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Latest Chrome OS adds beta in-browser Office document editing

Heads up: Google’s solving the “Office problem” by introducing in-browser native editing.
June 29, 2013
Courtesy François Beaufort

Chromebooks like the Pixel are ostensibly functional enough to serve as full-blown laptop computers, but they’ve lacked a very important feature since inception: integrated Microsoft Office file editing. The desktop suite’s ubiquity ensures serious work will most always require modifying files produced by Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but until now, no great solution existed in Chrome OS. Sure, you could import files into and export files out of Google Drive, but the process was hardly seamless.

Google’s solving the “Office problem” by introducing in-browser native editing. As first reported by developer François Beaufort, it relies on QuickOffice technology to recognize and preserve the formatting of Office documents. Though in beta, it seems to be able to edit Word and Excel files just fine, though PowerPoint support is conspicuously absent. Of course, it’s probably safe to say editing capabilities will improve over time.

Courtesy François Beaufort

This isn’t Google’s first step towards true Office integration. Chrome OS has featured third-party document viewing for quite some time. However, it does make clearer the company’s larger strategy to get users to rely less on Microsoft Office for document creation and modification, and more on Google’s stripped-down, simpler tools. Many Chrome OS features migrate to the Windows and editions of Google’s Chrome browser, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the search giant challenge Microsoft’s Office dominance in a more direct way soon.

If you have a Chromebook, setting up the editing feature is relatively simple. First, make sure you’r on the Dev Channel. Then, follow these instructions from The Next Web:

  1. Navigate to chrome://flags
  2. Click on Enable below the “Enable document editing” entry
  3. You’ll be prompted to “Restart Now” after which you will get access to the feature

Do you have a Chromebook? Let us know how the new editing features are working out for you. For everyone else, hopefully we’ll see this ability on Windows in the near future.