Had my first test for Microsoft’s new docs.com this week – and it failed badly. In case you don’t know, Microsoft recently announced a new beta Office Live link-up with Facebook. You can log in using your Facebook login instead of a Microsoft Live Id. So you would think that it would be possible to use docs.com as a collaborative document editor and I suspect that you are supposed to be able to – as long as your documents don’t contain anything complex – such as comments! My wife wanted to share a spreadsheet with some friends – very simple – just a few lines to help them schedule some transport for the kids during an upcoming dance show. Docs.com seemed ideal for this as they are all on Facebook so it should be much easier than using Google docs. * The first problem is that docs.com doesn’t always pick up your existing Facebook login so you have to log in again. * The second problem is that even when you are logged in, there is a large banner asking you to sign up for the Beta programme – very confusing. * The third problem is that the interface does not work correctly with Firefox – there is no warning of this but there are some things, such as adding viewers and editors, that fail with no proper explanatory error message. * The fourth problem is that only the original creator can add other editors or viewers, there is no way of delegating this. * The fifth, and most serious, problem comes from using cell comments to annotate cells. Apparently Microsoft’s shiny new online Office suite cannot cope with this. Not only does it not show them on the web page, it will no longer let you edit the spreadsheet online! To compound the problem, when someone else (who has been given edit rights) then downloads the sheet as instructed – there is no way to get the edited sheet back online!! OUCH – it is, in fact, much easier to simply email the document back and forth. Of course, we could have used Google docs for this. In fact, Google docs seems to have much better compatibility with Microsoft Office than Microsoft do!! It had no problem with cell comments. You can also set the document to not require a login, handy as many people don’t have Google logins. But by this time, the audience had lost patience with the technology and done things a different way. It may only be in Beta but Microsoft seem to be determined to demonstrate that they don’t understand user interactions in a collaborative sense nor do they have any comprehension it seems for the need for simplicity. 1 out of 10 for docs.com then – must try better! UPDATE 2010-06-18: Tried again, this time with Google docs. I set the document so that anyone can edit it (without needing a Google login), shared the link using Facebook messages and everyone is happy. You can even work on the document together, you actually see other people updating the document. Given that it also supports more useful features than docs.com, Google docs gets the thumbs up – 10⁄10 PS: Sorry about comments, I’ve updated the Blogger theme and it seems to have broken the old comments. If you are desperate to get in touch, feel free to use my comment form. I’ll put any comments on here manually.