How to download LibreOffice documents from Google Drive in their native format

Have you been tried to work with and share LibreOffice documents within Google Drive, only to find them converting to MS Office format? Here's how to change your settings to avoid that.

Image: Jack Wallen

Recently I have had cause to do a bit of presto-exchange-o, via Google Drive, with a LibreOffice Presents document. I uploaded the .odp files to Google Drive so someone could then download said files and use them. To download the files, the user was going through the standard motions (right-click the file in question and then select Download). Problem was, everytime the user attempted to download the files, Google Drive insisted on converting them to the MS Office Powerpoint format (.pptx). In this particular situation, the conversion was not optimal, so it was unwanted.

And so, I set out to find a solution.

Not This

You might already know you can set Google Drive to not convert uploaded files to the native Google format. To do this you simply go to Google Drive, click on the Gear icon, click Settings, and then uncheck Cover uploads (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Preventing Google Drive from converting uploads.

As you have probably already guessed, that is not the solution we're looking for (as that only prevents uploads from converting to Google Drive's format. If you dig through the short list of options in the Settings window, you'll find nothing that allows you to disable the conversion of downloads. So what do you do?


The solution lies in the fact that Google Drive now has built-in support for opening and working with LibreOffice documents. Because of this, the solution for this issue was quite simple. Let me show you just how easy it is.

The solution

If you have a LibreOffice file, housed in Google Drive, that you need to edit, you can do two things:

  • Edit it within Google Drive
  • Edit it on your local machine

How do you do this? Open the file within Google Drive. The LibreOffice document will now open almost as if it is a native Drive document. Because of this, you can then go to File | Download as | ODP Document (.odp - Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Downloading the .odp file without conversion.

And that's all there is to downloading those LibreOffice Presents documents, in their native format, to your local drive. As you might expect, this works for all LibreOffice files (Presents, Calc, Writer, etc.).

Even better is the fact that Drive now has excellent built-in support for LibreOffice documents, so you no longer have to convert to the Google Docs formats, work on the file, and then convert back to LibreOffice when you're done.

A happy accident

While working out this issue, I came across a rather happy accident. Another really handy feature that this process adds is the ability to finally work with LibreOffice Track Changes from within Google Drive. This is a big first for Google Drive—one that has been long sought after. I assumed Google Docs had yet to implement any kind of support for Track Changes from within LibreOffice (or MS Office, for that matter). Seems like this slipped in under the radar. Now that particular cat is out of the bag, happy editing!

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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