How to edit Microsoft Office files in G Suite

Learn how to open, edit, and collaborate on most Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides--no file conversion needed.

Docs, Sheets, and Slides icons, with a small file indicator below each, labeled .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx, respectively.

Image: TechRepublic/Andy Wolber

G Suite users have been able to work with Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides for some time. One approach required you to convert Word, Excel, or PowerPoint to the corresponding Docs, Sheets, or Slides format when you uploaded Office files to Google Drive. Another method relied on the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides extension added to Chrome. In both cases, because of how the systems worked, people would often end up with two files--one in the original Office file format and the other in a Google file format.

In May 2019, Google added the ability to open, edit, and collaborate on Office format files to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Importantly, this doesn't require that the Office file be converted; for organizations that use G Suite, this may mean a potential reduction in the number of Microsoft Office licenses needed. More importantly, this can also make it easier for an organization to transition from Office to G Suite.

SEE: 30 things you should never do in Microsoft Office (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Here are four things to know about editing Office format files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

1. How to use Docs, Sheets, and Slides to edit Office files on most devices

Any browser that lets you edit Docs, Sheets, and Slides will work for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. Microsoft Office file editing should work in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari (macOS), as well as Internet Explorer 11 and Edge (Windows).

Microsoft Office file editing also works in the Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps on Android and iOS. In the Google Drive app on Android and/or iOS, tap on a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file to open and edit it from your phone, tablet, or mobile device.

2. How to open modern Office file formats

You should be able to open and edit modern Office file formats, including .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx formats, as well as the older .doc, .xls, and .ppt formats. Template file formats are supported (e.g., .dot, .xlt, and .pot), as are PowerPoint Show (.pps) and macro-enabled Excel (.xlsm) files (Figure A). Files created in versions of Office earlier than Office 2007 will be updated to a newer format when saved.

Figure A

Screenshots of Google Docs editing .docx file, Sheets editing .xlsx file, and Slides editing .pptx file.

In a browser, an icon next to the file name indicates that you are editing a .docx, .xlsx, or .pptx file with Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides, respectively.

3. Preserving file content and how to restore original Office files

Occasionally, you may find an Office file that contains content not yet able to be shown or edited in Docs, Sheets, or Slides; the system will preserve this content and allow you to edit other portions of the document. If your edits will cause content to be lost, the system will notify you.

You can restore the original file by accessing File | Version History, or convert your Office file to a native Google Format by using File | Save as Google Docs/Sheets/Slides.

4. What to try if Office editing isn't working in Docs, Sheets, or Slides

If you use desktop Chrome, you'll need to disable or remove the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides extension before you use the newer, native Office editing capabilities.

To do this in Chrome, go to the three vertical dots (More menu) | More Tools | Extensions and then look for the Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slide extension, and then select Remove. Select Remove again to remove the extension.

On Android and iOS, make sure that you have the four core G Suite editing apps installed: Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides--these may not all be installed by default on every iOS or Android device. For example, if you attempt to open an Excel or PowerPoint file from Google Drive on an Android device that doesn't have Sheets or Slides installed, you may only be able to view the file. Make sure that the Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps are installed.

Your experience?

To test the Office editing capabilities, I opened several Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents on a Chromebook, Pixel 3a, and an iPhone. These tests included long documents with comments from many people, multi-sheet spreadsheets, and several presentations. In every case, I was able to open and edit the files as expected.

If your organization uses G Suite, what has your experience been with opening and editing Office format files? How have Office file editing capabilities in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides made your work easier? Have you encountered specific Office files you could not use in G Suite? Let me know what your experience has been, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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