tools.

But this market is still in its infancy, with half a dozen players already trying different products to gain some market share. The newest comer into this space is called Live Documents, not to be confused with Microsoft Live. Live Documents is being developed by Bangalore based InstaColl and uses Adobe Flash and Flex technologies. To catch a glimpse at the suite, just hop over to

The suite is in Beta, with all the typical caveats that go with beta releases. But a first glimpse by the CMP Channel Test Center was disappointing.

The Live Documents suite has little to offer users at this stage. The only positive feature was its spreadsheet application, which mimics Office 2007's ribbon. Architecturally, however, Live Document's approach is interesting and competes with Microsoft Live on some level. As touted by its creators, Live Documents is designed to work with Microsoft Word and Excel files natively on the Web without the presence of Office. This is a capability not present in Microsoft Live.

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Ironically, the Beta product can only upload the older Office doc and xls file formats. Since this is a Beta product, the new Office file formats might be available by the time the product goes live. But architecture aside, Live Documents is too rudimentary at this point to compete even with GoogleDocs.

A first look at the Live Document's 'Word' document editor proves the point. The editor is almost a bare bones-like WYSIWYG Web tool. In fact, the 'Word' tool looks completely different than the 'Excel' tool. The few tabs available in the 'Excel' editor provides some spreadsheet functionality but the tool doesn't work yet. The Test Center tried few times to work with formulas but the suite kept locking the cell. The Test Center also found problems converting the ASCII characters. The apostrophes are not translated. But these are minor bugs that developers can fix.

Live Documents file conversion capabilities does, though, give it a leg up over some competitors but the features in the tool are too simple for prime time. The CRN Test Center will take a second look at Live Documents as soon as InstaColl gets it ready to launch.