Google Chrome OS users have long enjoyed the ability to open Microsoft Office documents right in the web browser. Now Google is expanding its MS Office support to include Chrome on Windows and Mac as well.
The new Office Viewer beta is an extension for Google Chrome. You’ll need to be using Chrome 27 or better (currently in the beta channel), but provided you’re willing to use the prerelease version, you can install the new Office Viewer (also a beta release) from the Chrome Store.
The new extension can open most Microsoft Office files including .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx. The interface is very similar to the existing PDF view in Chrome and comes from QuickOffice, which Google acquired last year.
The main downside to the new plugin is that it’s definitely still a beta — very buggy and rough around the edges. In my testing two very simple spreadsheets simply didn’t open and selecting text in .docx Word documents was hit or miss; sometimes it worked, other times it was as if the document had been converted to an image.
On the plus side your MS Office files open in a specialized sandbox which protects you from any malware and viruses lurking in the files.
Still, there are enough rough edges that Chrome’s Office plugin isn’t ready for prime time. While it’s a necessity on Chrome OS, which has no Microsoft Office suite, everywhere else you’re probably better off using Google Drive to view files when you’re online (assuming you want to use Google services, Zoho Docs works well if you don’t), and Microsoft Office or Open/Libre Office when you’re not.