Office Live Small Business is designed in large part for the do-it-yourself entrepreneur who needs a web site and collaboration features.  In previous releases, we have been very focused on making it as easy as possible to use, especially around our WYSIWYG Web Site Designer.  And the feedback has been positive, from that audience of low-to-medium skill do-it-yourselfers.

However, if you were a web designer or web developer, the only option you were given to get out of the controlled confines of the Web Site Designer experience was to completely turn off the designer and work using a 3rd party design tool of your choice like Expressions or Dreamweaver.  This sounds great in theory, except we (admittedly) did not invest a lot in making this scenario work. Again, our core customers were the do it yourself small business folk, not web designers, so they got the priority.  Among the issues, the 3rd party design "Web Folder" was not as reliable as we'd like, nor were you able to take advantage of any of the built-in modules that integrate with other parts of the Office Live service such as the Data Sharing modules.  Worst of all, the Web Folder was only available to users on one of our pay-for subscriptions, which was a fraction of the total base.  So, overall, it just wasn't a very satisfying solution to our growing web designer audience.

In the winter release that was just announced, we *did* have time to focus on web designer & developer scenarios!  First and foremost, we eliminated the pay-for subscriptions and now have only 1 free subscription, where you can add pay-for services a la carte.  This puts not only the Web Folder but more importantly the SharePoint-based Business Applications into the hands of all Office Live subscribers.  Maybe there really is a Santa Claus?

Beyond the subscription changes, there was a significant effort put in by our partner teams in Office and Windows to deliver patches to the Web Folder and improve it's reliability.  Hopefully you have downloaded them by now and they are helping you if you choose to use the Web Folder.

Finally, the OLSB team invested specifically in a new "Advanced Mode" as we call it here in house. This mode is supposed to be a sort of middle ground between the simple do-it-yourself designer and the all-or-nothing 3rd Party Design tools option.  Advanced mode provides a designer or developer much greater flexibility and opportunity to add their own custom code, look and feel, styles and behaviors  to their website.  (See our Dev Guide for a full rundown on what is included.)  Having this mode triggered by a flag also helps keep the complexity of the enhancements from confusing our core audience of Small Business users.

First and foremost, you probably need to go turn it on.  It's easy, just hit site actions from the Web Site page manager.  Complete steps are here.

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Once you have activated the advanced features, you'll be given access to:

  • Several advanced modules in the Modules dropdown... Custom Header, Custom Nav, Custom Footer, Site Information
  • Enhanced functionality on the List Publisher and Form Designer modules.
  • CSS override control
  • Save page as template functionality
  • 3rd party design tools flag

I'll be going into greater depth on some of these topics later, but wanted to get this topic out first to get you moving. Hope you like it!