Viewing MS Office docs in Chrome. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey
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.
This release has two noteworthy features — password syncing and form autofill syncing. Keeping track of passwords is a pain and let’s face it, most mobile password managers leave much to be desired. With the new Chrome for Android you can sync and access your saved passwords across devices.
Even if you prefer not to have Chrome store your passwords for you, the form autofill syncing is equally handy — especially given how tedious it can be to fill out forms using your mobile device’s tiny keyboard.
Like all of Chrome’s syncing features, you’ll need to be signed into your Google account to use the new password and autofill sync.
This release also fixed a few bugs and offers some modest performance and stability improvements. For more details, see the Chrome blog.
Most likely you’ll go your way and I’ll go mine. Image: sacks08/Flickr
If you were secretly hoping that all web browsers would one day give up and adopt the WebKit rendering engine, we’ve got some bad news for you — Google just crushed those dreams.
Google has announced it is forking the WebKit rendering engine to create Blink, a new rendering engine for all Chromium-based web browsers — notably Chrome, Chromium, Opera and their mobile counterparts.
That means web developers will soon be back to testing their sites in both Chrome and Safari. Of course, as has been pointed out in the past, there have always been enough significant differences between the two that you should have been testing in both anyway.
Among the good news in the announcement is Google’s decision to not use CSS prefixes for new features. Instead Blink will follow Firefox’s lead and use flags to enable experimental features. That means developers can test and use new features by setting the appropriate flag in about:flags. Blink will carry over support for all currently existing -webkit- prefixes, but will be removing the prefixed features in favor of the unprefixed rules as soon as it is safe to do so.
The other good news is that there are once again four major rendering engines on the web.
As much as web developers might like to see the web have a single rendering engine that all browsers use, that sort of monoculture doesn’t lead to a healthy web. It’s interesting to note that Google’s fork appears to be motivated by this very problem, albeit from a browser maker’s angle — the sheer number of projects using WebKit meant development wasn’t moving fast enough for Google.
Adam Barth, Software Engineer at Google, writes on the Chromium blog that Google’s decision to fork WebKit was “not an easy decision.” But Google believes that “having multiple rendering engines — similar to having multiple browsers — will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.”
Google has outlined a new policy regarding experimental new features that differs significantly from WebKit’s here’s-a-new-feature-just-ship-it policy. Blink will instead limit new features to those that have at least been proposed as standards and preferably already have at least one other implementation. In those cases where WebKit is the source of a new feature, Google has pledged to “propose an editor’s draft (or equivalent) to the relevant standards group” and “discuss the feature publicly with implementers of other browser engines.”
For web developers little will likely change in the sort term. The first browsers with Blink at their core will not be on the web for some months and when they do arrive they will at first differ little from WebKit. The longer term picture will likely look pretty much like the web before Opera killed off its Presto rendering engine last month — four major browsers with minor differences between them that require testing to ensure total support.
There’s also the question of what happens to the WebKit project. Google has been one of the driving forces behind WebKit for some time. Now those contributions are gone and it’s up to other WebKit supporters — Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung, among others — to pick up the slack (with Samsung joining in Mozilla’s next-gen rendering engine project it’s unclear exactly how much commitment Samsung has to WebKit).
Google has updated the stable release of its Chrome web browser, adding a much-improved native spell check and word suggestion features.
The new versions are live for Windows, Linux and Chrome OS. Google says it is “still working on Mac support” (Chrome for Mac has been updated to v26, but it does not yet contain the new spell checker).
To use the new spell checking feature, turn on the new “Ask Google for suggestions” option which you’ll see when you right click any highlighted misspelling. The new spell check also does some grammar checking and recognizes proper nouns (especially people’s names, handy for composing email) and homonyms.
Chrome 26 also sports a new personal dictionary. If the spell-checker keeps underlining a word you want it to ignore, just right-click the word and select “Add to dictionary.” If you’re signed in and syncing your data through your Google account your dictionary additions will go with you.
The hits just keep getting killed off. Google is shutting down yet another service — the company’s domain blocking tool, which allowed logged-in users to block unwanted domains from Google’s search results.
Google’s site-blocking tool was originally aimed at “content farm spam,” but Google hasn’t done much with it of late, and it even stopped working for a while, despite being available via a link from your profile.
Now the service is officially gone, replaced by a Chrome add-on that does nearly the same thing. Unfortunately that means the ability to ban sites from Google’s search results is now limited to those using Google’s Chrome web browser. For more on the Chrome add-on see our earlier review.
The bad news about the Chrome extension is that it’s client-side filtering, not server-side. That means that if Google returns results from domains you’ve blocked those results are simply hidden (sometimes there’s even a brief flash of the blocked results).
That means you’ll end up with fewer search results than you would with the server-side solution, which filtered out your blocked domains before the results were sent. For example, if there are ten results on the first page and three are from domains you’ve blocked, using the add-on method you’ll only see seven results, whereas the server-side method would have fetched the next three results to show a total of ten.
If you used the account-based version of the blocking tool, you can head over to your account and grab the list of sites you had blocked. Just add those sites to the Chrome extension and you’ll be back up and running in no time, with not an Experts-Exchange, Quora or W3Schools link to be seen (or whatever you consider search results spam).