Live Sync for Office users

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Live Sync is a useful tool for sharing files and Office settings between different computers.

As regulars may know, we’ve been big fans of Microsoft Live Mesh – a beta service to synchronize files and remotely access computers. Live Mesh was great and the underlying technology revealed some enticing possibilities for the future.

Alas Live Mesh is no more and has been replaced with Windows Live Sync – a disappointing, dumbed down and limited version of the promising and truly exciting Live Mesh. That said, it does have some interesting features.

Live Sync can:

  • Synchronize files between multiple computers (large size size limits)

  • Synchronize files between a computer and free ‘cloud’ storage ( 2GB size limit)

  • Remotely control other computers linked to the same account

  • Synchronize Internet Explorer Favorites between multiple computers.

  • Synchronize your Office settings between multiple computers.

Microsoft talks about Live Sync in the same breath as Office Web Applications (the browser based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote). However there’s no way, for the moment, to open a Live Sync synchronized document in Office Web Applications. This is such an obvious use for Live Sync we have to assume Microsoft is ‘keeping it up their sleeve’ for some future announcement.

Live Sync talks about ‘Skydrive synced storage’ but it has nothing to do with the main Skydrive 25GB storage familiar to Windows Live and Office Web Applications users. Live Sync cloud storage doesn’t even show up in the main Skydrive listing.

One of the frustrations of Live Mesh is that is existed in a separate world, disconnected from other Microsoft online offerings. That was a little understandable in the early days of development. But now, as Live Sync, the system still operates as if it’s a third-party add-on not a Microsoft home grown initiative.

Our spies tell us this is the result of turf battles inside Microsoft over who is to control Live Mesh/Live Sync technologies. Personally we’d like Microsoft to act like a single company with the Office and Windows Live divisions learning to ‘play nice’.

Being able to seamlessly sync a folder of documents directly with Office Web Applications would be the single best thing Microsoft could do to get a significant advantage over Google Docs. Redmond has the technology in place (Live Mesh/Live Sync) but can’t or won’t get their act together. Sigh.

Sync Office settings

In the meantime you can synchronize some Office settings between computers – for example a desktop and portable computer used by the same person.

Windows Live Sync - Status window.jpg image from Live Sync for Office users at

As you can see, email signatures, styles and templates are synchronized between computers. In some places Microsoft suggests that the custom dictionary is also synced.

Changes from Live Mesh

If you liked Live Mesh then Live Sync is a letdown.

Live Mesh had a 5GB cloud storage limit, that’s dropped to 2GB. Skydrive itself has 25GB of free storage but only 2GB can be used with Live Sync. Microsoft (refreshingly) admits that the 2GB limit is so they can keep the service free.

Live Sync is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7 plus Mac Leopard (OS 10.5) and above. Support for Windows XP has been dropped.

The ‘blue folder’ icon in Explorer to denote synchronized folders on your computer has been removed. A great pity.

You can sync folders with a Macintosh computer but there’s no remote desktop support.

There’s no mobile device support – not even for Microsoft’s own Windows Mobile devices. Presumably there’s a team beavering away on Live Sync for Windows Mobile 7 but any hopes of iPhone or Android support can only be a pipe dream.

You can’t add files directly to the Live Sync part of cloud storage.

The new synchronization limits are:

  • 100,000 files per folder

  • 200 folders

  • 40GB is the largest size for a single file

Given the new cloud storage limits, any large folders of music or images can only be shared ‘peer to peer’ between computers.

Getting Started

To use the Live Sync beta go to and download the Live Essentials Beta. You don’t need to get everything, select only the parts you’re interested in.

If you use Live Mesh or an earlier version of Live Sync – uninstall them first.

Given that the Live Mesh service will be retired, it seems that we’ll have to put up with Live Sync and hope it gets better.

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