Google Apps

Convert Gmail attachments from Excel to Google Sheets on a mobile device

Converting an Excel attachment to a Google Sheet takes one step on a laptop and several steps on iOS/Android devices.

I carry my laptop less often these days, as I prefer to travel with as light a load as possible. Lately, that means I'm traveling with an Android phone and an iPad. For what I need to do - note-taking, writing, and presenting - these tools are sufficient.

But sometimes tasks that are simple on a laptop take multiple steps to complete on mobile devices. Take, for example, the task of converting of an Excel file attachment in Gmail to a native Google Sheet format. I do this so that several people can simultaneously chat about and edit the Google Sheet in real time. I find this useful when discussing technology budgets with committee members.

On a laptop, it takes one click to convert a Gmail file attachment from Excel to a Google Sheet format. Click on the "Open as Google Spreadsheet" option next to the file. That's it. The file opens in a new tab, converted to the native Google Sheet format. Done.

a_DesktopGmailOneClickConvert.png

On a laptop: one click to convert from Excel to Google Sheets

It takes three steps - and several taps - on Android and iOS devices to complete the same task. Unfortunately, they're not necessarily obvious steps, either, but it can be done. Here's how to convert an Excel attachment into a Google Sheet. I'll assume you've installed Google's three apps on your device: Gmail, Chrome, and Google Drive apps.

Android

1. Download the attachment

In Gmail, navigate to the email with the attachment. To the right of the attachment file name, tap the menu icon (which looks like three small, stacked squares). Choose Save, and then choose a location to save the file (it may default to your "Download" folder).

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First, save the file to your Android device

2. Upload to Google Drive

Open the Google Drive app. Tap the plus in the upper right to upload a file. Navigate to the location you saved your file. This is likely the "Internal Storage" | Download folder. (Note: You may be prompted to select an app before you navigate to the folder.)

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Second, upload the file to Google Drive

3. Convert to Google Sheet format

a. Open Chrome. Type drive.google.com in the URL bar. You may need to login to your Google Drive, if you haven't accessed it this way before.

AndroidStep3a.png

Open Google Drive in Chrome

b. Tap the Menu button in the upper right (which looks like three stacked bars), then tap the checkbox next to "Request desktop site".

AndroidStep3b.png

Request the desktop version in the browser

c. Tap the checkbox to the left of the file you want to convert. This selects your file. (You may want to "pinch-to-zoom" to improve tap accuracy. I find changing that rotating the display horizontally also helps.)

AndroidStep3c.png

Select your file

d. Tap the "More" menu, then "Open with", then "Google Sheets".

When the file opens, wait a few seconds to make sure the file is fully opened and auto-saved. You may then close the tab, if you like.

AndroidStep3d.png

Tap 'More', then 'Open with', then 'Google Sheets'

4. Edit in Google Drive

You can now edit the file in native Google Sheets format using the Google Drive app. If you view "Recent" files on Google Drive, you'll see both versions of your file listed.

iOS

1. Open the attachment

a. In Gmail, navigate to the email with the attachment. At the bottom of the email, tap the attachment to view it.

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Tap the attachment in Gmail

b. Tap the arrow in the lower right corner. Tap "Open in Safari".

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Tap the arrow, then 'Open in Safari'

2. Upload the attachment

a. Tap anywhere in the body of the document. A menu should appear near the top of the browser, just under the bookmarks bar. Tap "Open in..", then tap "Open in Google Drive".

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From Safari, you then "open" the file with Google Drive.

b. Tap "Upload" to save the attachment in Excel format to Google Drive.

iOSStep2b.JPG

Tap 'Upload' to save the file to Google Drive.

3. Convert to Google Sheet format

a. Open Chrome. Type drive.google.com in the URL bar. You may need to login to your Google Drive, if you haven't accessed it this way before.

b. Tap the Menu button in the upper right (which looks like three stacked bars), then tap the checkbox next to "Request desktop site".

iOSStep3a-3b.JPG

Go to drive.google.com in Chrome, then request the desktop version

c. Tap the checkbox to the left of the file you want to convert. This selects your file. (You may want to "pinch-to-zoom" to improve tap accuracy. I find changing that rotating the display horizontally also helps.)

iOSStep3c.JPG

Select your file

d. Tap the "More" menu, then "Open with", then "Google Sheets".

When the file opens, wait a few seconds to make sure the file is fully opened and auto-saved. You may then close the tab, if you like.

iOSStep3d.jpg.JPG

Tap 'More', then 'Open with', then 'Google Sheets'

4. Edit in Google Drive

You can now edit the file in native Google Sheets format using the Google Drive app. If you view "Recent" files on Google Drive, you'll see both versions of your file listed.

More file conversions

The same general procedure works to convert Word files to Google Docs, and PowerPoint files to Google Slides. Just choose a different file format in step 3d: "Google Docs" for Word files, and "Google Slides" for PowerPoint files.

In 2010, Eric Schmidt promoted the concept of "Mobile First" to convey the idea that Google developers work first on mobile apps, and then move to desktop apps. While that may be true, I look forward to a time when converting email attachments from Office to Google formats is as simple on mobile devices as it is on a laptop.

About

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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