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Bugs dog Office 365 as it nears launch

Users of the Microsoft Office 365 beta have been reporting problems which prevent them from using some features of the software and put them off sticking with the online suite when it exits beta status in late June, according to posts on the Office 365 support forum.Office 365 is Microsoft's cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of its popular desktop package of office applications and includes web versions of products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Lync.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

Users of the Microsoft Office 365 beta have been reporting problems which prevent them from using some features of the software and put them off sticking with the online suite when it exits beta status in late June, according to posts on the Office 365 support forum.

Office 365 is Microsoft's cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of its popular desktop package of office applications and includes web versions of products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Lync. The suite was introduced in October 2010 and moved into public beta in December 2010. It is scheduled for general release on 28 June.

However, users of the beta have complained that features do not function correctly, making migrating to the tools full-time a remote possibility.

The complaints seem to be spread across different components of the Office 365 service; for example, one user complained of excessive delays in refreshing Exchange Online to check for new email.

"In this beta exchange environment you have to wait an hour before connected mail accounts will be checked. This is unacceptable," wrote user 'MdW'. "Will this change in the final version? If not, I will move on. For me, as a freelancer it is not workable situation."

A Microsoft support forum moderator replied to MdW to say that resaving the 'Connected Accounts' settings can manually trigger the downloading of email but MdW said it was not a practical solution and not even an option when using it on a smartphone.

A number of other users had also written on the forum complaining that they are unable to access or import contact details into a Global Address List (GAL) in the Office 365 beta. Currently, the only way to do this is to write a script to run in Windows PowerShell. PowerShell is Microsoft's command-line script integration framework.

Initially, a Microsoft forum moderator responded to the complaints to say that using PowerShell required an enterprise subscription but made another post exactly one week later to inform subscribers on the small business option that they could use the tools to create a GAL too.

Other users also reported other minor errors, such as difficulties in creating company websites using SharePoint Online.

In a separate forum thread, a user by the name of 'lwang' complained that the Word web app was unstable and sometimes crashed when trying to save a document. A moderator responded to say that the error often occurs if Microsoft Silverlight is not installed properly.

Another user also complained that syncing the calendar in the Office web app with her Windows Mobile 6.5 handset did not work.

"When I complete a recurring task in my Outlook 2007 desk app, it generates the next task and fully syncs with my Office Web App (OWA) tasks. However, on my mobile, the next task is generated, but the task that was completed still shows up and does not show as completed," wrote 'Navtejpm' on the forum.

The moderator suggested upgrading to a Windows Phone 7 handset and noted that syncing with Windows Mobile 6.5 has always been problematic.

"When using Windows Mobile 6.5 on Office 365 which uses the Exchange 2010 server... reoccurring tasks did not work and they would not sync using Exchange Active Sync. This has always been an issue."

The full Office 365 suite of software is expected to be released on 28 June with a number of subscription levels targeting both small and medium sized businesses and enterprises.

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