One day, you’ll receive a Microsoft
Office file attachment in your Gmail inbox. As a Gmail or Google Apps user, you
should have no problem opening and editing most Office files. Files with
complex formatting may present a challenge, although no more of a challenge
than exchanging Office files between different versions of Office.
Edit with Google Apps
Google has made it easier than ever
to open and edit Excel files: move your cursor over the attachment and select
the pencil icon. The file will open for editing in Google Sheets. That’s right:
you convert and open the file with one click. (Note the pencil icon in the
You need three steps to open and
edit Word or PowerPoint attachments:
1. Click anywhere in the attachment
to open it, other than the “Download” or “Save to Drive” buttons. The
attachment displays in preview mode.
2. Click the blue “Open With”
button (in the lower right corner of the screen) to display options.
3. Choose “Google Docs” or “Google
Slides” to open the Word or
PowerPoint file, respectively. The file will convert and open for editing in
I expect we’ll see the one-click to
edit Word and PowerPoint attachments in the near future.
Mobile Gmail users should install
the free QuickOffice app to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on Android or iOS devices. To open an attached Office
document on Android, tap the name of the attached file, then choose to open the
file with QuickOffice. The process takes more steps for iPhone and iPad users:
you’ll need to tap the name of the attached file, then tap the arrow (in the
lower right corner) and choose “Open in Safari”, then tap “Open in
Edit with Office Web Apps
Desktop users might prefer to use
Microsoft’s Office Web Apps to view or modify Office attachments received in
Gmail. The Office Web App team has done a nice job building Office Web Apps.
Office Web Apps work well in any current browser.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Office Web
Apps allow you to upload and edit a Word, Excel or PowerPoint attachment
received in Gmail.
1. Move your cursor over the
attachment, then click the “Download” icon (the down arrow) to save the
2. Go to Skydrive
to access Microsoft’s Web Apps. You’ll need to login with a Microsoft account.
3. Select “Upload”, then choose the
document saved earlier. The document will appear the in the SkyDrive list.
Select it to view it.
4. Choose “Edit Presentation” >
“Edit Presentation in Web App” to open the document for editing online.
When you’re finished, you can share
the file online or download your document in a standard Microsoft Office format
Limitations… and a note for Chromebook Users
Neither Google Apps nor Microsoft’s
own Web Apps support all the features of the installed version of Office. As a
result, you may encounter formatting or font substitution issues when working
with complex documents. I expect both solutions will improve over time.
Chromebook users should note that
either of the above methods works well for editing Office files on a
Chromebook. However, Office Web Apps requires an Internet connection, while
Google Docs, Slides and Sheets all support offline editing. So, unless you plan
to remain connected to the internet all the time, Google Apps may be the better
app for editing Office files on a Chromebook.