Microsoft is about to begin beta testing a new online service, Windows Live Folders. Similar services have been around for a while, but the screen shots make it look like Microsoft’s service will be particularly easy to use.

Here’s the first information to emerge about the upcoming beta and here’s some more details and screen shots. You will be able to upload files to a storage area on Microsoft servers, with three choices:

  • Store them in a private folder that only you can access. Your files are then accessible anywhere.
  • Store them in a folder shared with people you choose. You decide if your friends and colleagues can add other files to the folder or just download what you put in.
  • Store them in a public folder where anyone can download them.

The amount of storage space has not been announced but it’s likely to be 2-5Gb. Access is controlled by the Windows Live ID service (the former Windows Passport). At the moment everything is done in a web browser, but there will probably be an optional program to install on your computer that will automate the process even further.

This is similar to Microsoft’s FolderShare service, which I wrote about here. Nothing is stored online with FolderShare; it creates a direct relationship between folders on two computer and copies files from one to the other. Conceptually the two services overlap, but FolderShare has been difficult for people to grasp; Windows Live Folders will be intuitive and obvious.

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