Convert more than 200 file types in your browser with CloudConvert

CloudConvert can turn a file you can't use into one you can-from your browser. Here's how to use it.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

CloudConvert transforms a file from one format into another. It recognizes files in more than 200 different formats, and connects with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. This makes CloudConvert an essential web utility for anyone who uses a Chromebook.

I use the service most often to convert image files to a different format. Chrome OS captures and saves all screenshots in PNG format. However, some projects call for images in JPG format. So, I convert screenshots I take on my Chromebook from PNG to JPG with CloudConvert.

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CloudConvert sometimes provides a better conversion than Google Drive. Both services offer PDF to document conversion, for example. CloudConvert can turn a PDF file into a DOCX file, which you may open in Google Docs. Although, Google Docs also allows you to open a PDF, then convert it into a Google Doc (i.e.,, choose File > Edit in Google Docs). If one method doesn't provide an accurate conversion, try the other.

CloudConvert recognizes and converts more than 200 different file formats.

CloudConvert labels some conversions as experimental. For example, from an iPhone, I saved a Keynote presentation file to Google Drive. When I went to convert the file, the target conversion format—a PowerPoint PPTX file—displayed as experimental. The file converted cleanly, nonetheless. However, complex slides, graphics, or charts might present conversion problems.

The service also supports a variety of audio and video file formats. As you'd expect, you can convert audio files to MP3 format, or video files to MP4 format.

Extract audio from a video by converting a video file to an audio file.

CloudConvert also allows you to extract audio from a video file. For example, I selected a .MOV file and converted it to .MP3 format. That gave me an audio-only .MP3 file.

Add CloudConvert from the Chrome Web Store—or just access the site in your browser.

CloudConvert works on the web and on iOS. Install CloudConvert from the Chrome web store to add the app to Chrome or your Chromebook. Then, from Google Drive in your browser, you can right-click, then choose "Open with..." and pick "CloudConvert." After you authorize CloudConvert to access your account, select where to save the converted file and customize your output options. Or, install the CloudConvert iOS app on your iPhone and/or iPad.

From Google Drive on the web, right-click on a file, then choose "Open with..." and "CloudConvert."

For occasional use, CloudConvert doesn't charge. If you convert files smaller than 1 GB, fewer than five files at a time, and use less than 25 minutes of file conversion time a day, CloudConvert's services remain free.

Two paid options—a prepaid package or a subscription—allow you to convert larger files, more files at one time, and use more file conversion time. With the prepaid package you buy anywhere from 500 to 1,000,000 conversion minutes, for a fee of $8 to $2,621, respectively. Prepaid minutes don't expire. The subscription provides a set number of file conversion minutes per month: $8 per month buys for example, 1,000 conversion minutes each month.

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Paid customers also receive access to extra features, such as folder monitoring. You can select a folder on Google Drive (or Dropbox) and specify conversion options for files placed in the folder. You might, for example, choose to resize any image placed in the folder to a specific size. Or, in another folder, to convert any Word document placed in the folder to a PDF. CloudConvert monitors the folder and converts added files automatically.

In February 2016, CloudConvert started to test integration of the service with Zapier. This will allow you to build file conversion into Zapier workflows (also known as "Zaps"). Since Zapier also recently introduced Multi-Step Zaps, the integration could save significant time for any process where you need to move many files from one format to another.

CloudConvert is one of those useful web tools that you may not need immediately. But, the next time you say, "I can't open this file...," give it a try. CloudConvert may be able to convert that file you can't use into one you can.

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Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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