Beginning in late November, Google is making a small, but critical change to how Google Drive opens Microsoft Office documents, both on the web and on Chromebooks: They will open immediately into Office editing mode.
Chrome Unboxed, which noticed the change to Google’s Workspace suite of apps, also correctly characterized the change as an essential one to how users interact with Microsoft 365 or Office documents within Chromebooks.
As a freelancer who used a Chromebox for over a year, the one shortcoming with Google Drive was that it opened a Microsoft Office document in preview mode, which doesn’t allow you to edit the document. You could download the document and then edit it, but that was an extra two steps, and not always obvious. As Chrome Unboxed noted, that helped Chromebooks gain a “can’t-edit-Office” reputation that has not entirely gone away. Google’s adjustment means that you can open and edit a new document in a Google app immediately.
The change will apply to all compatible Office file types, according to Google, including .docx, .doc, .ppt, .pptx, .xls, .xlsx, and .xlsm. If the “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides” Chrome extension is installed, Google will redirect to the extension and not to Docs, Sheets, or Slides. Password-protected files will be an exception—they’ll direct to Sheets and will open in preview mode.
The change will affect essentially every Workspace/Google Drive user, including those with personal Google Accounts as well as business users. It will take some time to roll out, however: Rapid Release domains will receive the new functionality on October 27, but the normal Scheduled Release will begin on November 30, and carry on from there.
This may seem like a minor detail for those who haven’t tried to juggle Google and Office documents. But for those who do, it’s a convenience that’s way overdue.