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Review: Microsoft Office Live Basics Vs. Google Apps For Your Domain

The race is on as Microsoft and Google vie for the attention of small businesses looking for free management applications online. Who's ahead?

Home Page Creation
Both services offer automated Web page creation tools -- you don't need to know a single piece of HTML code to quickly build Web pages and entire sites. But Microsoft's Web site-building tools are far superior to Google's. If a substantial Web presence is important to you, but you don't want to pay a designer or coder, then Microsoft's service is the winner.

That's not to say there's much wrong with Google's Web site creation tool. It's simple to use and basic -- point-and-click tools let you create a page in minutes. It's much like every other Web-based page-creation tool you've ever seen, with buttons for formatting text, creating links, including images, and so on. There are several different layouts and looks from which you can choose. If you prefer to use HTML instead of the tools, click Edit HTML, and you'll be able to edit the raw HTML. Publishing the site is simple; click the Publish button.

The Google web page creation tool is simple, easy to use -- and very basic.
Click image to enlarge.

Don't expect anything sophisticated from the tool; you can't even use it to make a graphic link. For that, you'll have to edit the HTML yourself. In addition, the tool is pointed at creating a single page, rather than an entire site; there's no way to apply site-wide navigation or a common look and feel, and there are no site-wide management tools. All in all, it's bare-bones basic and not particularly sophisticated.

Office Live offers far more sophisticated page creation tools -- in fact, they're just about the most sophisticated set of Web-based page creation and management tools you'll find anywhere.

You start off by creating a customized template for your site, including navigation, headers and footers, fonts, and a theme (complete with graphics) based on your business's industry. The designs themselves are sophisticated, and less cartoony and simplistic than those offered by Google. There's a far greater selection as well.

The tool doesn't take a one-page approach to building a site. It starts off with four linked, pre-created pages, including the home page, an About Us page, a Contact Us page, and a Site Map page. New pages, which carry site-wide navigation and design, can be easily created, and it's also easy to apply an entirely new design and theme to the entire site with a few clicks.

The Web creation tools offered by Office Live Basics are about the best you'll find in any Web-based site service. Click image to enlarge.

The site administration tools are excellent, and include an image gallery, which shows all the graphics you've uploaded and that are ready to be used. There's even a site reporting tool, that visually displays traffic trends, as well as a way to revert your site to a previous version, if for some reason the current one gets corrupted.

There a lot more as well -- far more than can fit into this review -- but the bottom line is that this is a surprisingly powerful and sophisticated page creation tool. It amazes me that it's free.

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