Microsoft offers a number of useful web services but most net users don't make the most of them. We've rounded up our five favourite that we think you'll love.

There's a huge number of web services and apps that can you improve your online life no end. Microsoft isn't a name that immediately springs to mind when it comes to the subject, but lately the company has been rolling out a slew of them, including several that match or beat competing offerings from Google, Yahoo and any number of startups you've never heard of.

Which of those Microsoft services are the best? We've tried them all, and we've selected five free hidden gems.

You'll notice that most of these services carry Microsoft's 'Live' brand. If you're like most people, you're probably thoroughly confused by the Live lineup, and by what Live actually means - especially since Microsoft has muddied the waters with the newer 'Live Essentials' moniker.

For the record, Windows Live is a central online location for accessing the Live services and applications. Windows Live Essentials is a subset of the Windows Live brand that houses downloadable applications, including Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Windows Live Messenger, and others.

Windows Live SkyDrive

How's this for a deal: Get 25GB of online storage, at no cost, with no strings attached. That's what Windows Live SkyDrive offers. Just create folders on the site and upload files to it. You can share any of your folders with colleagues, as well. The site's design is simple and straightforward.

That isn't to say SkyDrive is flawless. You can't use it as a virtual drive - it won't appear on your PC as a drive, so you can't save files directly to it within a programme like Microsoft Word. That's a minor point, though. You can't argue with 25GB of free storage, especially considering that neither Google nor Yahoo currently has this kind of service.

While Google is rumoured to be working on a similar service called GDrive, Yahoo's Briefcase provides only 25MB of space, and is shutting down at the end of March anyway. So right now Windows Live SkyDrive is as good as online storage gets.

NEXT PAGE: Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh

  1. You probably don't make the most of these services
  2. Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh
  3. Microsoft Office Live Workspace and Microsoft's Virtual Earth 3D